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NFL legend, Jim Brown, is dead


Arguably the greatest player in NFL history and a champion for social activism throughout and long after his football career ended with the Cleveland Browns, Jim Brown died Thursday night, his wife, Monique, announced Friday afternoon on Instagram. He was 87.

Brown is survived by Monique, their two children, and three children from his previous marriage to Sue.

“We lost a great fighter,” John Wooten, Brown’s former roommate with the Browns, told USA TODAY Sports.

Brown, who led the Browns to the NFL championship in 1964, was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, Brown retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher (12,312 yards) after earning eight unanimous first-team all-pro selections and nine Pro Bowl honors during nine NFL seasons. A four-time NFL MVP and eight-time rushing champ, he averaged 104.3 rushing yards per game – and never missed a game.

That’s why the late father of the great Barry Sanders never hesitated to draw the line when people asked if his son was the greatest running back ever. As William Sanders declared: “Jim Brown was Jim Brown … the best I’ve ever seen.”

Just as significant to his legend was the manner in which Brown walked away while in his prime.

During the summer of 1966, Brown stunned the sporting world with his abrupt retirement while he filmed “The Dirty Dozen” – the classic movie that launched a successful acting career that spanned decades and included more than 50 film and TV roles.

In his biography, “Jim Brown: The fierce life of an American hero,” author Mike Freeman (a current USA TODAY Sports columnist), called Brown “the first Black action star.” In the 1969 movie, “100 Rifles,” Brown appeared with Raquel Welch in Hollywood’s first interracial love scene.

Brown’s impact as a social activist was also profound. On Thursday, the Browns will place a marker outside FirstEnergy Stadium that commemorates the “Muhammad Ali Summit” that Brown inspired in 1967 in Cleveland – where several prominent Black athletes from that era, including Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – gathered and expressed public support for Ali, who was stripped of his championship status due to his objection to joining military efforts in the Vietnam War.

“As I talked to Monique and reflected on Jim, my mind went back to what we were,” said Wooten, the former all-pro guard who blocked for Brown. “There were many nights when we laid in the dormitories at Hiram College, thinking about what we could do as Black players, trying to raise the level and quality around us.

“It was, ‘Are we going to stand by idly as athletes and not be involved?’ That’s when we talked about the education and the economics; we talked about the importance of our kids being educated in the economics.”

In 1988, Brown founded Amer-I-Can, an organization that assisted former prison inmates in developing life skills that aided their transition after serving sentences. Among many social service endeavors, Brown was also committed to reducing violence by gang members and took a hands-on role with efforts to create a truce between rival gangs in Los Angeles.

Brown’s journey also included multiple cases of alleged domestic assault. During the 1960s, he was acquitted of domestic assault charges in one case, and assault charges were dropped in another case. In 1986, rape and assault charges were dropped.

In 1999, Brown was found guilty on charges of vandalism and making “terroristic” threats, stemming from an incident with his wife. He served three months of a six-month sentence.

In his later years, Brown had limited public appearances as his health declined. He was feted at the NFL Honors program during the week of Super Bowl 57 in February in Phoenix, where it was announced that the NFL’s annual rushing champ would receive an award named in Brown’s honor.

Born James Nathaniel Brown on Feb. 17, 1936, in San Simons Island, Georgia, son of Swinton and Theresa Brown, Jim was raised by his grandmother during his early years. At age 8, he moved to Manhasset, Long Island, where his mother was a domestic worker. According to a biographical profile, Swinton was a boxer.

Jim blossomed as a multi-sport star at Manhasset High School. In addition to his football exploits, Brown averaged 38 points per game in basketball, which for several years stood as the Long Island High School record. He also starred in lacrosse, earning first-team All-America honors as a senior at Syracuse and a place in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

The Browns drafted Brown sixth overall in 1957. En route to NFL Rookie of the Year honors, Brown set a then-NFL single-game rushing record with 237 yards that also stood as the league’s rookie record for 40 years.


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