(Editor’s note: Former Browns wide receiver Reggie Rucker offers a point of view on the Jim Brown-Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor debate)

 

Special to The Plain Dealer

Jim Brown is my friend and I am here to support him. I’ve listened, I’ve watched and I’ve read just about everything regarding Jim Brown and the letter. I feel it’s time for me to weigh in on this, mostly because I’m eminently more knowledgeable of all things Jim Brown than anyone in this city.

First, let me say this and say it unequivocally, Mike Holmgren did not understand Jim Brown’s relationship to the team and to the city. Secondly, this is not about money. He doesn’t need it.

The man is an historic figure for his accomplishments in football and his pioneering achievements in motion pictures or as Sports Illustrated so aptly described him, “one of the most significant figures of the twentieth century.” Is there anyone who doesn’t know this?

Here is what you don’t know — Jim Brown is the architect of a curriculum used in schools, juvenile detention facilities, prisons, churches, and boys and girls clubs that teaches the responsibility of self-determination. It is a self-empowering movement giving at-risk youth a second chance. He has personally been responsible for stopping the “gang violence way of life” for thousands all across this country. He is an acknowledged expert, very smart and wise beyond even his years. To be more succinct, his Amer-I-Can program has kept young people out of jails and cemeteries, many in this city.

The “shift blame” game is now on. Let’s attack Jim Brown and focus on his past history, or whatever indiscretions that can be dug up. Are any of us that holy?

I believe the attempts to ridicule and personally attack Jim for his life-long convictions about respect and loyalty are wrong. I know only a few people who know what was said in the initial meeting between Jim and Mike Holmgren. Holmgren has a right to run this organization the way he wants, but he should have made every effort not to demean or disrespect Jim’s work and value in this community. He didn’t know what Jim’s role was or his accomplishments in the community.

I am going to tell you.

Jim Brown served at the pleasure of the owner of this team, Randy Lerner. He believed he answered only to Lerner. If you review someone’s work record for successes or failures, there should be some evidence-based support for determining the impact that individual has made in the company. So, let’s start with the 2009 season when we were witnessing some of the most horrific football ever seen in Cleveland. Everyone wanted to fire Eric Mangini, including me. Jim wasn’t so quick to pull the trigger and condemn Mangini. In fact as the season progressed, Jim was the only one brave enough to publicly support Mangini. He told me Mangini was a good man and a good coach.

Mike Holmgren enters the picture, reviews and interviews Mangini and Holmgren decides to keep Mangini as head coach. Well, Jim had already given us his professional opinion about Mangini. As executive advisor to the owner, he was doing his job in the best interests of the owner.

Jim was involved behind the scenes with contract holdouts, including getting Kellen Winslow to come in sooner that he would have if he had not intervened. When Braylon Edwards got into trouble and there were threats to both Edwards and the Browns organization, it was Jim Brown who had his Amer-I-Can teams provide security for Browns players and provide street intelligence to Lew Merletti, Browns chief of security, regarding those threats.

Jim received the 2009 humanitarian of the year award from Our Lady of the Wayside for his commitment and work in this community, yet another one of the roles he was supposed to play while representing the Cleveland Browns. He received the W.O. Walker award from the Call and Post newspaper for his work in Cleveland schools. This is the work that the Browns hoped he would do on their behalf. I know this because I was employed by the team at the time and was told to offer the support of the Cleveland Browns to then-Mayor Jane Campbell. I did this and subsequently the Browns sponsored the Amer-I-Can program in Cleveland Schools with a $1.6 million grant. I would also add that when funding ran out, Jim Brown spent $80,000 of his own money to keep it going.

Jim partnered with U.S. Marshall Pete Elliott and the United Pastors in Mission in the fugitive safe surrender program, which helped to get guns and bad guys off the streets of Cleveland. These are the kinds of things that were discussed when Jim was brought back here to advise the Cleveland Browns, not just in football but in areas of need in this community. Jim was a huge supporter and partner in the Municipal judges “Get on Track Program,” giving young people a second chance to get their lives together.

So, Jim Brown didn’t just hang out with the owner and talk to a few players. He held a very dignified position and added real value as executive advisor to the owner. His job was to give advice, not run the team. Holmgren employs men in this capacity. Gil Haskell is a senior adviser. Do you know what he does? It’s not important to you what he does; it’s only important to Mike Holmgren.

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