Jim Brown: Legendary NFL running back dead at 87

·3 min read
Jim Brown dies at 87
Jim Brown dies at 87

Jim Brown, the legendary American footballer who became a Hollywood action hero and civil rights activist, has died at the age of 87.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer passed away peacefully at his Los Angeles home on Thursday night, his wife said.

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Georgia-born Brown led the Cleveland Browns to the National Football League title in 1964 and was chosen as the NFL's Most Valuable Player three times.

He was one of the first superstars in the game as it gained in TV popularity.

"To the world he was an activist, actor, and football star," his wife, Monique, wrote in an Instagram post.

"To our family he was a loving and wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken."

The Cleveland Browns tweeted that he was a "legend, leader, activist, visionary".

He played for the team between 1957-65, and a statue of him was erected outside their stadium in 2016.

Jim Brown with the Cleveland Browns
The running back played with the Cleveland Browns for nine seasons

He was twice named American football's greatest player of the 20th Century, by the Associated Press news agency and Sporting News.

In 1971 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No Browns player has worn the number 32 since his retirement.

Brown was the sixth pick in the 1957 draft and won Offensive Rookie of the Year that season.

While at Syracuse University, Brown participated in football, lacrosse, basketball and track.

He is also considered one of the greatest lacrosse players and was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1984.

In 1966, he stunned the sporting world by retiring at the peak of his footballing career, aged just 30.

Jim Brown and Raquel Welch
Jim and Raquel Welch made history for an interracial love scene

He devoted himself to acting and appeared in over 30 films, including Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday (1999) and The Dirty Dozen (1967), a World War Two classic that was filmed in England.

In the 1969 Western 100 Rifles, he starred opposite Raquel Welch, and the pair made history for the first interracial love scene in a major Hollywood film.

Brown was variously described as a black Superman or black John Wayne.

He was one of the most vocal elite black athletes on racial issues as the US civil rights movement took off in the 1950s.

He called a meeting in 1967 of African-American sports stars to champion Muhammad Ali's opposition to the Vietnam War. Among those who attended was the NBA centre who would become known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Brown also dedicated himself to social activism, founding the Negro Industrial and Economic Union to give loans to black entrepreneurs.

In 1988, he started the Amer-I-Can programme, which aimed to help disadvantaged children and reform gang members.

Brown had several scrapes with the law involving violence against women, during an era when there was little accountability for celebrities embroiled in domestic abuse allegations.

He was arrested half a dozen times - including once when he was suspected of throwing a model off a second-floor balcony. She said she slipped.

In 1999, he was convicted of misdemeanour vandalism for smashing his wife's car windshield with a shovel and threatening to kill her. The judge sentenced him to six months in jail after he refused to attend domestic violence counselling.