Rather than have a costumed mascot, the Cleveland Browns will now have a live canine to lead the players onto the field. In an interview with radio station 92.3 The Fan, Browns' vice president of fan experience and marketing, Kevin Griffin, announced the new mascot will be a bullmastiff named Swagger.
The Dawg Pound, as the bleacher section behind the east end zone in FirstEnergy Stadium is called, is known for its extremely zealous fans. Hanford Dixon started calling his defensive teammates ‘Dawgs’ in 1985, after hearing a fan barking during the Browns’ home games. Dixon and fellow cornerback Frank Minnifield then came up with the pound idea, as in dog-versus-cat between the quarterback and the defense. "We had the idea of the quarterback being the cat, and the defensive line being the dog," Dixon said.
Dixon and Minnifield put up the first ‘Dawg Pound’ banner in front of the bleachers at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Having the cheapest seats in the stadium, the bleacher section also had the most vocal fans.
Clevelanders love their sports teams. The Dawg Pound bleacher section of the past was very popular, with dedicated fans wearing dog noses, dog masks and canine-inspired costumes.
And of course, as Dixson said, "Whenever the defense would get a regular sack or a coverage sack the defensive linemen and linebackers would bark."
By introducing a dog as mascot, the team hopes to re-connect fans with the Dawg Pound of the past.
More information on Swagger is to follow. Spokesman Rob McBurnett said "We are considering incorporating a bullmastiff into our gameday experience and will have more information at a later date.”
Live mascots at other NFL teams include Taima the hawk of the Seattle Seahawks, ravens ‘Rise’ and ‘Conquer’ of the Baltimore Ravens, and Thunder II, an Arabian horse, mascot of the Denver Broncos.