Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who has often been described as the greatest pro football player ever, ripped NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his protests during the playing of the national anthem, stating bluntly, “I don’t desecrate my flag and my national anthem.”
Speaking to The Post Game, Brown said:
Colin has to make up his mind whether he’s truly an activist or whether he’s a football player. Football is commercial. You have owners. You have fans. And you want to honor that if you’re making that kind of money. … I’m going to give you the real deal: I’m an American. I don’t desecrate my flag and my national anthem. I’m not gonna do anything against the flag and the national anthem. I’m going to work within those situations. But this is my country, and I’ll work out the problems, but I’ll do it in an intelligent manner.
Brown, who has been politically active regarding race relations for 50 years, added, “If you have a cause, I think you should organize it, present it in a manner where it’s not only you standing or sitting on one knee, but a lot of people that is gonna get behind each other and do something about it. If I ask you one question: Who is Colin calling on to follow what he’s talking about?”
Brown also offered a realistic assessment of the relationship between owners and players, stating, “You have to understand there’s intelligence that’s involved, OK? I can’t be two things at once that contradict each other. If I sign for money, then the people I sign with, they have rules and regulations.”
In an era that featured legendary players of the caliber of Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, arguably the greatest quarterback who ever lived and the only player iconic Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi ever said he feared, the nimble and fleet-footed Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers, tough-man supreme Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, Packers running backs Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor, Los Angeles Rams Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen, and Detroit Lions fearsome pass-rusher Alex Karras, TIME wrote, “There is only one player in the game today whose ability on field commands almost universal admiration, and that is Jimmy Brown.”
Brown’s off-the-field political activism, after he retired at the peak of his career, at age 29, also became renowned, as he moved to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. He helped found the Negro Industrial Economic Union, later renamed the Black Economic Union, to help blacks become competitive in the business world; he developed the Amer-I-Can program in 1988 to help former gang members and ex-convicts clean up their lives and become productive citizens.