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Browns officials OK signs

The Associated Press

BEREA – So far this year Dawg Pounders have been able to bark, but haven’t been allowed to put a pen between their paws.

Wednesday, November 17, 1999

BEREA – So far this year Dawg Pounders have been able to bark, but haven’t been allowed to put a pen between their paws. That’s about to change.

After petitioning from fans, the Cleveland Browns have agreed to let their faithful bring signs into games at their new stadium.

”The only thing we’re going to require is that they be in good taste, the signs be appropriate, there should be no vulgarity, nor should they be demeaning to any individual,” Browns president Carmen Policy said.

Fans sent about 15 e-mails to Policy, and dozens more to local newspapers, complaining about the ban on banners at the new stadium.

Now stadium personnel have been told they can help fans affix their banners to the barricade connecting the lower stands to the field.

Signs have been one of a few issues that have annoyed fans about the stadium. Fans also have griped about overzealous security and too much corporate advertising.

The 72,500-seat home of the expansion Browns opened in August and has been sold out for every game. But the state-of-the-art facility still hasn’t seen the same kind of electric atmosphere that used to be a regular part of attending Cleveland games at the old, beat up stadium.

Policy said the source of the complaints may have a simple root cause: Cleveland (2-8) isn’t winning much and has won only one game – an exhibition victory over the Chicago Bears – at the new stadium.

”If we were 8-2, I don’t think we’d be hearing about any of that,” Policy said. ”The fact we are now 2-8 and are hearing about it, now is the proper time to address it. Now is the time to analyze and explore.”

Policy said the banner policy will be reviewed after the season. He added that the Browns stadium is ”far less commercial than the vast majority of other sports venues” in the country.

He also defended the Browns security efforts, led by former Secret Service director Lewis Merletti. The new Browns have tried to make the stadium a more family friendly place, curbing the rough and rowdy image of fans at the old stadium – particularly the infamous Dawg Pound end zone section.

”We have this cadre of concerned fans that have a special attachment to the Dawg Pound that feel we’re violating a sacred trust by permitting families in the Dawg Pound,” Policy said. ”As if it’s a sacred right to throw up on each other, urinate on your neighbor.”