December 18, 2001 at 1:33 AM EST - Updated July 12 at 3:15 AM
By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - New York Giants owner Wellington Mara criticized Browns management for failing to take a strong stand against Cleveland fans who pelted the field with debris.
"I was a little disappointed by the reaction of management," Mara said Monday, referring to the chaos at the end of the Jacksonville Jaguars' 15-10 win over the Browns in Cleveland.
"I thought they ought to be more concerned about the welfare of the players and officials than they were," added the 85-year-old Mara, one of the league's most respected owners. "I have to say I didn't hear the whole thing they said, but what I heard kind of startled me."
Browns president Carmen Policy refused to criticize the fans, and owner Al Lerner went as far as to excuse the rowdiness.
"I don't think Cleveland will take a black eye from this," Policy said. "I like the fact that our fans care."
Lerner said: "I think everyone controlled themselves considering they spent 60 minutes out in cold weather. It wasn't pleasant. I wouldn't suggest anything like that. But it wasn't World War III."
Mara said he was concerned with the throwing of the plastic bottles.
"They can be filled with water," Mara said. "We don't know what was in them, but they looked like pretty lethal weapons."
Mara also took exception to Policy equating Sunday's bottle throwing to the snowball throwing by Giants Stadium fans in the final game of the 1995 season.
Fifteen people were arrested then, and the Giants removed the season tickets of some fans, taking some to court to do it.
The mayhem in Cleveland started after officials used instant replay to nullify a fourth-down reception at the Jacksonville 9 on Cleveland's final drive. The decision came after the Browns had run another play, a spike to stop the clock.
Angered by the call, fans threw plastic bottles at players and officials and tossed other debris. The violence caused officials to stop the game with 48 seconds to play. The game was completed more than 30 minutes later on orders from commissioner Paul Tagliabue, with the Jacksonville quarterback taking a knee.
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)