Jim Brown, the football great, Black lacrosse pioneer, and former social and racist justice activist died at his Los Angeles home on Thursday. The College and Pro Football Hall of Famer was 87.
Brown spent his entire NFL career with the Cleveland Browns (1957-1965) and is considered one of, if not the greatest, players of all time. He was the 1957 Rookie of the Year, a three-time MVP, nine-time Pro Bowler, and NFL champion (1964). He rushed for 12,312 yards, and scored a combined 126 rushing and receiving touchdowns.
“Jim broke down barriers just as he broke tackles,” his former team wrote in a statement upon his passing.
“To the world, he was an activist, actor, and football star,” his wife, Monique Brown, wrote in an Instagram post. “To our family, he was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken.”
Jim Brown’s gridiron legacy
The New York native led the NFL in rushing yards eight times, and TDs five times. The Browns retired his No. 32 jersey, and inducted him into the team’s Ring of Honor. Brown was the first player to rush for more than 10,000 yards.
Brown was selected to the NFL’s 50th, 75th, and 100th-anniversary All-Time teams, was ranked as the No. 1 all-time player on the College Football 150 list — he was a unanimous All-American in 1956 at Syracuse, and the school retired his No. 44 jersey — and in 2002, the Sporting News named him football’s GOAT.
He retired at age 30 as the league’s all-time leading rusher. He also held the single-season rushing record (1,863 yards in 1963), which remains the most in Cleveland Browns’ history.
Jim Brown’s post-playing career
Brown went into acting, appearing in both movies and TV with roles in “Knight Rider,” “The A-Team,” “CHiPS,” and “Any Given Sunday.”
Brown also got into broadcasting, working as a color commentator for NFL coverage, as well as boxing and the UFC.
In 1974, he even posed nude for Playgirl.
However, Brown leaves behind a complicated legacy. A great athlete who once stood for civil rights — he also organized “The Cleveland Summit,” to support Muhammad Ali’s fight against serving in Vietnam — Brown additionally had an alleged history of beating women.
His Wikipedia page has its own section dedicated to assault allegations against him. He was arrested at least seven times for assault. Brown was accused of and investigated for beating or raping women at least six times from the 1960s to 2000, though he was never found guilty of any of the charges.
An ESPN/AP obit ends by listing his alleged offenses:
He was arrested a half-dozen times, mostly on charges of hitting women. He was once fined and spent a day in jail after beating up a golfing partner. He was charged with rape, sexual battery and assault in 1985 (the charges were later dropped). The next year he was arrested for allegedly beating his fiancée. In 1999, Brown was acquitted of domestic threats against his wife but convicted of smashing the window of her car and spent time in jail when he refused to attend domestic violence counseling.
As we’ve written here on this site, Brown admitted in his own memoir to slapping women, and tried to use his wife’s menstrual cycle to explain his violent outbursts.
Later in life, Brown became a Donald Trump supporter and stood against Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem, saying “Don’t desecrate my flag.”
“...I find myself really pulling for the president,” Brown said on The JT The Brick Show on Fox Sports Radio. In supporting the former POTUS, Brown explained, “That would make me very unpopular in the black community, very unpopular with a lot of Americans.”