Jim Brown, football great and civil rights champion, dies at 87

Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns fullback, acclaimed as one of the greatest players in pro football history, and who remained in the public eye as a Hollywood action hero and civil rights activist, although he was later named Tarnished by allegations of violent conduct against women, died Thursday night at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87 years old.

His family announced his death on Instagram on Friday.

Playing for the Browns from 1957 to 1965 after earning All-American honors at Syracuse University in football and lacrosse, Brown helped lead Cleveland to the 1964 National Football League championship.

In any given game, he would haul defenders when he was not running at them or flattening them with a straight arm. He dodged him with his footwork when he was not sweeping around the end and got him out. He did not miss a game in 118 consecutive regular-season games piercing the defensive line, although he played one year with a broken toe and another with a sprained wrist.

Hall of Fame middle linebacker Sam Huff of the Giants and Washington Redskins (now Commanders) once told Time magazine, “All you can do is hold, hold, hold and wait for help.”

In 1999, Brown was voted football’s greatest player of the 20th century by a six-man panel of experts assembled by The Associated Press. In 2010, a panel of 85 experts selected by NFL Films ranked him No. 2 of all time behind wide receiver Jerry Rice. of the San Francisco 49ers.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1984, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

Brown was still in top form and only 30 years old when he shocked the football world by retiring in the summer of 1966 to pursue an acting career.

He appeared in the 1964 western “Rio Conchos” and was involved in the shooting of the World War II film “The Dirty Dozen” in England, later planning to attend Brown’s training camp. But wet weather delayed the completion of filming. When he informed the Browns’ owner, Art Modell, that he would report late, Modell said he would be fined for every day he did not attend camp. Infuriated by the threat, Brown called a news conference to announce that he was done with pro football.

As the modern civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1950s, few elite athletes spoke out on racial issues. But Brown had no hesitation.

Working to promote economic development in Cleveland’s black neighborhoods while playing for the Browns, he founded the Negro Industrial and Economic Union (later known as the Black Economic Union) as a vehicle. It facilitated loans to black businessmen in poor areas – what he called Green Power – reflecting his long-standing belief that economic self-reliance held more promise than mass opposition.

In June 1967, Brown invited other prominent black athletes, notably Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (the future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), to his Economic Association office to hear about Muhammad Ali’s religious and moral beliefs, When Ali was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title and faced imprisonment for refusing to be drafted in protest of the Vietnam War.

In what came to be called the Ali Summit, seen as a watershed for the development of racial awareness among athletes, the session saw Brown and others publicly voice their support for Ali.

By the early 1970s, Brown’s economic association had largely faded. But in the late 1980s he founded the Amer-I-Can Foundation to teach basic life skills to gang members and inmates, primarily in California, and keep them away from continued senseless violence. The foundation expanded nationally and remains active.

Handsome with an imposing physique—he stood 6 feet 2 inches and a sculpted 230 pounds—Brown appeared in several films and was sometimes cited as the Black Superman for his cinematic exploits.

James Woollcott, in his review of Dave Zirin in The New York Review of Books, wrote, “Although the range of emotions Brown displayed onscreen was no wider than a mail slot, he never embarrassed himself, never too much of a comic party.” Didn’t play to an outrageous stereotype.” 2018 Biography, “Jim Brown: Last Man Standing.” He called Brown “a more self-assertive individual, a rugged chassis for the Black Uberman”.

One of Brown’s best-remembered roles was in “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), in which he played one of 12 convicts gathered by the military to help high-rises housed in a French château. -class was meant to be an almost suicide mission to kill German officers. Blunt the Nazis’ response to the anticipated D-Day invasion of Normandy. He next played a Marine captain in the Cold War thriller “Ice Station Zebra” (1968).

In 1969, his character was shown having sex with Raquel Welch’s character in the western “100 Rifles”, the first major Hollywood film to feature a black man in love with a white woman.

Brown was becoming “Black John Wayne; Or maybe John Wayne with a hint of Malcolm X,” Gloria Steinem wrote in New York magazine in 1968. She quoted him as saying: “I don’t want to play Negro parts. Just cool, tough modern men who are also Negroes. And not good people all the time.

But Brown’s personal life was problematic.

He was arrested more than a half-dozen times, mostly in cases involving women who accused him of violent behavior, in years when prominent men such as athletes, actors, and political figures were usually jailed for alleged crimes against women. Was not held accountable by the public.

But Brown was never convicted of any major crime. In some cases the accusers refused to testify, and in other cases they were acquitted by juries.

The first charges against Brown were filed in 1965, when an 18-year-old woman testified that he assaulted her at a Cleveland motel. Brown denied the charge and was found not guilty in a jury trial. A year later, the woman filed a civil paternity suit claiming that Brown had fathered her daughter. The jury found in his favor.

In June 1968, police arrived at Brown’s Hollywood home after a neighbor called to report a disturbance and found his 22-year-old girlfriend, Eva Bohn-Chin, a model, lying in a pool of blood and badly injured in his courtyard. Was. They suspected that Brown had thrown her from his second-floor balcony. She said that she had fallen. Ms Bohn-Chin refused to testify, resulting in the assault charge being dismissed. Brown paid a $300 fine for interfering with a police officer seeking entry to his home.

Brown’s wife, Sue Brown, with whom he had three children, obtained a divorce in 1972.

When Spike Lee released his documentary “Jim Brown: All American” in 2022, Brown was in jail in the Los Angeles area, having lost an appeal in 1999 on a misdemeanor vandalism conviction. Brown’s wife at the time, Monique Brown, called police and reportedly broke her car window with a shovel after an argument.

Brown was offered community service and anger management counselling, but refused to accept it and remained in prison for almost four months. But the marriage lasted.

Brown told Sports Illustrated in an interview in prison, “I can certainly be angry, and I have taken that anger out in inappropriate ways in the past.” “But I’ve done this with both men and women.”

(Brown was sentenced to a day in jail and fined $500 for assaulting and strangling a male friend during their golf match in Inglewood, California, in 1978.)

“So do I have a problem with women?” Brown added in the interview. “No. I got angry, and I’ll probably continue to get angry. I just don’t want to attack anyone ever again.

Brown maintained for years that he was victimized because of his race or his celebrity status. In an April 1969 interview with Judy Klemerud of The New York Times, in which he talked about the balcony incident, he said, “The police were after me because I’m free and black and I’m perceived as being arrogant and militant.” For and I swing free and loose and have been outspoken on racial matters and I do not campaign against black extremist groups and I am not submissive.

A full obituary will appear soon.