Cleveland Browns mourn death of bullmastiff mascot, PETA implores team to rescue dog from local animal shelter

 

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The Cleveland Browns announced via social media last week that their beloved live mascot SJ passed away at the young age of 5.

The team did not reveal the cause of death.

The Browns’ official Instagram page posted a black and white photograph of SJ, a bullmastiff, on Tuesday with the caption, “We are sad to announce the passing of our beloved mascot, SJ. We are so grateful for his many years of loyal support and cherish all of the wonderful memories he helped create for fans young and old.”

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Milkbone, a snack company for dogs, replied to the post, “a true dawg RIP, SJ!” Many Cleveland fans expressed their condolences in the comment section.

On Nov. 10, 2019, at 11-months-old, SJ led the Browns out onto the field at his first official game as a live mascot. The Browns beat the Buffalo Bills at home that day, 19-16.

In a video posted to X the day before his debut, the team hyped up fans with clips of SJ preparing for game day as he sported a gray sweatshirt and warmed up to the “Rocky” theme song. The caption read, “He’s been training for WEEKS for this moment.”

Erin Andrews, NFL sideline reporter for FOX Sports, commented on the post “Awwwww ya!!!”

SJ, one of three live mascots for the team, enjoyed a Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel as a preferred chew toy, according to the Brown’s website.

Though gone too soon, SJ is not the first bullmastiff mascot of the Cleveland Browns to pass away at a young age.

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In 2020, Swagger, SJ’s dad, unexpectedly died from a stroke following a yearlong battle with cancer. At the time, Swagger’s handler, Justin McLaughlin, posted to his Facebook account with the sad news of the dog’s passing on Feb, 7, 2020.

Fans bid farewell to Swagger, a 145-pound good boy, on Oct. 13, 2019 during his final game day appearance against the Seattle Seahawks. The Browns were defeated 32-28 at home.

An open casket funeral was held for Swagger and live-streamed in a suburb outside of Cleveland on Feb, 22, 2020. SJ was present at the service and his final goodbye was documented on X. A Cleveland mourner posted to social media that SJ even tried to get into the casket with his dad.

Both Swagger and SJ hailed from FD Farms in Rootstown Township in Ohio. The farm owns, shows and breeds bullmastiffs, French bulldogs and Dogue de Bordeauxs, according to their website.

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In a statement, Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of PETA, called for the Browns to reimagine their mascot and “adopt a logo featuring a brown mixed-breed dog from an undoubtedly overwhelmed local animal shelter,” according to TMZ Sports.

She added that “generations of breeding for a certain look have left bullmastiffs prone to hip dysplasia, cancer, and life-threatening heart issues, among other painful conditions.” She added that she believed Swagger Jr.’s death “should be seen as a damning indictment of an industry that deliberately churns out these doomed breathing-impaired breeds.”

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It is unclear if the Browns will recruit a new bullmastiff as mascot or host a memorial service for SJ at this time.

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