San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has opened up the doors for opinions of all corners while he will sit during the national anthem as a civil rights protest.
Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown is best known for his play on the field as one of the NFL's greatest to ever put on pads. His social activism while dominating on the gridiron in the 1960's also made him one of the most prominent athletes ever to speak on social injustices in America.
Brown appeared on the NFL Network's NFL Total Access Monday to speak on Kaepernick and the aftermath of his protest. Below is Brown's answers to several questions on the show:
On 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick:
Jim Brown: “I listened to him and he makes all of the sense in the world. He’s within his rights and he’s telling the truth as he sees it. I am with him 100 percent. People are talking about the methodology but every young man is not a professor like some of my friends. John Wooten is the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance and a great fighter for freedom of equality and injustice, not only for African-Americans but for all people. I don’t know what the big issue is because this young man in backing up his statement becomes stronger in my mind. Now, if you ask me would I do that? No I won’t because I see it a little differently. I’m an American citizen. I pay my taxes. I want my equal rights. But this is my country and consequently I don’t want to open up for ISIS or for anybody that will take away what we’ve already gained. And just finally, as a football player, six and eight African Americans were the number in my day. Six even, eight even, you could room together, etc. I fought that to say that don’t tell us that we’re not good enough to room with a Caucasian player. We had to fight in a certain kind of way to make it better so that these young people can make the kind of money they’re making and the league can be about 80 percent African-American.”
On what he would say to Colin Kaepernick:
Brown: “Well actually he’s not my issue. I came on the program [NFL Total Access] not really because of what he did, but the things that it opens up to. And so the young men of today are stepping up. For so many years they did not step up. They’re behind the movement. The young men in my day really stepped up when you talk about John Wooten and Muhammad Ali and all of these individuals, Bill Russell. These were champions for freedom of equality and justice for all human beings and they were educated individuals that used their education, their knowledge, to represent their case. So now, 50 years later we have a young man saying something that was kind of taken for granted in our day – we were way past that – and so for me it’s like going back in time. It’s not as important to talk about him as it is to talk about the issues of the country. The number one issue in this country for me is black homicide, young black men killing young black men. I don’t care what anybody says, I don’t care how controversial it is, that is what I try to work on first and then I deal with the education. But this situation of homicide in our neighborhoods, our culture. You look at the Jewish culture, you look at the other cultures, the Spanish culture in these cities across the country. You look at other groups that have come here and the way that they work together, if we came together with our great athletes and our great scholars and said as African Americans, when we have a community that’s defined, we’re going to make it the cleanest, nicest, most well-educated, hardworking community in this country, and I think that’ll knock down a lot of walls.”
On if he believes that athletes will continue to speak out on social issues and handle the backlash that comes with it:
Brown: “Absolutely. I think Pandora’s Box is open and I’m very happy that it is. For so many years, we had the great Michael Jordan that stated that Republicans buy sneakers too so I’m not going to rock the boat, I’m going to make this money. For a couple of generations, it was about making money, not messing with your image and the agents became the pivotal figure for a lot of these guys and the agents kept reminding them that you have to be this All-American boy to make these kinds of dollars, and these dollars are astronomical dollars. So the money came into the culture and created a couple of generations of individuals who did not want to speak up. These guys have broken through; LeBron James and his group at the ESPYs made the great, great comments. And so now once they do the homework and really search it out, they’ll learn how to take action. It’s not the words that count – I guess the words lead to the action – but once they take action they will reach out into the community, deal with the gangbangers there, make these communities the way they should be and use their money in a proper manner.”
Transcript provided by the NFL