By Max Harper
Jim Brown, one of the greatest professional and college football players of all-time, has died at the age of 87.
His wife, Monique, announced Brown’s death in an Instagram post on Friday afternoon. She said Brown “passed peacefully” on Thursday night in their home in Los Angeles.
“To the world he was an activist, actor, and football star,” the post read. “To our gamily 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 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.
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.”
Brown worked to empower the African-American community during the civil rights movement. In 1988, he created the Amer-I-Can program, an effort to turn gang members from destructive to productive members of society. He also advocated for modern athletes to be more involved in the African-American community.
Despite his involvement in the community, Brown had several run-ins with the law after his NFL career. He went on trial for assault and battery in 1965 after an 18-year-old accused him of giving her whiskey and forcing her to have sex. He was accused of throwing a model from a balcony in 1968, and acquitted of assaulting a man after a traffic accident in 1969. He was 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 convicted of smashing the window of his wife’s car.