Jim Brown’s wife informed the Associated Press that Brown passed away at the age of 87 in his Los Angeles home. Brown had an exceptional NFL career, characterized by numerous achievements. He played nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns, leading the league in rushing eight times. He earned Pro Bowl selections for all nine seasons and received first-team All-Pro honors on eight occasions. Prior to his sudden retirement in 1966, he held the record for the most rushing yards and touchdowns in NFL history. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Aside from his football prowess, Brown made significant contributions to civil rights. He organized the renowned “Ali Summit” in 1967, which brought together African-American athletes like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell. This gathering marked a historic moment as it united high-profile African-American athletes in support of a controversial cause. Brown also established the Black Economic Union in the 1960s, aiming to assist African-American-owned businesses. In the 1980s, he founded the Amer-I-Can Foundation with the goal of combating gang violence in Southern California. Throughout his life, he advocated for various social issues, including educational reform, and continued to voice his opinions even after turning 80. Brown criticized prominent black athletes such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods for not actively promoting social change, emphasizing that they were beneficiaries of the struggles fought by previous generations.
Even in his 80s, Brown remained involved in politics. He campaigned for Barack Obama but later expressed disappointment with Obama’s presidential tenure. After Donald Trump’s election, Brown publicly expressed support for him, praising Trump’s willingness to help black people. He admired Trump for the obstacles he overcame to become president, remarking that no one had given him a chance.
Brown’s political views, like many aspects of his life, were multifaceted. Although he played a crucial role in the civil rights movement during the 1960s, he held conservative strains in his politics. Brown believed that black people could achieve progress not through protest politics but by accumulating wealth and striving for economic self-sufficiency. He viewed protest as an impediment to these goals. Author Dave Zirin, who wrote a biography about Brown, explained that Brown’s politics were shaped by this perspective.
Beyond his football and activism, Brown pursued a career in acting. His retirement from the NFL was triggered by the filming of “The Dirty Dozen” in London, where production delays clashed with his training camp obligations. Brown chose to retire at the age of 30 rather than face suspension from the Browns’ owner, Art Modell. Throughout his acting career, he appeared in 55 movies and television shows, leaving a notable mark in the industry. One of his most memorable moments occurred in the 1969 movie “100 Rifles,” featuring what is recognized as the first interracial love scene in a mainstream film, alongside Raquel Welch.
However, Brown faced controversies off the field as well. He was involved in legal issues related to allegations of violence against women. The Los Angeles Times reported that he faced accusations in five separate cases, including one where he was accused of throwing a woman off a second-floor balcony. Charges were dropped in that particular case when the woman refused to identify Brown as her assailant. Although Brown was not convicted in most instances, he did receive a six-month jail sentence in 1999 for smashing his wife’s windshield.
Brown’s journey to fame began at Syracuse University, where he excelled in multiple sports. Brown will truly be missed by millions.
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