Jim Brown, the Cleveland Browns player who became known as one of the greatest players in football history, and who remained in the public eye as a Hollywood hero and civil rights activist, even though his name was later tarnished by accusations of violence. against women, died Thursday night at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87 years old.
His family announced his death Friday on Instagram.
Playing for the Browns from 1957 to 1965 after earning All-American honors at Syracuse University in football and lacrosse, Brown helped take Cleveland to the 1964 National Football League championship.
In every game, he drew defenders when he wasn’t chasing them or paddling them with a straight arm. He dodged them with his feet when he wasn’t sweeping across and overtaking them. He never missed a game, piercing the defensive line in 118 consecutive regular-season games, despite playing one year with a broken finger and another with a sprained wrist.
“All you can do is hold, hold, wait and wait for help,” Sam HuffHall of Fame between the Giants and the Washington Redskins (now the Rulers), he told Time magazine.
Brown was voted the greatest football player of the 20th century by a panel of six players assembled by The Associated Press in 1999. A panel of 85 players selected by NFL Films in 2010 ranked him No. 2 all-time behind Jerry Rice recipient. 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 in the summer of 1966 by retiring to start a career.
He appeared in the 1964 western “Rio Conchos” and took part in the shooting of the World War II film “The Dirty Dozen” in England, planning to participate in the Browns training later. But the wet weather delayed the recording. When he informed Art Model, owner of the Browns, to report late, Modell said he would be compensated for every day he missed camp. Frustrated by the threat, Brown called a press conference to announce his retirement from football.
When the modern civil rights movement developed in the 1950s, only a few elite athletes spoke out about issues of nationalism. But Brown didn’t hesitate.
Working to promote economic development in Black communities while playing for the Browns, he founded the Negro Industrial and Economic Union (later known as the Black Economic Union) as a vehicle for job creation. It supported loans to black entrepreneurs in poor areas – what he called Green Power – reflecting his long-held belief that economic self-reliance held more hope than most demonstrations.
In June 1967, Brown called out other black athletes, in particular Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), at his Economic Union office to hear Muhammad Ali talk about his religious and moral beliefs at a time when Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and imprisoned for refusing to live . was written in opposition to the Vietnam War.
In what was called the Ali Summit, which was seen as a stream for the development of racial awareness among athletes, Brown and others at the conference openly expressed their support for Ali.
By the early 1970s, Brown’s Economic Union had disappeared. But in the late 1980s he founded the Amer-I-Can Foundation to teach life skills to gang members and inmates, mostly in California, and prevent them from resorting to senseless violence. The foundation has grown across the country and remains active.
A handsome man with a beautiful body – he was a handsome 6 feet 2 inches and 230 pounds – Brown appeared in many films and was sometimes referred to as the Black Superman for his film appearances.
“Though Brown’s screenplays were no larger than e-mails, they were not self-deprecating, they did not engage in the derogatory act of humorists,” James Wolcott wrote in the New York Review of Books in his review of Dave Zirin. 2018 documentary, “Jim Brown: Last Man Standing.” He called Brown “a solid chassis of a self-confident, Black uberman.”
One of Brown’s most memorable roles was in “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), in which he played one of 12 people assembled by the Army to kill German officers who were staying at a French checkpoint to help. a blunt response to the Nazis’ expected Normandy declaration. He then 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 making love to a white woman.
Brown was “being a black John Wayne; or maybe John Wayne with a little Malcolm X thrown in,” wrote Gloria Steinem in New York magazine in 1968. Today’s only cool, brave men are Negroes. And they’re not always good guys. “
But Brown had a difficult life.
He was arrested more than half a dozen times, often when women accused him of violent behavior, in an age when famous men such as athletes, actors and politicians were not often held accountable for the wrongdoing of women.
But Brown was never charged. In some cases, the accusers refused to testify, and in some cases he was acquitted by the jury.
Brown’s first lawsuit was filed in 1965, when an 18-year-old woman claimed he had assaulted her at a Cleveland motel. Brown denied the allegations and was found not guilty in a jury trial. A year later, the woman submitted an affidavit confirming that Brown had fathered her daughter. The jury found in his favor.
In June 1968, the police, arriving at Brown’s home in Hollywood after a neighbor called to report a disturbance, found his 22-year-old girlfriend, Eva Bohn-Chin, a model, lying bleeding and badly injured on her patio. She suspects that Brown dumped her on her second balcony. He said he fell. Ms. Bohn-Chin refused to testify, which resulted in the conspiracy charge being dismissed. Brown was fined $300 for interfering with an officer who was trying to enter his home.
Brown’s wife, Sue Brown, with whom he had three children, divorced in 1972.
When Spike Lee released his documentary “Jim Brown: All American” in 2022, Brown was in prison in Los Angeles, having lost an appeal against a conviction for vandalism in 1999. Brown’s wife at the time, Monique Brown, called the police. saying he smashed the windows of his car with a shovel after an argument.
Brown was offered community counseling and anger management counseling, but refused to accept it and was jailed for nearly four months. But the marriage ended.
“I can get angry, and I’ve taken that anger out inappropriately in the past,” Brown told Sports Illustrated in a prison interview. But I have done this to both men and women.”
(Brown was sentenced to one day in prison and fined $500 in 1978 for beating and choking a male friend during their golf game in Inglewood, Calif., apparently after an argument over the place where the friend put his ball on the ninth green. )
“So I have a problem with women?” Brown added in the interview. “No. I have been angry, and I may continue to be angry. I don’t have to hit anyone anymore.”
Brown has maintained for years that he was victimized because of his race or his fame. In an interview with Judy Klemesrud of The New York Times in April 1969, when he spoke about what happened on the balcony, he said, “The police came after me because I’m free and black and I’m supposed to be proud and proud. I’m a fighter and I’m free and open and I’ve been outspoken ‘side on racial issues and I don’t preach against black gangs and I’m not humble.’
The full death record will appear soon.