Jim Brown’s legacy goes beyond sports

Jim Brown was virtually unstoppable in every arena.

Whether on the field, as a Hollywood movie hero or as a civil rights advocate, Brown was a force.

Brown, one of the greatest players in NFL history, who retired at the peak of his playing career to pursue acting and remained in the public spotlight as an activist, and due to off-field transgressions that included accusations of violence against women, died. . He was 87 years old.

A spokeswoman for Brown’s family said he died peacefully at his Los Angeles home on Thursday night with his wife, Monique, by his side.

“To the world, he was an activist, actor and soccer star,” Monique Brown wrote in an Instagram post. “To our family, he was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken.”

One of the first superstars in professional football, Brown was a wrecking ball while leading the league in rushing during eight of his nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns. She never missed a game, playing at 118 directly before his sudden retirement in 1965 after being named Most Valuable Player.

Brown led the Browns to their last championship in 1964 before leaving football in its prime at age 30 to make movies. He appeared in more than 30 movies, including “Any Given Sunday” and “The Dirty Dozen.”

A power runner with speed and stamina, Brown’s arrival sparked the game’s growing popularity on television and he remained an indomitable figure long after his playing days were over.

Brown was also an advocate for African Americans and used his platform and voice to fight for equality.

“I hope all black athletes take the time to learn about this incredible man and what he did to change all of our lives,” said NBA star LeBron James. “We all stand on your shoulders, Jim Brown. If you grew up in Northeast Ohio and you were black, Jim Brown was a God.”

In June 1967, Brown organized “The Cleveland Summit,” a gathering of the nation’s top black athletes, including Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to support boxer Muhammad Ali’s fight against military service in Vietnam.

Years later, he worked to curb gang violence in Los Angeles and in 1988 founded Amer-I-Can, a program to help disadvantaged inner-city youth and ex-convicts.

On the field, there was no one like Brown, who would cut through would-be tacklers, refusing to let a man take him down before running away from linebackers and defensive backs. He was also famous for using a stiff arm to take down defenders in the open or push them around like ragdolls.

In fact, Brown was unlike any running back before him, and some believe there has never been anyone better than Cleveland’s No. 32. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, he was relentless, fighting for every yard, dragging multiple defenders or finding holes where there seemed to be none.

After Brown was tackled, he would slowly get up and walk even more slowly back to the group, then dominate the defense when he got the ball back.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offered his condolences on behalf of the league.

“Jim Brown was a gifted athlete, one of the most dominant players to ever walk a sports field, but also a cultural figure who helped promote change,” Goodell said. “During his nine-year NFL career, which coincided with the civil rights movement here at home, he became a trailblazer and role model for athletes who engage in social initiatives outside of their sport.”

Off the field, Brown was a controversial and complicated figure.

While he had a soft spot for those in need, he was also arrested half a dozen times, mostly on charges of beating up women.

In June 1999, Brown’s wife called 911 and said that Brown had vandalized her car with a shovel and threatened to kill her. During the trial, Monique Brown recanted. Jim Brown was acquitted on one count of domestic threats but convicted of misdemeanor vandalism. A Los Angeles judge sentenced Brown to six months in prison for refusing to attend domestic violence counseling.

He also fell out with Browns coach Paul Brown and later with the team’s management, though he played his entire career with Cleveland.

When his playing days were over, Brown set out for Hollywood, eventually settling there. Brown informed Cleveland coach Blanton Collier of his retirement while the team was in training camp and he was on the set of “The Dirty Dozen” in England.

His films include “100 Rifles,” “Mars Attacks!” Spike Lee’s “He Got Game,” Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday,” and “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” which parodied the blaxploitation genre. In 2002, Brown was the subject of Lee’s HBO documentary “Jim Brown: All-American.”

In recent years, Brown’s relationship with the Browns was inconsistent. He served as an advisor to owner Randy Lerner and was brought in to mentor the team’s younger players. However, in 2010, Brown parted ways with the team after incoming team president Mike Holmgren reduced his role. Brown felt belittled by the perceived demotion: when the club presented a “Ring of Honour” inside their downtown stadium, Brown did not attend the ceremony in protest.

The Browns erected a statue of Brown outside their stadium in 2016.

Brown made only a few public appearances in recent years. In February, he attended the NFL awards ceremony when the league announced it had renamed its league running back title The Jim Brown Award.

Brown was an eight-time All-Pro and went to the Pro Bowl in each of his nine years in the league. When he retired, he held the league records for yards (12,312) and touchdowns (126).

“He told me, ‘Make sure when someone tackles you they remember how much it hurts,’” Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey said. “He lived by that philosophy and I always followed that advice.”

Born February 17, 1936, in St. Simons Island, Georgia, Brown was a multi-sport star at Manhasset High School on Long Island. He averaged 14.9 yards per carry in football and once scored 55 points in a game.

A two-sport star at Syracuse, some say the greatest lacrosse player in NCAA history, Brown endured countless racist taunts while playing at the virtually all-whites school at the time. Still, he was an All-American in both sports and lettered in basketball.

Brown was the sixth overall pick in the 1957 draft, joining a team that regularly played for the title. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year that season.

Running behind an offensive line featuring Hall of Fame tackles Lou Groza and Mike McCormack, Brown set a league-high 1,527 yards and scored 17 TDs on his way to the league’s Most Outstanding Player award, a precursor of the MVP, in 1958. Next three seasons, he never rushed for less than 1,257 yards before finishing with 996 in 1962.

He led the NFL in rushing eight times, gaining a career-high 1,863 yards in 1963. He averaged 104 yards per game, scored 106 rushing touchdowns, and averaged a staggering 5.2 yards per carry. A dangerous receiver as well, Brown finished with 262 catches for 2,499 yards and another 20 TDs.

“I have said it many times, and I will always say it, Jim Brown is the best,” Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers once said, “and he will be the best long after all his records are broken.”

Brown’s No. 32 was retired by the Browns in 1971, the same year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he rarely visited Cleveland during the 1970s and 1980s. He and Cleveland owner Art Modell were at odds over his sudden retirement; the two later patched up their differences and remained friends.

Brown supported Modell’s decision to move the franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1995. It was both a reflection of his loyalty to Modell and another sign of his fierce independence. Brown was one of the few former Browns players not to get mad at Modell for moving the team.

Many modern players failed to appreciate Brown or his impact on American sports.

“They’ve grown up in a different era,” former Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. “He is one of the greatest players in NFL history and what he was able to accomplish in his time was tremendous. I don’t know if anyone could do what he did, the way he did it, in the circumstances that he had to operate and the things that he had to endure.

“And for him to get to the top, that’s something a lot of guys can’t appreciate either.”

Brown is survived by his wife and son, Aris; daughter, Morgan, son, Jim Jr.; daughter, Kimberley; son, Kevin; daughter, Shellee; and daughter, Kim. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Karen Ward.

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