The CLEVELAND PANTHERS were a semiprofessional football team in the 1920s, and was also the name of the Cleveland team in the short-lived 1926 American Football League; it was also the original name selected for the organization that eventually became the CLEVELAND BROWNS. Little information is available about the semiprofessional Panthers until the team turned professional in 1926. That year the Panthers joined the AFL, the first professional league organized to compete directly with the young National Football League. Cleveland's AFL franchise was obtained by CHARLES X. ZIMMERMAN, president of the Amiesite Asphalt Co.; Zimmerman was Panther president with George T. Jones as secretary. They signed Doc Elliott and Dick Wolf, former Cleveland Bulldog players, and Ohio State stars Al Michaels and Cookie Cunningham. The season began on 26 Sept. when 22,000 spectators watched the Panthers defeat Red Grange's New York All Americans 10-0 at LUNA PARK. Although the Panthers won 2 of their next 3 games, only 1,000 people attended the 31 Oct. game. The following week Stearns Advertising Co. sued the team for $1,000, and the court placed it in receivership. The players were stranded on the road in Philadelphia. The team was disfranchised by the league and disbanded. Herb Brandt, owner of the NFL CLEVELAND BULLDOGS, quickly signed most of the Panthers' players. The Panthers returned in 1927 but were apparently an independent semiprofessional team managed by Jones.
Jones appeared again in the summer of 1945 after a newspaper contest chose the Panthers as the name for the Cleveland franchise in the new All-America Football Conference. As manager of the earlier Panther team, Jones apparently demanded several thousand dollars from owner ARTHUR B. (MICKEY) MCBRIDE for the use of the name. McBride refused to pay, reopened the contest, and selected the Browns name for his team.