Syracuse legend Jim Brown gave a detailed explanation on why he believes money has discouraged athletes from taking a harder stance when it comes to social activism while speaking with the media Saturday in Syracuse.
Brown made his comments after being honored by the Syracuse University Alumni Association with the 2016 Arents Award for his excellence in athletics and social activism.
“There’s a thing called quality of life. And quality of life is a (combination) of things that contribute to you being happy.
In a capitalistic society at its most extreme, we seem to believe that money can cure all things. So people try to become rich. In the day that we played, money was not that big. Very few of us played for money, we played to perform well, to win and to love the game and love the camaraderie that went with the game, okay?
As we led up to this modern group of individuals, who had agents, managers, and lawyers – agents, managers, and lawyers are not there as mentors teaching you how to be good guys, they’re teaching you how to make money. They’re emphasizing how to develop your image, so you can be effective for corporations to represent them and to make extra money.
The problem is money does not make you perform. It does not perform in a sense for you when you have to play sports, or certain other things. So there was a generation of individuals that thought because they knew how to make money and develop an image that would be commercial, that they were on top of it. But that particular generation got into drugs and into problems that shouldn’t be because they were making all this money and had all of this publicity.
What we had was the fact the capitalistic idea, the commercial idea, dominated our society. The agents, lawyers and managers drove it. And the players, thinking it would be wise to listen to those experts, got carried away into something that did not bring them the satisfaction that pure performance and winning and participating would bring them. The quality of life was overlooked. Money took the place, image took the place, of everything.
Now what you have is LeBron and Carmelo and all of those individuals, they know they have the ability to go beyond the field they have about being great players. They can make a contribution to their communities, this country, this society. Although they haven’t really done their homework, their attitude is good about making positive change and contributing to the welfare of the country.
So that’s my take on the situation. I’m very happy to see these young people step up. The only thing that I fear is that their popularity and their money is too big, that until they get thrown into leadership roles, they’re not intellectually capable of fulfilling.
Very few people have the courage to talk to a superstar in a very honest way and say, ‘Look why don’t you seek out an organization and individuals that are a little more knowledgeable than you and work with them. Maybe learn a little more, do a little more research, become more versed in the country and the background and all of these things, and you will be much more effective.’
So there is a possibility that even though they have recognized their desire to participate, their status as superstars will make a lot of people that should be listened to, not be listened to.”
Brown, a Pro Football and College Football Hall of Fame inductee, was one of the most vocal athletes during the Civil Rights Movement, in which he, and other prominent athletes such as Muhammad Ali, fought for social justice and better treatment of African Americans.
The legendary running back also further explained his stance on Colin Kaepernick protesting the National Anthem, after previously stating he stood with the controversial quarterback “100 percent.”
While Brown said he disagrees with Kaepernick’s method of not standing for the National Anthem, he does support him for his sincerity in bringing an important issue of police brutality and unfair treatment of African Americans to light.