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Bengals Co-Founder, John Sawyer Passes Away

“John was a pioneer with the Bengals,” said Mike Brown, the Bengals’ current team president. “The team wouldn't have come into existence were it not for his efforts."

Al Bello/Getty Images

John Sawyer, one of the founders of the Cincinnati Bengals, passed away Thursday morning. He was 90-years-old.

When Cincinnati was awarded a professional football team as part of the agreement merging the AFL and NFL, five different ownership groups emerged. One group included John Sawyer, who joined Paul Brown, Mike Brown, Wayne Brown, a grocery store magnate and William C. Nackett, a former Ohio State football player. The only other group with serious consideration included John Wiether, who was a former guard for the Detroit Lions and former coach for the University of Cincinnati basketball team.

Sawyer was the team president from 1968 through 1993 and then vice president in 1994. Sawyer had long been one of the Brown family’s key advisors, and he rarely missed a game at home or away. He also was a former part owner of the Cincinnati Reds, and he was a leader in initiating construction of Riverfront Stadium, which opened in 1970 and served as home to both the Bengals and the Reds for more than 30 years.

"John was a pioneer with the Bengals" said Mike Brown, the Bengals’ current team president. "The team wouldn't have come into existence were it not for his efforts. He was our original president and our primary owner for many years. We lost a critical business partner, as well as a close dear friend."