Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, a player widely regarded as the greatest running back in the history of the NFL, has died aged 87.
Brown’s wife Monique released a statement on Friday saying: “It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my husband, Jim Brown.
“To the world, he was an activist, actor, and football star. To our family, he was a loving husband, father, and grandfather.”
After an impressive college football career with Syracuse University – so impressive in fact, in 2020 he was named the greatest player in college football history – Brown was drafted sixth overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1957 NFL Draft.
Named NFL Rookie of the Year in 1957, Brown also won the first of his three NFL MVP awards that season, with the other two coming in 1958 and 1965. Playing for Cleveland for his entire professional career, Brown won his first and only NFL Championship in the 1964 season, when the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game – a contest in which Brown rushed for 114 yards. He led the NFL in rushing yards eight times, led the league in rushing touchdowns five times, and was selected to nine Pro Bowls during his nine-year career.
Known for his physical and powerful style of play, Brown was the holder of numerous major NFL rushing records at the time of his retirement. With 12,312 yards, he was the league’s all-time leading rusher, a record he held for nearly 20 years. He also retired having scored 126 total touchdowns, which was, at the time, the most in NFL history. Brown was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and was selected to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.
“Jim Brown is a true icon of not just the Cleveland Browns but the entire NFL,” said Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.
“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.”
In a statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said: “Jim Brown was a gifted athlete – one of the most dominant players to ever step on any athletic field – but also a cultural figure that helped promote change.
“During his nine-year NFL career, which coincided with the civil rights movement here at home, he became a forerunner and role model for athletes being involved in social initiatives outside their sport.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell on the passing of Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown. pic.twitter.com/jgVjPbH0Rv
— NFL (@NFL) May 19, 2023
Brown was one of America’s most prominent athletes to speak out on racial issues during the 1950s and 60s, and dedicated much of his life to activism. In 1967, he organised the Cleveland Summit, where he and other prominent African-American athletes – including NBA legends Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) – showed support for boxer Muhammad Ali and his refusal to enter the draft for the Vietnam War.
However, Brown also had several legal issues in his lifetime, including accusations of domestic violence and arrests for assault.
In 1966, Brown shocked the NFL world when, in his athletic prime aged 30, he announced his retirement to focus on his acting career, and went on to appear in over 30 films, including 1967’s The Dirty Dozen.
Brown’s number 32 jersey has been retired by Cleveland and he is still the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
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