Jim Brown was at one time the consensus best football player to ever play in the National Football League but hes no longer that guy. Once upon a time, he was considered by some to be the prototype of black masculinity. I can still recall movies like The Dirty Dozen, Condor and Black Gunn, as well as those pop posters featuring Brown with his shirt posing alongside a model. Hes not that guy anymore either. I also recall the Jim Brown that was so fed up with the manner in which the late Art Modell demanded he leave the movie set of The Dirty Dozen and report to training camp that he immediately retired.
By now most of us know that Jim Brown threw his hat in with Donald J. Trump and has even said that he has fallen in love with the controversial president who has shown a disdain for just about every demographic you can think of. The armor of this once shining knight of black manhood has rusted with age, but it may not have been as sturdy as we believed it to be in the first place.
Recently, the Cleveland Browns legend gave his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick after the entire Cleveland Browns team stood for the national anthem, after previously being fragmented in their approach. There are also reports that the team’s decision to all stand for the anthem may have been influenced by Brown, who visited the locker room prior to kickoff. Brown said the NFL free agent needs to choose between being a football player and being an activist; as nonsensical a thing as Ive heard all week. He also said that he must respect the flag and respect the national anthem.
The anti-Kaepernick contingent got a kick out of that. Just four years ago, Jim Brown admonished Kobe Bryant for not being more activist-minded and even lamented that modern athletes lacked Ali’s resolve in 2012. What happened?
Powerful statement from Jim Brown regarding Colin Kaepernick &other athletes who protest national anthem &those who choose 2desecrate flag.
Brown was said to be a real mans man, someone who lived by his own code and didnt take kindly to being told what to do. When doing research on Brown, we see him as a former football great, a former actor and a civil rights activist. Also, there are plenty of photos floating around with Brown alongside other sports greats like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell, former NFL players John Wooten, Walter Beach, Willie Davis and Bobby Mitchell, then Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, and of course Ali. The photo was taken after an intense two-hour exchange in which Brown and company bombarded Ali with questions to test the sincerity of reasoning as to why he did not wish to accept being drafted into the United States Army during the Vietnam War. The meeting, which took place in 1967, was the beginning of a long friendship between Brown and Ali.
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The two men would go onto their respective destinies from that day forth. Ali would become the greatest heavyweight that ever lived and, for a longtime, one of the most recognized people in the world. Jim Brown would continue his activism; which included being heavily involved in the Stop the Violence movement of the late 80s and early 90s, being involved in an L.A. gang truce that was moderately successful and educating inner city children to the powerful potential that lay within them.
Former NFL fullback Jim Brown joins CBSN to reflect on his career, social activism, and winning the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.
Indeed, because we loved everything that Jim Brown appeared to stand for, his very lengthy history of domestic violence was not even an afterthought as we showered accolades upon him for his football career, acting career, his involvement within impoverished urban communities and how he seemed to maintain the appearance of strength and virility well into his seventies.
Back in 2012, I lamented the absence of contemporary activist athletes in a piece called Sports Activism is Dead, Long Live Sports Activism, which was published in EURweb. As anyone else would have done, I mentioned Brown in the same breath as Ali, Russell and Jabbar. These were his contemporaries in more ways than one.
Fast forward to 2017 and it seems as if Brown has lost touch with society a bit. His attacks on Kaepernick for not kneeling aren’t consistent with his reputation as a civil rights activist. Not to beat a fossilized horse, but is he talking about the flag under which the Tuskegee Experiments, Jim Crow and the War on Drugs were all purposefully visited upon Black people in America?
Brown would have us respect and stand for the national anthem that has lyrics that appear to celebrate slavery? Riiiiiight. To be clear, I wouldn’t advocate purposefully disrespecting these things. In fact, I think Kaep’s decision to protest in the manner he did is very respectful and uber-American, apple pie and all. Taking a knee, rather than sitting, was clearly an attempt at showing some deference despite his stance.
A lot continues to be said about Colin Kaepernick and anthem protests as a whole. Here are some notable quotes from the past few weeks. https://t.co/qSdu6oGlUl
Kaep has stated on many occasions that he has no plans to continue his on field protest this season, so why does he need to choose between the NFL and activism, again? Why would anyone stop trying to help the oppressed? The cat is out of the bag now as players from all over the National Football League are joining the protest against police brutality and oppression, and I suspect most of them wont be swayed by some former great. Kaepernick was the catalyst but never set himself up to be any kind of leader. Heck, Ive never once heard Colin refer to himself as an activist, either.
Kaepernick is someone who has seen suffering, witnessed the unavenged deaths of the innocent and the callous hearts of the powers that be. He followed his conscience and, though hes no longer in the position to protest even if he wanted to, Kaep will continue being the topic of conversation from opponents to his actions. Why? To make an example out of him for all to see, virtually lynching his football career while pointing fingers at its shattered shell, laughing and smiling at what could have been. Because, while you may not be able to kill a dream, you can certainly demoralize a dreamer who has no support. Therefore, Kaep needs his supporters to remain steadfast now more than ever. And Jim Brown needs to sit down somewhere. He’s irrelevant.