Jim Brown Announces Retirement, Not on Good Terms July 14, 1966
Jim Brown announced his retirement from football at a news conference in London, where he was was acting in the hit movie The Dirty Dozen. Brown had been the NFL’s MVP the prior season and led the league in rushing, as he did in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, and 1964. (Jim Taylor edged him out in 1962.) At the time of his retirement, Brown said “I am leaving the Browns with an attitude of friendliness and co-operation”.
We now know that Brown’s statement might have been stretching the truth a little. In June of 1966, Browns owner Art Modell released this press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CLEVELAND, OHIO – The following statement is issued by Arthur B. Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns, regarding the status of fullback Jim Brown:
“No veteran Browns” player has been granted or will be given permission to report late to our training camp at Hiram College- and this includes Jim Brown. Should Jim fail to report to Hiram at check-in time deadline, which is Sunday, July 17, then I will have no alternative to suspend him without pay.
“I recognize the complex problems of the motion picture business, having spent several years in the industry. However, in all fairness to everyone connected with the Browns – the coaching staff, the players and most important of all, our many faithful fans – I feel compelled to say that I will have to take such action should Jim be absent on July 17.
“Lest anyone get the impression that suspension would be a token slap on the wrist, since the salaries of most professional athletes do not go into effect until the start of the regular season, I point out that we have several players, Jim included, who are paid on a 12-month basis.
“I am certain that Jim and all of our players are aware that under terms of their contracts with us they are expected to participate in all pre-season practice sessions and games.
“I have been asked what my attitude would be if Jim Brown fails to report to Hiram next month but returns to the United States in September and decides that he wants to play football.
“Our coaching staff cannot wait until such a late date to formulate our offensive plans for the 1966 season. If Jim were to show up in September, we would have to make an appraisal as to his physical condition, his ability to pick up quickly the new offense being prepared for the season plus the general personnel situation of our Club.”
To which Brown replied:
12 Portman Street,
LONDON, W. 1
July 5, 1966
I am writing to inform you that in the next few days I will be announcing my retirement from Football. This decision is final and is made only because of the future that I desire for myself, my family, and if not to sound corney my race. I am very sorry that I did not have the information to give you at some earlier date, for one of my great concerns was to try in every way to work things out so that I could play an additional year.
I was very sorry to see you make the statements that you did, because it was not a victory for you or I but for the newspaper men. Fortunately, I seem to have a little more faith in you than you have in me. I honestly like you and will be willing to help you in anyway I can, but I feel you must realize that both of us are men and that my manhood is just as important to me as yours is to you.
It was indicated in the papers out of Cleveland that you tried to reach me by phone. Well, I hope you realize that when I am in my apartment I never refuse to answer my phone. The only reason that I did not contact you before I knew the completion date of the movie, is that the date was the one important factor. You must realize that your organization will make money and will remain successful whether I am there or not. The Cleveland Browns’ are an Institution that will stand for a long, long time.
I am taking on a few projects that are very interesting to me. I have many problems to solve at this time and I am sure you know a lot of them, so if we weigh the situation properly the ‘Browns’ have really nothing to lose, but Jim Brown has a lot to lose. I am taking it for granted that I have your understanding and best wishes, for in my public approach to this matter this will be the attitude that will prevail.
The business matters that we will have to work out we could do when I return to Cleveland. I will give you any assistance I can and hope your operation will be a success. You know the areas that I can be helpful and even if you do no ask this help my attitude will be one that I will do only the things that will contribute to the success of the ‘Cleveland Browns.’
The Washington Post’s venerated Sports Columnist, Shirley Povitch, wrote this about Brown’s departure:
WORD THAT HIS peerless fullback was. announcing his retirement from the game, Cleveland Coach Blanton Collier said, bravely, “We’re not going to press any panic button. Jim was the greatest back *in the history of the game, but I want to make it clear that this was not a one-man football team.”
The Browns, indeed, may not have been a one-man football team, because ten other players could be counted whenever they took the field. But the others had to be searched out in the shadow cast by Jim Brown, who was the only man that counted whenever opposing coaches plotted to stop the Cleveland attack. Stop Jim Brown and that does it. Somehow, Collier’s protests. do not make it clear that the Browns were not a one-man team.
The wonders Jim Brown wrought for the Cleveland team had a pattern. Not only did he bring them from also-rans to pennant threats, he made a winning coach out of Blanton Collier, who was a sort of flop in college football with Kentucky. Frank Ryan was a second-string quarterback everywhere he played, at Rice behind King Hill and with the Rams behind Bill Wade and Zeke Bratkowski. Ryan joined Jim Brown at Cleveland and¬presto—became the NFL’s newest wonder quarterback.