NFL Hall of Famer, civil rights activist and actor Jim Brown – who had one of the most successful football careers in history and appeared in more than 30 films – died Thursday in Los Angeles. He is 87 years old.
A spokesman for Brown’s family said he died peacefully at home with his wife, Monique, by his side.
“In the world, he is an activist, an actor, and a football star,” Monique said in an Instagram post. “To our family, he was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken.”
Brown, who played as a running back from 1958 to 1965, led the league in rushing yards in eight of his nine seasons playing for the Cleveland Browns. He led the Browns to an NFL championship in 1964 and won the Most Valuable Player award in 1965, the third of his career, before he abruptly retired after that season to pursue acting.
Some of the movies he has done include “The Dirty Dozen,” “Any Given Sunday,” “100 Rifles” and “Mars Attacks!”
Brown also spoke frequently as an advocate for civil rights, using his platform to push for equality.
He organized what became known as “The Cleveland Summit” in 1967 to gather the country’s top Black athletes to support boxer Muhammed Ali who refused to serve in the Vietnam War. Brown also later worked to reduce gang violence in Los Angeles and founded a program called Amer-I-Can in 1988 to help disadvantaged inner-city youth and former inmates.
Brown also faced controversy because he was arrested several times, most of them on allegations of hitting women. He was arrested in 1999 after Monique Brown told police he smashed her car with a shovel and threatened to kill her.
Monique dropped her accusations during the trial, and Brown was acquitted of the charge of making a domestic threat but convicted of misdemeanor vandalism. He was sentenced to six months in prison for refusing to attend domestic violence counseling.
Brown has made only a few public appearances in recent years, attending the NFL Honors ceremony in February when the league announced that the league’s rushing title would be called The Jim Brown Award. He led the league in passing yards and touchdowns at the time of his retirement.
He was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1971, and his number, 32, was retired by the Browns that same year.
Brown is survived by his wife, Monique, and son, Aris; daughter, Morgan; son, Jim Jr.; daughter, Kimberly; son, Kevin; daughter, Shellee; and daughter, Kim.
Former President Obama is paying tribute to Brown on Twitter, writing that he was too young to remember Brown’s career but knew his legacy.
“One of the greatest football players ever, he was also an actor and activist – speaking out about civil rights, and pushing other Black athletes to do the same,” he said. “Our thoughts are with Jim’s wife Monique, his children, and all who knew and admired him.”
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