As a general rule, James Brown is extremely judicious when it comes to sharing his thoughts on social issues. The NFL Today on CBS host is still forming an opinion on Colin Kaepernick – the San Francisco quarterback is refusing to stand for the national anthem to protest the treatment of minorities in America – but he did share some insight from a personal interaction with Roger Goodell.
“This morning, I had the opportunity to interview Roger Goodell at our senior meeting, so I asked him what is his attitude about it,” Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Roger Goodell, as the face of the league, said one, he has every bit the right to protest. That’s his God-given right. That’s his right as a citizen. While he may disagree with him, I asked what about the platform, the venue, that he’s using. He said many people may have the attitude that there’s never a right venue, but we also know when we pull back that sports has very often through the history of this country been used as a platform upon which there have been many social changes – not the least of which, of course, was Jackie Robinson.”
There was also the famed Cleveland Summit of 1967, which was attended by Bill Russell, Jim Brown and Lew Alcindor, among others.
“A bunch of elite athletes called a then-25-year-old Muhammad Ali to Cleveland to talk with him to convince him that he should go to the army,” Brown said. “That young 25-year-old Muhammad Ali convinced them that his position was correct, that he was a conscientious objector. So I recognize (that Kaepernick’s protest) doesn’t make you a hero with a lot of fans, but if I feel strongly enough about an issue, then yes, I’ll speak on it. But I think you’ve known throughout my career I’m very judicious and selective about that.”
Brown learned that approach from John Madden.
“John’s attitude was the game is the thing. That’s the focus,” Brown said. “The research still shows that. People want to focus on the game. Even when there is a legitimate issue out there, people don’t care. They still want to know about the home team.”
Brown, it is worth noting, spoke out against domestic violence in the midst of the Ray Rice saga. in 2014.
“That was one of those rare situations because – to John Madden’s credit – if the off-the-field issue impacts adversely what is going to happen on the field, then yes, it needs to be covered – and clearly the Ray Rice situation did because he was going to be missing from the game,” Brown explained. “It also kind of merged with the standpoint that I was actively engaged with ex-players in this whole domestic violence issue, tying to get guys involved – because guys are the critical element to try to reduce, if not eliminate, this issue. So that’s why I felt very strongly. I knew there was going to be some adverse reaction, and there was. But I was okay with it. I was prepared for that because I felt strongly about it.”