NFL legend Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns has died at the age of 87.
The civil rights activist’s wife, Monique, shared the sad news via Instagram on Friday, saying he died peacefully at their Los Angeles home. “To the world he was an activist, actor and football star,” Monique wrote in the caption. “To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Or hearts are broken.”
Not only did the Hall of Famer play nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns and break several records, but he also focused much of his life on fighting for social justice. Brown expressed his views in his 1964 autobiography, Off My Chest, Variety reported. “The first thing the white man must understand, the depth of our protest. Does he realize that the Black Muslim’s basic attitude toward whites is shared by almost 99 percent of the Negro population?” he wrote in his book. “I protest prejudice, but I am a prejudiced man. The white man has forced me to be prejudiced against him.”
Two years before announcing his retirement, which stunned the sports world, Brown began his acting career in 1964 when he starred in the Western film Rio Conchos, playing a U.S. military sergeant. The actor added to his résumé in 1967 when he appeared in The Dirty Dozen.
He also continued to focus on his social justice efforts when he built the Negro Industrial and Economic Union, aiming to strengthen Black entrepreneurship. In 1988, Brown established the Amer-I-Can Program, which focused on teaching life management skills to people in inner cities and those in prison.
Brown stayed involved in the NFL after his playing days. Working as an executive adviser to the Cleveland Browns, he helped the team strengthen its relationships with its players. Many fans across the country, as well as those who were close to Brown, are now expressing their condolences following his death. The Cleveland Browns tweeted, “Rest in Power to The Ultimate Brown,” and they shared a story celebrating his unmatched legacy. “Brown was considered the greatest running back in the history of the sport at the time of his retirement and remains one of the greatest rushers to ever play in the NFL,” it read in part. “He sits 11th all time in rushing yards and sixth all-time in rushing touchdowns.”