Jim Brown, one of the greatest professional and college football players of all time, has died. He was 87.
His wife, Monique, announced Brown’s death in an Instagram post Friday afternoon. She said Brown “passed peacefully” Thursday night in their home in Los Angeles.
“To the world he was an activist, actor, and football star,” the post read. “To our family he was a loving and wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken…”
In 2020, Brown was selected to the NFL 100 all-time team and also was ranked as the No. 1 all-time player on the College Football 150 list to celebrate those sports’ anniversaries. He was named the greatest football player ever by the Sporting News in 2002.
Brown, who was selected in the first round of the 1957 draft, played nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns (1957-65) and led the league in rushing eight of those years. He rushed for 12,312 yards and held a 5.2 yards per carry average over his career. He also was named a Pro Bowler every year he played. He led the Browns to the league championship game three times, winning the title in 1964, and was named MVP three times.
He ran for at least 100 yards in 58 of his 118 regular-season games, never missing a game. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in seven seasons, including 1,527 yards in one 12-game season and 1,863 in a 14-game season.
“It’s impossible to describe the profound love and and gratitude we feel for having the opportunity to be a small piece of Jim’s incredible life and legacy,” the Browns said in a statement. “We mourn his passing, but celebrate the indelible light he brought to the world.
“Our hearts are with Jim’s family, loved ones, and all those he impacted along the way.”
Jim Brown Forever 🧡🤎♾️
Legend. Leader. Activist. Visionary.
It’s impossible to describe the profound love and gratitude we feel for having the opportunity to be a small piece of Jim’s incredible life and legacy. We mourn his passing, but celebrate the indelible light he… pic.twitter.com/F2rrTUnsc1
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 19, 2023
Brown retired at 30, at the top of his career. He was filming the movie “The Dirty Dozen” during the offseason in 1966, and production went long because of bad weather. Browns owner Art Modell threatened to suspend Brown’s pay if he didn’t report to training camp on time. Brown opted to retire, saying he wanted to focus on his movie career and social issues.
Since his retirement, no Browns player has worn his No. 32, and a statue of him went up outside of FirstEnergy Stadium in 2016.
“It’s a great moment,” Brown said when the statue was unveiled, “because I feel it throughout my body, particularly in my heart and mind.”
Current Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam called Brown “a true icon” for the NFL.
“He was certainly the greatest to ever put on a Browns uniform and arguably one of the greatest players in NFL history,” a statement released Friday read. “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.”
Brown lettered in four sports (football, lacrosse, basketball and track) during his college career at Syracuse, and he is also considered one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time, once scoring five goals in one half of a collegiate all-star game.
At Syracuse, Brown also served as the place-kicker during one game against Colgate in 1956, scoring an NCAA single-game record with 43 points on six touchdowns and seven extra points. That same season, he led the nation in rushing touchdowns. In 1955, he led the nation in kickoff return average. Overall, he rushed for 2,091 yards and scored 26 TDs for the Orange.
“When Jim Brown’s name was announced in a room, other Hall of Famers stood and applauded him,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “His persona has stood the test of time — a fearless and dominant football player. Jim will always be remembered as one of pro football’s greatest individuals.”
Brown worked to empower the Black community during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1988, he created the Amer-I-Can program, a program with goals that include turning gang members from destructive to productive members of society. He also advocated for modern athletes to be more involved in the Black community. In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called Brown a “gifted athlete” who “became a forerunner and role model for athletes being involved in social initiatives outside their sports.”
Brown had several off-the-field incidents, especially shortly after he retired. He was arrested a half-dozen times, mostly on charge of hitting women. He was once fined and spent a day in jail after beating up a golfing partner. He was charged with rape, sexual battery and assault in 1985 (the charges were later dropped). The next year he was arrested for allegedly beating his fiancée. In 1999, Brown was acquitted of domestic threats against his wife, but convicted of smashing the window of her car and spent time in jail when he refused to attend domestic violence counseling.