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 on Friday afternoon. She said Brown “died peacefully” at her home in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
“To the world he was an activist, actor and football star,” he said contribution indicated. “To our family he was a loving and wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Our hearts are broken…”
In 2020, Brown was named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team and was also ranked the No. 1 player of all time on the College Football 150 list, in celebration of those sports’ anniversaries. In 2002, Sporting News named him the greatest football player of all time.
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 for eight of those years. He sprinted 12,312 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per stride throughout his career. He was also named a Pro Bowler every year he played. He led the Browns to the league championship game three times, winning the 1964 title and being named MVP three times.
He rushed for at least 100 yards in 58 of his 118 regular season games and never missed a game. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in seven seasons, including 1,527 yards in a 12-game season and 1,863 yards in a 14-game season.
During the civil rights movement, Brown also worked to strengthen the black community. In June 1967, Brown organized the “Cleveland Summit,” a gathering of the country’s top black athletes, including Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to support boxer Muhammad Ali’s fight against his service in Vietnam. In later years, Brown campaigned to curb gang violence in LA, and in 1988 founded Amer-I-Can, a program to help underprivileged inner-city youth and ex-convicts.
Brown also advocated for modern athletes to be more involved in the black community.
In a statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Brown named a “talented athlete” who “became a pioneer and role model for athletes involved in community initiatives outside of their sport.”
“It’s impossible to describe the deep love and gratitude we feel for having the opportunity to be a small part of Jim’s incredible life and legacy,” the Browns said said in a statement. “We mourn his death but celebrate the unquenchable light he brought to the world.
“Our hearts go out to Jim’s family, loved ones and everyone he has impacted along the way.”
Jim Brown Forever 🧡🤎♾️
Legend. Leader. Activist. Visionary.
It is impossible to describe the deep love and gratitude we feel for having the opportunity to be a small part of Jim’s incredible life and legacy. We mourn his loss but celebrate the unquenchable light he… pic.twitter.com/F2rrTUnsc1
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 19, 2023
Brown retired at 30, at the height of his career. He shot the film The Dirty Dozen in the 1966 off-season, but the production took a long time because of the bad weather. Browns owner Art Modell threatened to suspend Brown’s pay if he didn’t report to training camp on time. Brown decided to retire, saying he wanted to focus on his film career and social issues.
No Browns player has worn his number 32 since his retirement, and a statue of him was erected outside FirstEnergy Stadium in 2016.
“It’s a great moment,” Brown said at the statue’s unveiling, “because I feel it all over my body, especially in my heart and in my mind.”
Current Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam called Brown “a true icon” of the NFL.
“He was certainly the greatest person to ever wear a Browns jersey and arguably one of the greatest players in NFL history,” a statement released Friday said. “Jim was one of the reasons the Browns have such a huge following today. So many people grew up watching him dominate every time he stepped onto the field, but his myriad on-field accolades only tell a small part of his story.”
During his college career at Syracuse, Brown played in four sports (soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and track) and is also considered one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time, having once scored five goals in half of a college All-Star game scored .
At Syracuse in 1956, Brown also served as a place kicker during a game against Colgate and had an NCAA single-game record with 43 points from 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 touchdowns for the orange.
“When Jim Brown’s name was announced in a room, other members of the Hall of Fame stood and applauded him,” Jim Porter, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “His personality has stood the test of time – a fearless and dominant footballer. Jim will always be remembered as one of the greatest professional footballers.”
Brown had several off-field incidents, particularly shortly after his retirement. He was arrested half a dozen times, mostly on charges of hitting women. He was once fined and spent a day in jail after beating up a golf partner. He was charged with rape, sexual assault and assault in 1985 (the charges were later dropped). The next year he was arrested for allegedly hitting his fiancee. In 1999, Brown was acquitted of domestic threats against his wife, but was convicted of breaking her car’s window and spent time in prison for refusing to attend a domestic violence counseling session.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.