January 10, 2021 – Members of the Cleveland Browns were probed for point shaving by the NFL and FBI in the 1980s for their connection to Cleveland crime lord Frank (The Black Godfather) Sumpter, per DEA documents and Sumpter’s FBI file. No charges were ever brought, however, a number of players, battled substance abuse issues and the Browns organization was singled out by investigators as one of the worst teams in the league in terms of drug culture.
Sumpter was the biggest drug kingpin in Rock ‘n Roll city during that time. For the 1982 campaign, the NFL made the Browns hire a “drug czar” to police and monitor narcotics activity on the roster. The Browns were the only team forced into this measure by the league.
All-Pro running back Charles White was alleged to have been Sumpter’s “in” with the Browns. White won a Heisman Trophy in college at USC, but struggled as a first-round draft pick with the Browns because of cocaine addiction. He eventually broke out as a star later in his career with the L.A. Rams, leading the NFL in rushing in the 1987 season (1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns). White denied any association to the Sumpter crew, however, news of the FBI and DEA’s inquiries into the nature of their relationship were printed in a 1986 Sports Illustrated cover story on gambling in pro sports.
Sumpter ran the African-American underworld in Cleveland in the 1970s and early 1980s, controlling gambling and narcotics rackets. The Browns’ “Kardiac Kids” teams of that era were being supplied drugs, cocaine and marijuana from Sumpter’s organization. The 1980 Browns captured the city’s heart with an 11-5 record filled with last-second comeback victories and capped with an AFC Central Division title.
FBI informants told the government that many of the Browns on that team gambled with Sumpter’s bookies and Sumpter himself always bet big on the home team. There were rumors of point spread manipulation, but the FBI and NFL never found enough evidence to support the allegation.
Sumpter died of a sudden heart attack on November 12, 1983 and passed the reins of his criminal empire to his son, Michael (Don Michael Corleone) Sumpter, who helped his father forge a working relationship with the Cleveland Italian mob, known as the Scalish-Licavoli crime family, and mend fences with his father’s former numbers boss Virgil Ogletree.
The downfall of the Sumpter crew came as a result of an FBI agent who successfully infiltrated the crew and became Frank Sumpter’s driver. He did business with Michael, too. Then, the feds got Michael’s main courier Patrick (Sonny) Foggarty to flip and become a star witness in the case against him. The indictment dropped in 1985. “Don Michael Corleone” Sumpter did 10 years in prison and walked out in October 1996.