Remembering NFL Legend Jim Brown: A Legacy of Greatness On and Off the Field
On May 19, 2023, the world lost a true legend when NFL great Jim Brown passed away at the age of 87. Widely considered one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, Brown was a three-time NFL MVP and earned first-team All-Pro honors eight times during his nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns. With the exception of one of his nine seasons, he dominated the league in rushing. His incredible on-field performances saw him break numerous records, including career rushing yards, career rushing touchdowns, most total touchdowns, most total touchdowns in a season, rushing yards in a season, rushing touchdowns in a season, rushing average for a season, and most rushing touchdowns in a game. The NFL still holds onto Brown's record of six games with at least four rushing touchdowns and 14 games with at least three rushing TDs. Despite playing just 118 games, he still ranks among the NFL all-time leading running backs in rushing average, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards.
But Brown’s impact extended far beyond the football field. He was a key voice in the 1960s civil rights movement, along with other Black athletes like Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) and Muhammad Ali. Brown convened a gathering in Cleveland in 1967, comprising the country's foremost Black athletes, to endorse Ali's resistance against the Vietnam War. He was also the organizer of the famous ‘Ali Summit', a press conference of black athletes speaking out in the 1960's about their desire not to be drafted into the war in Vietnam. During the 1970s, Brown established the Amer-I-Can Foundation, an organization that imparts essential life skills to incarcerated individuals and gang members. The organization is still in operation. He was a civil rights icon who used his platform to fight for racial justice and bring athletes from all different sports together to use their platform for good.
Brown also excelled in other sports, including lacrosse, basketball and track, and is enshrined in both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Brown started his acting career just before retiring from football. He acted for over 50 years and appeared in numerous movies such as Any Given Sunday, He Got Game, Mars Attacks!, Ice Station Zebra, 100 Rifles, Slaughter, The Dirty Dozen, and many more.
The Cleveland Browns remember Brown as the greatest player in team history, and perhaps the greatest player in league history. Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement released by the team: “Jim Brown is a true icon of not just the Cleveland Browns but the entire NFL. He was certainly the greatest to ever put on a Browns uniform and arguably one of the greatest players in NFL history. Jim was one of the reasons the Browns have such a tremendous fan base today. So many people grew up watching him just dominate every time he stepped onto the football field but his countless accolades on the field only tell a small part of his story.”
Despite his incredible achievements on the field and on the silver screen, Brown’s commitment to making a positive impact for all of humanity off the field is what he should also be remembered for. He was a true icon and his devotion to fighting racial injustice, improving education for youth and positively impacting the many lives he has through his Amer-I-Can Program has left a lasting legacy well beyond all he accomplished on the field. Jim Brown may be gone, but his legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.
0. “Jim Brown, NFL legend and Hall of Famer, dies at 87” USA TODAY, 19 May. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/browns/2023/05/19/jim-brown-nfl-legend-cleveland-browns-dies/70237329007
1. “Jim Brown dies at 87: 32 facts about 32, from NFL legend's milestones to post-football achievements” CBS Sports, 19 May. 2023, https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/jim-brown-dies-at-87-32-facts-about-32-from-nfl-legends-career-milestones-to-post-football-achievements/
2. “RIP To The Greatest Running Back Of All Time, Jim Brown” Barstool Sports, 19 May. 2023, https://www.barstoolsports.com/blog/3467956/rip-to-the-greatest-running-back-of-all-time-jim-brown
3. “Jim Brown, one of the NFL's all-time greatest players, a social activist and actor, dies at 87” CBS Sports, 19 May. 2023, https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/jim-brown-one-of-the-nfls-all-time-greatest-players-a-social-activist-and-actor-dies-at-87/
4. “Browns remember Jim Brown as “certainly the greatest to ever put on a Browns uniform”” NBC Sports, 19 May. 2023, https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2023/05/19/browns-remember-jim-brown-as-certainly-the-greatest-to-ever-put-on-a-browns-uniform/
5. “Jim Brown, NFL Legend, Former Lacrosse Star and Sport Ambassador, Has Died” insidelacrosse.com, 19 May. 2023, https://www.insidelacrosse.com/article/jim-brown-nfl-legend-former-lacrosse-star-and-sport-ambassador-has-died/61546
6. “Haslam family remembers NFL legend: ‘The greatest to ever put on a Browns uniform’” Fox News, 19 May. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/sports/haslam-family-remembers-nfl-legend-the-greatest-to-ever-put-on-a-browns-uniform
7. “Jim Brown, NFL Legend Turned Hollywood Action Hero, Dies at 87” Hollywood Reporter, 19 May. 2023, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/jim-brown-dead-nfl-legend-dirty-dozen-star-1235496604