Back when it was first revealed that Jim Brown, who along with Muhammad Ali was the face of activism in among professional athletes for years, was a supporter of Donald Trump as well as a fervent critic of banned QB Colin Kaepernick, it was a sickening feeling of dread that rained down upon me. I had written several stories about Jim Brown’s anti-gang activities in Los Angeles and his Amer-I-Can initiatives to uplift and empower young men from urban environments while at other publications over the years.
But when he said that Trump was a “dear friend” I couldn’t believe my ears at the time. How could a man who spoke out against racism and supported Muhammad Ali be so willing to throw his hat with the likes of a philandering cheater, both domestically, in business and politically?
It appeared as if time caught with and surpassed the man who once was considered the best football player to ever play the game. On Tuesday, during an interview slated to premiere on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, Brown tripled down on his anthem viewpoints.
Jim Brown was at one time the consensus best football player to ever play in the National Football League but he’s no longer that guy. Once upon a time, he was considered by some to be the prototype of black masculinity.
As he had stated in the past, Brown said he supports the players’ right to protest during the national anthem but said he personally “will always respect the flag.”
“I am not going to denigrate my flag and I’m going to stand for the national anthem,” Brown said, according to The Associated Press. “I’m fighting with all of my strength to make it a better country, but I don’t think that’s the issue. Because what is the top side? Are you not going to stand up? This is our country, man.”
This isn’t anything new from an information standpoint. A man like Jim Brown didn’t get where he is by not being stubborn. From rushing for 12,312 yards and 106 rushing touchdowns in only eight years to choosing to retire rather than bow down to team ownership and being instrumental in a respite in gang violence between the Crips and Bloods sets of Los Angeles in the early 2000s.
Historically, elders had been held in very high regard in the Black community. Their points of view were considered the gospel by which black folks operated within the societal zeitgeist. And because the United States of America has been a patriarchal society since its institution, it is only natural that the words of men who we felt defined what it was to be black in America were highlighted.
To put it quite frankly, Jim Brown is a very old man with old man sensibilities. Like most old men, he clings to inconsequential trinkets of patriotism as reflections of American idealism. Meanwhile, the man he supported for president is a festering, oozing pile of fecal matter when it comes to his dealings with so-called racial and ethnic minorities in America and abroad.
His talk of denigrating the flag is rendered moot at the realization that those who hail to the Star Spangled Banner are denigrating its own people as we speak. From deporting the wives of our soldiers who killed and bled in the name of the flag to enabling white nationalists to commit acts of violence against peaceful protesters, the loudest and most fervent supporters of Old Glory are also its most racist, islamophobic and xenophobic.
These facts have been spilling out of every institution that calculates such data, from the Southern Poverty Law Center to NPR and the New York Times. They say with age comes wisdom, but there needs to be another cutesy little phrase that describes how some folks become unrealistically rigid in their worldviews as they age, despite the introduction of new data.
Once the standard bearer for all things Black and masculine, former Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown is now one of President Donald Trump’s most ardent defenders. We need to take that in for a moment.
New data should inform Mr. Brown that kneeling during the anthem is actually showing a great deal of deference to the flag but the story isn’t nor has ever been about the flag, but the issue at hand. That being the institutionalizing of lynching via law enforcement officers or their proxies as a weapon against black and brown people.
The “All Lives Matter” chant was designed specifically as a faux counter to “Black Lives Matter”. Black people shouldn’t have to tell folks to stop killing us and every black person should understand that at some level. However, there is clearly a disconnect with Jim Brown and those who think like him. At the end of the day, the protest is not against the anthem at all. That’s clear as day for anyone who cares to see it.