Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, the unstoppable running back who retired at the height of his illustrious career to become an actor and a prominent civil rights advocate in the 1960s, has passed away. He is 87 years old.

A spokeswoman for Brown’s family said he died peacefully Thursday night at his home in Los Angeles, with his wife, Monique, by his side.

“To the world, he was an activist, actor and football star,” Monique Brown wrote in an essay. instagram post“He was a loving husband, father and grandfather to our family. Our hearts are broken.”

One of football’s first superstars, Brown graduated from Manhasset High School, was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1965, and broke the league record during his short career from 1957-65.

In 1964, Brown led the Cleveland Browns to their final NFL championship, then retired at the peak of his career after the ’65 season to become an actor. He appeared in more than 30 films, including “Any Given Sunday” and “The Dirty Dozen.”

Brown, a powerful runner with both speed and stamina, sparked the sport’s meteoric popularity on television.

As Black Americans fight for equality, Brown uses his platform and voice to advance their cause.

“I hope every black athlete takes the time to learn about this incredible man and what he did to change all of our lives,” NBA star LeBron James said. “We all stand on your shoulders, Jim Brown. If you grow up in Northeast Ohio and you’re black, Jim Brown is God.”

In June 1967, Brown organized the “Cleveland Summit,” a meeting of the nation’s top black athletes that included Bill Russell and Lou Alcindor (later to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ), in support of boxer Muhammad Ali’s opposition to serving in Vietnam.

In later years, he worked to curb gang violence in Los Angeles, and in 1988 he founded Amer-I-Can, a program to help disadvantaged urban youth and ex-convicts.

“Jim Brown is a true icon not only for the Cleveland Browns, but for the entire NFL,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. “He is undoubtedly the greatest player to ever wear a Browns uniform and arguably one of the greatest players in NFL history. Jim is one of the reasons the Browns have such a huge fan base today.

“A lot of people watch him dominate every time he steps on the football field, but the numerous honors he has won on the pitch are only a small part of his story. His dedication to making a positive impact for all human beings off the pitch is a testament to that.” And that’s where he should be known.”

On the field, there’s nobody quite like Brown, who’ll dash past would-be tacklers, refuse to let one put him down, and sprint away from linebackers and defensive backs. He’s also known for using his stiff arms to shake defenders off or push them away like ragdolls in the open field.

“My arms are like my protector and my weapon,” Brown said in an interview with NFL Films.

In fact, Brown was unlike any guard before him, with some arguing none better than Cleveland’s unrivaled No. 32. He’s 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and is relentless, fighting for every yard, hauling down multiple defenders or finding holes in places that don’t seem to exist.

After Brown gets tackled, he’ll get up slowly and walk back into the crowd even more slowly — then take control of the defense when he gets the ball again.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offered condolences on behalf of the league.

“Jim Brown was a gifted athlete — one of the most dominant athletes on any sporting field — but also a cultural figure who helped drive change,” Goodell said. “During his nine-year NFL career, which coincided with the civil rights movement in the country, he became a pioneer and role model for athletes to engage in social activism beyond sport.”

Off the court, Brown is a controversial figure.

While he had a soft spot for those in need and his generosity changed lives, he was also arrested six times, mostly for beating women.

In June 1999, Brown’s wife called 911 and said Brown had smashed her car with a shovel and threatened to kill her. During the trial, Monique Brown dropped the charges. Jim Brown was acquitted of domestic threat charges but found guilty of misdemeanor vandalism. A Los Angeles judge sentenced Brown to six months in prison for refusing to attend domestic violence counseling.

Although he spent his entire career in Cleveland, he also feuded with Browns head coach Paul Brown and later with the team’s front office.

When his playing career ended, Brown left for Hollywood, where he eventually settled. Brown suggested that Cleveland coach Brandon Collier retire when the team was in training camp and he was playing “The Dirty Dozen” in England.

His films include 100 Rifles, Assault on Mars! Spike Lee’s “He Won,” Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday,” and his parody of the black exploitation genre, “I’m Going to Punch You.” In 2002, Brown was the subject of Lee’s HBO documentary, “Jim Brown: All-American.”

Brown has not been consistent with the Browns in recent years. He served as an advisor to owner Randy Lerner and was hired to advise the team’s young players. In 2010, however, Brown parted ways with the team after incoming team president Mike Holmgren reduced his role. Brown was slighted by the relegation – when the club unveiled the “ring of honour” in its city center stadium, Brown did not attend the ceremony in protest.

In 2016, the Browns erected a statue of Brown outside their stadium.

When the Cavaliers won the NBA Championship that year, ending Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought, Brown symbolically passed the torch and the Larry O’Brien Trophy to James at the end of the city’s downtown parade .

Brown was an All-NBA selection eight times and has reached the Pro Bowl in each of his nine league careers. When Brown left the game at age 30, he held the league records for yards (12,312) and touchdowns (126).

Despite his bruising style, the Browns never missed a game and played 118 straight games.

“He told me, ‘Make sure when anybody tackles you, he remembers how much it hurts,'” Hall of Fame tight end John McGee said. “He lived by that philosophy, and I’ve always followed that advice.”

A two-sport star at Syracuse University — some say the best lacrosse player in NCAA history — Brown endured numerous racist taunts while playing at what was then an almost entirely white school. Still, he’s an All-American in both sports and basketball.

Brown, the sixth overall pick in the 1957 draft, joined a team that was often in contention for a championship. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year that season.

Running behind an offensive line of Hall of Fame tackles Lou Groza and Mike McCormack, Brown set a league record with 1,527 yards and scored 17 touchdowns en route to winning the league’s Most Outstanding Player award (predecessor to MVP) in 1958. He never ran for fewer than 1,257 yards over the next three seasons before rushing for just 996 in 1962.

He led the NFL in rushing eight times and had a career-best 1,863 yards in 1963. He averaged 104 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns per game, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. A dangerous receiver, Brown had 262 receptions for 2,499 yards and 20 additional touchdowns.

“I’ve said it many times, and I’ll always say it, Jim Brown is the best,” Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers once said, “even if all his records are broken. , he will still be the best.”

Brown’s No. 32 jersey was retired by the Browns in 1971, the same year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he rarely visited Cleveland in the 1970s and 1980s. He and Cleveland owner Art Modell disagreed over his sudden retirement. The two later resolved their differences and remain good friends.

In 1995, Brown supported Model’s decision to move the Cleveland franchise to Baltimore. This reflected both his loyalty to Model and his strong independence. Brown, one of the few former Browns players, wasn’t mad that Model moved the team.

Many modern players fail to appreciate Brown or his impact on American sports.

“They grew up in different eras,” former Browns coach Romeo Krinel said. “He’s one of the greatest players in NFL history and what he accomplished in that era was huge. I don’t know anyone who can do what he did with the environment he had to operate in and the things he had to endure. , the way he does things.

“And for him, that’s something that a lot of people don’t appreciate.”

Born February 17, 1936, on St. Simons Island, Georgia, Brown was a multi-sport star at Manhasset High School. He averaged 14.9 yards per carry in football and once scored 55 points in a game.

Brown later took up golf, shooting a 79 with Jack Nicklaus at the 1963 Cleveland Pro-Am.

Brown is survived by Monique and their children. He and Sue Brown divorced after 13 years of marriage and have three children.

Above: Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown walks and waves with his wife Monique during the NFL football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns on October 3, 2013 in Cleveland regards. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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