Paul Brown was known as a tough person to work with, but one thing he cared about was winning football games. That meant getting the best players, no matter the color of their skin.
Brown signed Marion Motley and Bill Willis, both African-American, to the team in 1946 upon its inception. The Browns were a part of the All-America Football Conference, at at time when the NFL had an unofficial “all-whites” policy since 1933.
But Brown did not tolerate racism, as explained by Marion Motley in the book “The Best Show in Football – The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns,” by Andy Piascik.
"“There were a few who were not happy,” Motley said of his white teammates at that first training camp. “Paul addressed that at the first meeting. He said, ‘If you can’t get along with your teammates, you won’t be here.’ He didn’t have to spell it out, everyone knew what he meant.”"
This type of attitude helped changed the face of professional sports. Professional baseball, football, and basketball were all integrated by 1950, but Brown paved the way for rosters to be inclusive of all people, with racism not being tolerated.
In Piascik’s book, there is a quote from Jim Brown that illustrates Brown’s way of doing things.
"“Paul Brown integrated pro football without uttering a single word about integration,” Jim Brown said. “He just went out, signed a bunch of great black athletes, and started kicking butt. That’s how you do it. You don’t talk about it. Paul never said one word about race.”"
Even though Brown was fired for personal differences between himself and Art Modell, he will always be respected for the way he changed the game of football. – SK
Next: No. 21: Jim Brown retires