Author Dave Zirin Looks at Life of NFL Legend in 'Jim Brown: Last Man Standing'

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From his Hall of Fame football career, to his social activism, to his relationships with women, Jim Brown is a complicated figure in American and Cleveland history.  

Author Dave Zirin has written a new biography charting his life and career - 'Jim Brown: Last Man Standing.' 

As a member of the Cleveland Browns, Brown remains the team's all-time leading rusher after playing nine seasons between 1957 and 1966 winning one NFL Championship in 1964.

More than 50 years since his retirement, people are not as familiar with his highlight reel.

"So there's almost a Paul Bunyan-esque quality in terms of how people speak about Jim Brown," Zirin said.  "It's like they're telling tall tales and legends."

Brown retired abruptly in 1966 when team owner Art Modell insisted he appear at training camp rather than finish filming 'The Dirty Dozen.'

"When Jim Brown [retired] it was absolutely unheard of, especially him doing it right after [winning] an NFL Most Valuable Player Award," he said.

While Brown's film career didn't measure up to his football career, he made an impact as a social activist.  However he did it on his own terms.

In 1967, Brown helped organize a summit of black athletes to discuss and later support Muhammad Ali's decision to become a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.

"That's an important moment not just for its historical importance, but [because] Jim Brown was somebody who did not necessarily believe in protest when it came to the black freedom struggle,"

That belief surfaced decades later when NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in protest during the national anthem before games.

"[Brown] went into the Cleveland Browns locker room after a large group of players kneeled before a game and told them they needed to cut that out," he said.

Today Jim Brown is a revered figure in the NFL and the city of Cleveland despite a controversial past which includes accusations of abuse against women.

"The accusations, the 911 calls, they all add up to a relationship that he had with women that was frankly winked at by many powerful people throughout his younger years that we look at in a very, very different way in 2018," he said.

While Zirin believes Brown has done heroic things during his life, he doesn't view him as a hero.

"Heroes are never so simple.  I think that's the message I want people to take away from the book, that we all have the capacity for heroism," he said.  "But if we're looking for heroes like the old expression goes, 'a hero ain't nothing but a sandwich.'"

Listen to the entire conversation:

 

 

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