Sam Brown launched his campaign for US Senate with a memorable first ad “Duty,” which begins with the lines, “I wasn’t born into power, I’m from small-town America.” If the phrase “small-town America” brings to mind Cincinnati, that might be because the former Army captain is actually the great grandson the founder of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.
Last Summer and Fall, as the Bengals were busy putting together the surprisingly strong team that Joe Burrow led to its first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years, the extended Brown family was just as busy pouring funds into Sam Brown’s campaign coffers.
According to FEC reports, Sam Brown hoovered up more than $10,000 from current owners of the team and their spouses, including a double max contribution ($2900 x 2 = $5800) from team owner Michael Brown, $2900 from his wife Nancy, $1000 from his aunt, Bengals Executive VP Katie Blackburn (Paul Brown’s granddaughter) and another $2900 from his uncle Paul Brown Jr., who is a Vice President of the team.
Whether being the great grandson of an NFL founding family counts as being “born into power” isn’t for the Globe to say. But it’s not necessarily the impression one gets from the image Brown’s team has carefully honed in his television commercials.
To be sure, being the scion of a family that owns a team that Forbes says is worth $2.275 billion is nothing to be ashamed of. Besides coming within a field goal of winning it all this year and having the coolest uniform in football, the Bengals brought Boomer Esiason, the Ickey Shuffle and Chad Ochocinco Johnson into the world’s consciousness. They play in Paul Brown Stadium, named after their founder, who was also a legendary coach and actually founded the aptly named Cleveland Browns and led them to seven AFC titles in 12 years before moving on to Cincinnati.
(Kurson family legend holds that my uncle Marvin Kurson, born and bred in Cleveland, had a tryout with the Browns. I cannot verify that, but I can confirm that he gave me an official NFL football for my bar mitzvah, so I hope it’s true.)
The team is currently owned and run by Paul’s son Mike Brown. Mike is Sam Brown’s great uncle, since he’s the younger brother of Sam Brown’s grandfather, Robin Brown, who died from cancer at a very young 46 and also worked for the Bengals after a football career at The U.
Brown is the 4th most common surname in the United States. And of course Candidate Brown’s relatives who have nothing to do with the team are also donating money to help the cause. So it’s not super easy to confirm precisely which Browns are the Bengals Browns.
But several clearly are, such as the donation from Mike below which lists as employer “Cincinnati Bengals.” Katie Blackburn leaves the employer field blank, but her less common surname and hometown of Cincinnati makes the connection undeniable.
Brown is locked in a battle with Adam Laxalt for the GOP nomination to determine which candidate will face incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. Her first bid for re-election has struggled amid headwinds facing all Democrats in what is expected to be a tough year for the president’s party.
Laxalt has the endorsement of former President Donald J. Trump, whose imprimatur is thought to be decisive in dragging JD Vance over the finish line in yesterday’s brutal Republican Senate primary in Ohio. Laxalt also has been blessed by rising GOP star Ron DeSantis, the pugnacious governor of Florida who was Laxalt’s roommate when they were roommates during Naval officer training. For his part, Brown had an impressive showing among party activists at the State GOP convention last weekend.
The Globe asked the Brown campaign for comment this morning. If we hear back, this story will be updated.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly named Matthew Stafford as the Bengals quarterback who led the team to his year’s Super Bowl. Of course that was Joe Burrow. The Globe regrets this ridiculous misstatement, and is grateful to a reader who wrote to us to rake us over the coals.
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