PRO FOOTBALL DAILY REPORT : AFC : Tax Measure Passes Easily in Cleveland

Times News Services

In what may be a last attempt at preventing the Cleveland Browns from leaving, a proposal aimed at renovating aging Cleveland Stadium won easy approval from voters Tuesday night.

The issue--to extend a Cuyahoga County tax on alcohol and tobacco products--received 71 percent approval with 47 percent of the precincts reporting. The vote total was 113,028-46,402.

The measure was seen by backers not only as a final way to keep the Browns from bolting for Baltimore, but a way to secure a new franchise if the team does indeed relocate.

Browns owner Art Modell announced Monday he will to move the team to Baltimore for the 1996 season. He said Tuesday the "sin tax" vote would not affect his decision.

But city officials, who want the NFL to block the move, said passage of the 10-year tax extension would help prove Cleveland did all it could to prevent the Browns from leaving.

League rules for approving moves say an owner must show his home city is inhospitable and unwilling to do anything to improve the situation.

Mayor Michael White said the vote to renovate the 64-year-old stadium helped prove the city and region has "the best fans" in the NFL, fans who "did not deserve to be treated like this."

He said a ballot victory would be only the first step in ensuring there would be football in Cleveland's future.

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When the Cleveland Browns become the Baltimore Browns next year, Bill Belichick will be coming with the team as coach.

"I will say right now, I'm certain that Bill Belichick will coach this team next year," Modell said. "I'm a great believer in continuity. I think he's done a good job."

But Modell is so concerned about the state of the team that he plans to meet with the players soon. The Browns appeared listless and distracted in their 37-10 loss to the Houston Oilers Sunday.

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