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Jim Brown, an all-time great and social activist in the NFL, passed away at the age of 87


CLEVELAND (AP) – Jim Brown was virtually unstoppable in every arena.

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

One of the greatest players in NFL history, Brown, who retired at the height of his playing career to pursue acting and remained in the limelight as an activist — and for off-field offenses, including allegations of violence against women – died . He turned 87.

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

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

One of pro football’s first superstars, Brown was a wrecking ball as he led the league eight of his nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He never missed a game and played in 118 just before his sudden retirement in 1965 – after being named Most Valuable Player.

Brown led the Browns to their last championship in 1964 before retiring from football at age 30 to make movies. He appeared in more than 30 films, including ‘Any Given Sunday’ and ‘The Dirty Dozen’.

A powerful runner with speed and stamina, the arrival of Brown led to the game’s burgeoning popularity on television, and he remained an indomitable figure long after his playing days ended.

Brown was also a champion for black Americans, using his platform and voice to fight for equality.

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

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

In later years, he worked to curb gang violence in LA and in 1988 founded Amer-I-Can, a program to help underprivileged inner-city youth and ex-convicts.

On the field, there was no one quite like Brown, who would shoot through potential tacklers and refuse to let one man take him down before sprinting away from linebackers and defensive backs. He was also known for using a stiff arm to shake off defenders in the open field or push them away like they were rag dolls.

Indeed, Brown was unlike anyone else before him, and some feel there has never been anyone better than Cleveland’s No. 32. At six feet tall, 230 pounds, he was relentless, fighting for every inch, dragging several defenders or did he find holes where none seemed to exist.

After Brown was tackled, he got up slowly and walked even more slowly back to the group – only to dominate the defense when he got the ball again.

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

“Jim Brown was a gifted athlete — one of the most dominant players ever on an athletic field — but also a cultural figure who helped drive 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 involved in social initiatives outside of their sport.”

Off the field, Brown was a contentious, 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 women.

In June 1999, Brown’s wife called 911 and said Brown had smashed her car with a shovel and threatened to kill her. At trial, Monique Brown recanted. Jim Brown was acquitted of a domestic threat charge, but convicted of felony vandalism. A Los Angeles judge sentenced Brown to six months in jail for refusing to attend domestic violence help.

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

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

Among his films were “100 Guns”, “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 has been inconsistent. He served as an advisor to owner Randy Lerner and was hired to advise the team’s younger players. However, in 2010, Brown parted ways with the team after his role was reduced by new team president Mike Holmgren. Brown felt slighted by the perceived relegation – when the club unveiled a “Ring of Honor” at the stadium in the centre, Brown did not attend the ceremony in protest.

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

Brown has made only a few public appearances in recent years. In February, he attended the NFL Honors ceremony when the league announced it had renamed the league’s title The Jim Brown Award.

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

“He told me, ‘When someone tackles you, make sure they remember how much it hurts,'” said John Mackey in the Hall of Fame. “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 he’s the best lacrosse player in NCAA history—Brown endured numerous racist taunts while playing at the almost all-white school at the time. Still, he was an All-American in both sports and basketball.

Brown was the sixth overall pick of the 1957 draft, joining a team that routinely played for the title. He was the offensive rookie of the year that season.

Running behind an offensive line that included Hall of Fame tackles Lou Groza and Mike McCormack, Brown established a league tally with 1,527 yards and scored 17 TDs en route to the league’s Most Outstanding Player award—a precursor to the MVP—in 1958. over the next three seasons he never ran for less than 1,257 yards before finishing in 1962 with 996.

He led the NFL in rushing eight times, reaching a career-best 1,863 yards in 1963. He averaged 104 yards per game, scored 106 rushing touchdowns and averaged an amazing 5.2 yards per carry. Brown was also a dangerous receiver, finishing with 262 catches for 2,499 yards and an additional 20 TDs.

“I have often said, and I will always say, Jim Brown is the best,” said Hall of Fame returnee Gale Sayers once, “and he will still be the best long after all his records have been broken.”

Brown’s No. 32 was retired by the Browns in ’71, the same year he entered the Hall of Fame. But he rarely visited Cleveland in the 1970s and 1980s. He and Cleveland owner Art Modell disagreed about his sudden retirement; the two later mended 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 who was not angry with Modell for moving the team.

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

“They grew up in a different era,” said former Browns coach Romeo Crennel. “He’s one of the greatest players in NFL history and what he’s been able to accomplish in his day has been amazing. I don’t know if anyone could do what he did, the way he did it, under the circumstances he had to operate and the things he had to go through.

“And coming out on top is something not many guys can appreciate either.”

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



Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.