Jim Brown Remembered as ‘Legend, Leader, Activist’ After His Death at 87

Jim Brown (Credit: Twitter/NFL)

Jim Brown, the NFL Hall of Famer and Civil Rights activist who became a successful actor, died Thursday (May 18) at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87.

In a statement on Instagram, his wife Monique said Brown died peacefully.

She did not disclose his cause of death.

“It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my husband,” Monique Brown wrote on Instagram. “To the world he was an activist, actor, and football star. To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken…”

Brown was widely considered the greatest running back in pro football history.

After retiring from the NFL, he turned to acting and landed roles on TV shows including I Spy, CHiPs, The A-Team, and T.J. Hooker.

He also had parts in films such as The Dirty Dozen (1967), Slaughter (1972), and Mars Attacks! (1996). He was the first Black actor featured in an interracial love scene in a major Hollywood film. The scene with Raquel Welch was shown in the 1969 western 100 Rifles. More recently, Brown had a part in the 2014 film Draft Day.

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During his NFL career, he played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965.

On Friday, the team posted a tribute to Brown on Twitter.

“Jim Brown Forever. Legend. Leader. Activist. Visionary,” the team tweeted. “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 brought to the world. Our hearts are with Jim’s family, loved ones, and all those he impacted along the way.”

NFL legend Emmitt Smith tweeted, “My heart aches at this very moment after hearing of the passing of Jim Brown. He is and was a true legend in sports and in the community using his platform to help others. Thanks King.”

Former President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter, “I was too young to remember Jim Brown’s playing days, but I knew his legacy. One of the greatest football players ever, he was also an actor and activist – speaking out on civil rights, and pushing other Black athletes to do the same. Our thoughts are with Jim’s wife Monique, his children, and everyone who knew and admired him.”

While Brown had a storied sports career, his achievements were overshadowed by domestic violence.

In 1999, he was arrested and charged with making terrorist threats against his wife Monique. Later that year, he was found guilty of vandalism for smashing his wife’s car with a shovel. He was sentenced to three years of probation, one year of domestic violence counseling, 400 hours of community service, and an $1,800 fine. Brown ignored the sentence and in 2000 was sentenced to six months in jail, which he began serving in 2002.

The 2022 A&E documentary series Secrets of Playboy alleged Brown had a “history” of abusing women at the Playboy mansion.

Hugh Hefner’s former valet, Stefan Tetenbaum, was interviewed for the series and said the NFL star was notorious at the mansion.

“[Brown] always abused different Playmates. I observed it. Many people witnessed it,” said Tetenbaum.

“He would brutalize these girls,” Tetenbaum added. “He cracked ribs, he dislocated jaws, but nobody was gonna come forward because nobody wanted Hefner to come after you — or Jim Brown [to come afer you].”