The Deconstruction of Jim Brown’s Letter


It has been a summer of letters in the city of Cleveland, and they haven’t been real lovey-dovey. No, these letters have been bitter, angry breakup letters. First,  there was Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s scathing post breakup letter with LeBron James, and now Jim Brown’s racially charged letter to Cleveland Browns President, Mike Holmgren.

The first letter I loved – the second not so much.

Below is Brown’s letter to Holmgren, sprinkled in with some commentary.

I would hope that you would take the time to read my agreement with the Clevelend Browns. I had no contract, but I was asked to write a job description so that my duties would be clear.

So let me get this straight. Mike (Holmgren) was supposed to read a contract that didn’t exist? That sounds damn near impossible.

That job description included two things that I think are important. As Executive Advisor to the owner, my job was to use my intelligence, and my logic to advise Mr. Lerner.

Well, that certainly explains some things, doesn’t it?

The second most important thing to me was a clause in that agreement that stated that I answered to noone except Randy Lerner.

Whoa! This handshake agreement between Lerner and Brown was far more complex than one might think –  if there’s clauses and all.

What Brown failed to mention is that these clauses were denoted by air quotes in this contract that did not exist.

These two things were highly important to me because I truly believed, with my educational background, having been a Cleveland Brown for 9 yrs, and having a pretty good knowledge of football, that I could contribute in a valuable way to the organization.

At 74, here’s how Brown could “contribute in a valuable way”:  Smile, maybe shake a few hands, and proudly represent the Browns and the city of Cleveland as one of the game’s all time greats. Not by running your mouth and stirring the pot, or giving advice on football matters.

When you called me for a meeting in your office, there was no conversation about that agreement, no conversation about my duties, no conversation about what I felt, no conversation about my relationship with the players, no conversation about my relationship with the coaches, no conversation about my relationship with the head coach, and no conversation about my community work. Ultimately there was no conversation about anything that I felt was related to my job.

So basically, they sat there staring at each other for two hours, with Brown unwilling to give “the man” the satisfaction of even the slightest blink.

Your ultimatum to me was that you would offer me the opportunity of being that of the greeter, that of a mascot, that of a person that would represent special events by his physical presence, and for those things, I would receive a salary of $100,000. All of those things that you offered me would be controlled by you.

So Brown was offered $100 K  to dress up in a costume, say hello to people and  represent the organization at special events?  – and he turned it down?  Sign me up for that gig.

After that 10 minute meeting, I went to my office with a feeling that I was just fired by the Cleveland Browns, because in my mind, there would be no way on this earth that you would expect me to go against everything that I’ve ever stood for in my whole life.

Like choking a golf partner? Or going all Elin Woods kinds of crazy and smashing in the windows of your spouse’s vehicle?

Not wanting to get into a public debate, I left my office and went home. I never spoke to the media, or any of my friends at the Browns, because I truly didn’t know what to say to them. I thought that was the reponsibility of the Browns. I wrote you and Randy a note, and said I did not accept that proposed position, but if I could do anything meaningful for the organization, I would consider it.

Meaningful contributions to the organization, he says? See above.

 I took that position, because of my respect for the Lerner family, and everyone that I had worked with in the Cleveland Browns organization.

The Lerners giveth, and the Walrus taketh.

I was able to study your press conference and found your statements to be consistent in the way that you value me, and I observed the comments of the key players that sat by your side, and here was the impression I got: Your most powerful statement about me was that, and I must laugh, one monkey don’t stop the show.

I’m disappointed it took Brown this far down in the letter to play the race card. Clearly, age is starting to catch up with the old guy.

 The two players that were with you, one of them made the statement that he was overwhelmed to be honored, and the other started talking about a subject that was highly important, and that was the pension plan, and the improvement that he would hope would happen, but stated that he was there to discuss the Ring of Honor.

I was happy to hear Joe DeLamielleure bring up the pension plan, because right now Mike, I am working with everything I have in my power to be an advocate for a better pension plan and health care services for all the retired players.

Well, at least Brown has more time on his hands now to pursue this very worthy cause.

If you, in your position of tremendous power with the Cleveland Browns, would become an advocate of those two goals, you and I could walk side by side.

Holmgren’s the President of the Cleveland Browns, not God. His focus is the direction of the organization, Jim. Use that intelligence and logic.

But in my conclusion, I’ve never danced in the end zone, I always gave the ball to the referee, so you should know I don’t dance.

Dammit, quit trying to make Jim Brown dance, Mike. He was a terrible actor, not a dancer….Oh, I get it. This is about Brown not bowing down to “the man”.

 Also Mike, I don’t hang out on the Westside of town. I’m an Eastside guy. I play my golf at Highland Golf Course.

I assume the point Brown is trying to make is the idea that he plays his golf on public courses rather than private ones. Why he felt the need to include this in his letter, I have no idea. I imagine it’s somehow connected to racism, but I’m not sure. All I know is if I was pulling in between $250 – $500K a year to give advice to Randy Lerner, I’d be playing  only the finest courses that Ohio had to offer. Social injustices be damned.

I don’t go to the Hall of Fame ceremonies, except on occasions, like when Gene Hickerson was inducted, and I felt very proud to be with Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Kelly in showing our respect for his great contribution, and for helping us become great players.

Jim Brown doesn’t go to the HOF ceremonies. Except sometimes.

 I don’t have any trophies in my home on display.

Probably a lie.

I don’t claim to be the best at anything, and I emphatically do not need validation from any man, so I will not participate in your Ring of Honor.

How dare Mike Holmgren think that Jim Brown would participate in a ceremony honoring him as one of the organization’s greatest players ever? The nerve of the Walrus! Only Jim Brown can validate the greatness of Jim Brown.

Mike, there’s only one thing that I control in life, and that’s being a man.

Well, it’s certainly not his mouth.

So let me end with a little humor, because as you say, one monkey don’t stop the show, and as I say “Willie Lynch missed a few of us”, and there will be no Buck Dancing.

And with this racially charged conclusion, Brown comes full circle and loses any shreds of credibilty that he had left in Cleveland.

From #32
Monique Brown

It’s a shame Brown is choosing to go out this way in Cleveland like that other guy. Hopefully, he comes to his senses and decides to attend the Ring of Honor ceremony in the home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 19th.

Don’t hold your breath, though, because Brown still sees the world in black and white.