May 30, 2012

Jim Brown Among New Owners of MLL's Long Island Lizards

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter

Legendary football and lacrosse player Jim Brown with Cornell's Rob Pannell at the 2011 Tewaaraton Awards ceremony. Brown is part of group that's taken over ownership of Major League Lacrosse's Long Island Lizards, the team that drafted Pannell with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 collegiate draft.
© John Strohsacker/

Jim Brown, the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back and a National Lacrosse Hall of Famer, is part of a group that's taken over ownership of Major League Lacrosse's Long Island Lizards.

Medallion Financial Corp., a New York City based company that has invested more than $5 billion in small businesses, is the new majority owner. Andrew Murstein is Medallion's president and will be a co-owner of the team along with Brown and a group of local owners that includes Richard Mack, Ivan Wolpert, Albert Maione and John Lizza.

The team's former owner, Scott Rosenzweig, passed away on Feb. 3.

Brown, arguably the greatest football player of all time and one of the greatest lacrosse players, will be on hand at the Lizards' home game against the Ohio Machine on Friday at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. He is scheduled to fly in to New York from California, where he lives, on Thursday afternoon and will be at the game Friday an hour before its 7 p.m. start to meet with fans.

Brown played lacrosse and several other sports at Manhasset High on the north shore of Long Island and later was a first-team All-American football and lacrosse player at Syracuse before his record-setting NFL career with the Cleveland Browns from 1957-65.

"We are very excited about this opportunity, the potential of Major League Lacrosse, and working with a legend like Jim Brown," said Murstein, a Roslyn, N.Y., native.

In a statement released by the new ownership group, Brown said, "Not everyone knows this, but lacrosse has always been my favorite sport along with football. I started playing at Manhasset High School, not too far from the Lizards' home field at Hofstra.

"This sport is ready to explode and I am proud to be a part of it," Brown said. "It will be a bit of a homecoming for me and I am excited beyond words."

The Lizards (1-2) have been going through a transition phase, having traded away perennial all-stars Matt Danowski, Stephen Berger, Nicky Polanco and Brian Spallina. Former coach Jim Mule stepped down in the offseason and former assistant Joe Spallina took over head coaching duties. The team drafted Cornell's Rob Pannell with the No. 1 overall pick in the preseason collegiate draft, but Pannell subsequently suffered a season-ending foot injury during the spring college season and has decided to return to school for a fifth year.

Spallina on Wednesday was excited about the new ownership group. In 2010, Medallion was one of several parties involved in the purcahse of Richard Petty Motorsports, which operates NASCAR teams, and the company has been interested in acquiring a major professional sports franchise in past years.

"Our guys have gone through a lot over the last six months and things are really starting to turn the corner for us," Spallina said. "This group is for real. I feel real happy. These guys are really into it and are going to do a fantastic job. Already, this morning WFAN [sports radio in New York] is doing commercials promoting our game coming up."

The Lizards' average home attendance last year (3,827) ranked fifth out of six teams. Newsday (N.Y.) reported the selling price for the team was in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, with Medallion holding about 60 percent and Brown roughly 20 percent of ownership.

"It's something that's going to be very different for our guys, because six months ago there were a lot of question marks around our franchise," Spallina said. "Besides us acquiring all of these young great players [like Tewaaraton finalist CJ Costabile], now we have an exciting new ownership group that's ready to dedicate themselves to Major League Lacrosse, and help add validity to the sport that we all love."

Just one year ago, Brown was in Washington, D.C., for the Tewaaraton Awards, where he was honored with the first Tewaaraton Legends Award. Brown was a two-time lacrosse All-American at Syracuse, and scored 43 goals as a senior in 1957 to lead Syracuse to a 10-0 season. He was indcuted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983, and is the only person in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Now, at the start of the summer, he'll be at another lacrosse event.

"Those of us who play lacrosse know that we do it for the love of the game, and simply for the love of the game," Brown said then. "So we're all in the same fraternity."

According to Murstein's bio at Richard Petty Motorsports, his grandfather, Leon Murstein, became a New York cab driver and purchased one of the first New York taxi medallions, issued in 1937. Eventually, Murstein went to work for the taxi business and the family went on to own more than 500 medallions and made the decision to sell some of them in the 1970s.

"Unfortunately, they were unable to find a bank willing to provide the financing. This was the trigger that provoked them to get involved in the lending business," the bio reads. "In 1979, the Mursteins founded a family-owned company called Medallion Funding Corp."

Check back to for more on Brown and the new ownership of the Long Island Lizards.

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