Kanye West wasn't the only celebrity guest at the White House Thursday:
Seated near Mr. West was Jim Brown, the former Cleveland Browns running back. Mr. Brown, who has supported the president in the past, barely got a word in.
“I’m here to serve,” Mr. Brown said when the president asked him how he felt.
Here's Brown outside the White House Thursday:
Brown was one of football's greats in the 1950s and 1960s -- a Hall of Fame player who was also politically engaged. He offered public support for Muhammad Ali when Ali was stripped of the heavyweight championship and facing prison for his refusal to fight in Vietnam.
But Brown is a problematic figure -- and in some ways an ideal Trump White House guest -- because he's been repeatedly accused of sexual violence:
Brown has a lengthy rap sheet of alleged violence against women that reaches back to 1965. The incidents include a charge of assault and battery perpetrated against an eighteen-year-old in a Howard Johnson motel (he was found not guilty); a battery charge, later dropped, for allegedly flinging two women down a flight of stairs for refusing to perform a sex act together; charges of rape and assault involving a woman living in his home, dismissed by the judge because of inconsistent testimony; and most infamously, the twenty-foot fall from the balcony of Brown’s second-floor hotel room of girlfriend and model Eva Bohn-Chin, who was found sprawled, bleeding, and dazed on the concrete. Brown was charged with assault with intent to commit murder, but the case was dropped after Bohn-Chin told authorities she wasn’t pushed or thrown but had slipped and tumbled—a pretty fishy explanation but without her cooperation there was nothing to hang on Brown except resisting arrest, for which he was fined a feeble $300. (Years later Bohn-Chin’s account of that evening in Spike Lee’s documentary contradicts Brown’s version....)
Brown and his defenders contend that despite the litany of accusations and charges, he’s never been convicted of any crime against women and only done time once—when he chose to serve a six-month sentence rather than undergo counseling and perform community service for vandalizing his wife’s car during a domestic dispute.
Dave Zirin has written:
But the history of accusations of violence against women levied against him has scarred his legacy…. It has prevented him from achieving the kind of mainstream adulation bestowed on contemporaries like Ali and [Bill] Russell. Barack Obama—who as president took a particular joy from his regular interaction with black sports heroes of yesteryear—never dialogued with Jim Brown. Donald Trump, however, rolled out the red carpet.
Brown met with Trump at Trump Tower during the transition in 2016. In 2017, he denounced Representative John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights era, for criticizing Trump. In some ways they're an unlikely pairing, but in other ways they're a match set.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog