- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets, disheartened to hear about an 8-year-old Jets fan in Cleveland who was reportedly tackled by a drunken Browns fan after Sunday's game, reached out to the boy's family Wednesday and offered VIP treatment at a Jets home game.
Matt Higgins, the Jets' executive vice president of business operations, contacted the family after reading of its plight at 6 a.m. on Twitter. The Jets offered to fly the family to New Jersey to watch a game in a luxury suite at the New Meadowlands Stadium and receive autographed memorabilia from coach Rex Ryan and players.
The family politely declined, according to the Jets.
"It's terrible, what happened to that little boy," Higgins told ESPNNewYork.com. "As a father myself, I can say it tugs at you. We reached out to them, hoping we could raise their spirits. But, in talking to the family, they'd like to maintain their privacy. They have no plans to take us up on the offer at this time, but it's an open-ended invitation."
The boy went to the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium in a Jets jersey with his father, who was born in New York. Much to the chagrin of the local crowd, the Jets rallied for a 26-20 overtime victory. The boy's mother, identified only as Danielle by ABC affiliate WEWS because she didn't want to reveal her last name, said the fans in the stadium were great, but things got out of control outside after the game.
"Calling him a bad word, to my husband and to my son, throwing food at them," she said, according to WEWS.
When the family reached the parking lot, the situation got uglier.
"As [my husband] was walking, holding my son's hand, a guy from behind tackled him. A drunken Browns fan tackled him and pulled him out of his dad's hand. He was on the ground crying," Danielle said, according to the station.
The boy was left with a scraped and bruised ankle. The mother said her husband didn't call police, opting instead to quickly get in the car and leave. But the mother wrote a letter to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland detailing what happened.
A team spokesman said the Browns contacted the boy's family on Wednesday and offered "anything we can do" after hearing about the "unfortunate" incident.
Browns coach Eric Mangini was dismayed by the matter.
"If it's true, it's ridiculous and the guy should be arrested," Mangini said. "I would be sick if someone tackled my kid. I think it's just wrong on so many levels and I would be angry as a parent, beyond angry. It shouldn't happen anywhere, ever."
The boy's mother had been nervous about her son attending the game, but believed "kids are off-limits. Clevelanders are such great people. I knew that they would never hurt an 8-year-old kid, never."
She apparently was wrong.
"My husband asked him, 'Did you have a good time?' He said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Would you want to go back sometime?' And he said, 'No, I don't like Browns Stadium.' Who could blame him?" the boy's mother said.
The Browns have successfully cracked down on fan misconduct inside their stadium this season.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
23hEric D. Williams
2dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo