Greg Doherty/Getty Images

“An ode to the Goat”

The NFL and Hollywood are shocked to hear of the legendary Jim Brown, who has passed away at 87-years-old.

Writing about Jim Brown’s legendary football career wouldn’t tell you half the story of one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, and of the best football players to lace up cleats in the NFL.

When Jim Brown retired, an early retirement at that, to do films, he did so as the NFL’s all time leading rusher with 12,312 yards that was broken by Walter Payton in 1984.  During his career Jim Brown won the NFL’s rushing title 8 times, he was an all pro 8 times, and won the NFL’s MVP award 3 times. In addition, he was on top of many NFL lists, and is regarded as the best football player in NFL history.

But Jim Brown’s legacy reaches far beyond the football field.  In college he was also a great lacrosse player at Syracuse University.  Brown retired from football to pursue acting in 1966.  There weren’t many black actors getting starring roles in Hollywood at that time, and also not many that were crossing over from sports like Brown did.  Brown had acting credits across television and the film industry as he starred in such big name titles as “The Dirty Dozen”, “Any Given Sunday”, “Mars attacks”, “Chips”, “TJ Hooker” and many more.  The first interracial love scene was Jim Brown and Raquel Welch in 100 Rifles, and that was a huge deal in the 1960’s in the middle of the Civil Rights era.

While everyone had lots to say about Lamar Jackson not using a free agent this spring, Jim Brown was a pioneer of his day as he was one of the first professional athletes to use an agent for his contract signings.

Some of Jim Brown’s most important work was his civil rights work.  In 1967 he was a major contributor to the Cleveland Summit that involved the top athletes of that age (Bill Russell, Bobby Mitchell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and others), listened to a pitch from Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.  The meeting was a show of solidarity of Muhammad Ali’s bold stance to not report for military duty, even after his draft card was pulled.  Notably absent from this meeting was OJ Simpson, but that’s an entirely different article for another day.

Jim Brown was a football mega star before the Super Bowl era where the NFL is king.  He was a big time Hollywood actor doing ground breaking things on screen when there weren’t many African American stars on the big screen.  He was pre-Denzel, pre-Richard Pryor, and popular around the same time as Sidney Poitier.

He was a trail blazer that not only was dominant on the field and in the box office, but he was also a pioneer in his civil rights advocacy, going on talk shows and not just talking sports, or film but articulately talking about the plight of black people in America and what should be done about it. 

Brown stood alongside Muhammad Ali when many in his position would not, he quit football while he was still on top and had all his mental faculties when others would hang on for the paycheck and benefits of being a football star.  Jim Brown is a one of one icon of sport, and of humankind.  A brave, trailblazing athlete and all around human being.

CBS Sports

Leave a comment