Who are the most formidable and iconic male African-Americans of the 1960s? Martin Luther King and Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali are surely the top two.
Who is third? For me, it’s Jim Brown (and not John Lewis).
Brown is as great an athlete as I’ve ever seen. He was also a civil rights crusader during his playing days, when almost all black athletes in team sports shied away. As Kevin Blackistone writes, “Brown, maybe more so than any other black athlete [of] the past 50 years, came to be seen as sort of an emperor of black masculinity and of black power.”
Brown continued his civil rights advocacy after he quit playing football (he quit while still a superstar). He founded multiple organizations to help poor blacks and could be counted on to speak up, for better or for worse, on civil rights issues especially, but not exclusively, as they related to sports.
King and Ali are no longer with us, but Brown and Lewis are.
Lewis insists that Donald Trump is illegitimate. He thought the same of George W. Bush.
What does Jim Brown think?
Brown didn’t vote for Trump. He supported Hillary Clinton. But now that Trump is to be president, Brown is eschewing Lewis’ infantile stance.
Brown said this on CNN:
John Lewis has great history as a civil rights fighter. As a young man, he was one of the guys out there who was leading the parades during the King era. So, we all respect his history.
But then I hear him crying the blues about Mr. Trump and saying he’s an illegitimate president, I take offense to that.
If you’re going to impeach him, impeach him. If he did something wrong, arrest him. But don’t cry the blues because you didn’t get the vote out and this man had a genius way of winning the election.
Here is what Brown told Fox News:
When you win against all odds, and you defeat those who were against you — and I was for Hillary, so I’m one of those that Mr. Trump defeated — but he is the president-elect of the United States. I’m a citizen. I’m not asking him to do everything. I’m gonna pitch in and do some of the things that I can do with the like-minded people I represent.
Toward this end, Brown met with Trump. What was his impression?
He’s his own person. He is a flamboyant, controversial individual. He’s a little thin-skinned and a little reactionary. He won, in my opinion, fair and square, and I’m going to support him as President of the United States.
Clearly, Brown is no dupe or sycophant. His eyes are wide open. He is being pragmatic.
Brown thus displays the maturity, sense of purpose, and independence of thought and spirit that helped him succeed as an athlete, on his terms, in a time of terrible racism; succeed as an actor portraying mostly strident black characters when this role was new; succeed as an activist wearing his trademark African skullcap with the red, black, and green colors of the black liberation flag; and remain relevant in his old age, and not as a politician from a safe district.
Donald Trump has pledged to help rebuild America’s decaying inner-cities and lift up poor African-Americans. Maybe he’s serious about this, maybe not.
If Trump is serious, Brown is willing to “pitch and do some things” to assist. If Trump turns out not to be serious, Brown will probably call him out. The great running back has never been bashful about doing this.
But what’s the point of calling Trump illegitimate at this juncture? There is none, unless you’re trying to score political points.
That’s what the petulant John Lewis is reduced to. Jim Brown, still thinking for himself at age 80, takes a more sensible and potentially productive approach.