Obituary: Actor, Hall of Fame Football player Jim Brown

Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, an unstoppable running back who retired at the peak of his brilliant career to become an actor as well as a prominent civil rights advocate in the 1960s, has died. He is 87 years old.

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

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

One of football’s first superstars, Brown was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1965 and broke the league’s record books in a short career that spanned 1957-65.

Brown led the Cleveland Browns to their last NFL title in 1964 before retiring in his prime after the ’65 season to become an actor. He appeared in more than 30 films, including “Any Given Sunday” and “The Dirty Dozen.”

A powerful runner with speed and endurance, Brown’s arrival sparked the growing popularity of televised sports.

As Black Americans fought for equality, Brown used his platform and voice to advance their cause.

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

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

“Jim Brown is a true icon for not only the Cleveland Browns but the entire NFL,” said Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam. “He’s definitely the greatest to ever wear a Browns uniform and arguably one of the greatest players in NFL history. Jim is one of the reasons the Browns have such a huge fan base today.

“Many people grew up watching him dominate every time he stepped on the football field but his countless accolades on the field only tell a small part of his story. His commitment to making a positive impact for all people outside the field is what he should also recognize.”

On the field, there’s no one like Brown, who explodes through would-be tacklers, refusing to let anyone bring him down before running away from linebackers and defensive backs. He is also known for using a stiff arm to drop defenders in the open field or push them away like rag dolls.

“My arms are like my protectors and weapons,” Brown said during an interview with NFL Films.

In fact, Brown was unlike anyone who came before him, and some felt that there was no one better than the incomparable No. 32 in Cleveland. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he’s relentless, fighting for every yard, dragging multiple defenders along or finding holes that don’t seem to exist.

After Brown was hit, he slowly got up and walked more slowly back to the huddle — then dominated the defense when he got the ball again.

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

“Jim Brown was a talented athlete — one of the most dominant players to ever step foot on any athletic field — but also a cultural figure who helped foster change,” Goodell said. “During his nine-year NFL career, which coincided with the civil rights movement here at home, he became a pioneer and role model for athletes involved in social initiatives outside of their game.”

Off the field, Brown is a controversial figure.

While he had a soft spot for those in need, and his generosity changed lives, he was also arrested half a dozen times, most of the time for beating women.

In June 1999, Brown’s wife called 911, saying Brown had smashed her car with a shovel and threatened to kill her. During the trial, Monique Brown recanted. Jim Brown was acquitted of domestic threats but convicted of misdemeanor vandalism. A Los Angeles judge sentenced Brown to six months in prison when he refused to attend domestic violence counseling.

He also clashed with Browns coach Paul Brown and ended up managing the team, even though he played his entire career in Cleveland.

When his playing days ended, Brown went to Hollywood and eventually settled there. Brown advised Cleveland coach Blanton Collier on his retirement while the team was in training camp and he was on the set of “The Dirty Dozen” in England.

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

In recent years, Brown’s relationship with the Browns has been strained. He served as an advisor to owner Randy Lerner and was hired to mentor the team’s younger players. However, in 2010, Brown parted ways with the team after his role was reduced by incoming team president Mike Holmgren. Brown felt insulted by the perceived demotion – when the club unveiled a “Ring of Honor” inside the downtown stadium, Brown did not attend the ceremony in protest.

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

Brown was an eight-time All-Pro and went to the Pro Bowl in each of his nine years in the league. When Brown left the game at age 30, he held the league records for passing yards (12,312) and touchdowns (126).

And despite his bruising style, the Browns never missed a game, going 118 straight.

“He told me, ‘Make sure that when somebody fights you he remembers how it hurt,'” said Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey. “He followed that philosophy and I’ve always followed that advice.”

A two-sport star at Syracuse — some say he’s the best lacrosse player in NCAA history — Brown endured countless racist taunts while playing for an almost all-white team. school at the time. However, 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 that featured Hall of Fame running backs Lou Groza and Mike McCormack, Brown set a league mark with 1,527 yards and scored 17 TDs on his way to the Most Award The league’s Outstanding Player — a precursor to MVP — in 1958. Over the next three seasons, he never rushed for less than 1,257 yards before catching 996 in 1962.

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

“I’ve said it many times, and I’ll always say it, Jim Brown was the best,” Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers once said, “and he’s still the best after all his record broken.”

Packers great Paul Hornung felt Brown was unstoppable.

“Give me Jim Brown over anybody — over anything,” he said.

The No. Brown’s 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 ’80s. He and Cleveland owner Art Modell were at odds over his sudden retirement; the two later mended their differences and remained good friends.

Brown supported Modell’s decision to move the Cleveland franchise to Baltimore in 1995. This was a reflection of his loyalty to Modell and another sign of his fierce independence. Brown is one of the few former Browns players who isn’t upset with Modell for moving teams.

Many of today’s players do not appreciate Brown or his impact on American sports.

“They grew up in a different era,” former Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. “He’s one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL and what he’s done in his time is tremendous. I don’t know that anyone could have done what he did, the way he did, under the circumstances he had to operate on and the things that she had to endure. And for her to come out on top, that’s something that a lot of men don’t appreciate either.

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

Brown later took up golf, and while playing with Jack Nicklaus in the 1963 Cleveland Pro-Am, he shot a 79.

Brown is survived by Monique and their son. He was divorced after 13 years of marriage from Sue Brown, with whom he had three children.

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