Syracuse football icon Jim Brown will be one of three recipients to receive the 2016 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, Time Warner Inc. announced on Wednesday. Basketball legends Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were announced as the other two recipients of the award.
Chris Stone, Sports Illustrated’s Group Editor and Chief, praised the three legendary athletes for their work in fighting against social injustice during, and after, their respective playing careers.
“In 2016 we learned that the consequences of speaking out on hard issues were often painful ones, but also how deeply athletes can impact and advance the conversation on those same, hard issues,” Stone said in a statement. “Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all recognized, and acted on this in a far harder time in America. That was the example of their friend, Muhammad Ali, and the torch they’ve carried for the more than a half-century.”
Brown, Russell and Abdul-Jabbar all famously came together in 1967 to take part in the “Ali Summit”, a meeting of several high profiled athletes who voiced their support for Muhammad Ali and his decision to refuse to be inducted into the U.S. Army due to his objection of the Vietnam War.
Throughout his work in social activism, Brown supported many Africa-American causes, including helping create the Negro Industrial Economic Union in the 1960s and founding the Amer-I-Can program in the 1980s.
Brown said the fact he was being honored alongside two former athletes he fought side-by-side with makes the award that much special.
“I am deeply touched to be honored for a lifetime spent working to establish common ground and mutual respect for all perspectives and backgrounds,” Brown said. “I hope that this tribute serves as a symbol of inspiration for all Americans to be champions of social justice. This is a proud moment for me, and I am thrilled to be recognized alongside two other transformative athletes with whom I share a long history of activism and friendship, and for whom I have great respect.”
The award is the second in four months Brown has received for leadership and social activism. Brown received Syracuse University’s Arents Award, the highest honor SU can bestow upon an alumni, for his excellence in athletics and social activism.