Jim Brown, no stranger to social activism, says Colin Kaepernick is a "very beautiful human being," but warns that many people view protests during the national anthem as disrespectful.
Speaking at his alma mater of Syracuse University Saturday, Brown said Kaepernick had even reached out to him for advice. The 80-year-old Brown, regarded by many as the greatest running back in NFL history, said he admires Kaepernick's sincerity.
"Colin is a very beautiful human being," Brown said, via Syracuse.com. "He reached out to me. He got my telephone number and he called me. We had a great conversation. I'm with him 100 percent in his sincerity and his right to bring these things out."
Brown says he's been heartened by signs of athletes recently speaking out on social issues, but says using the national anthem as a forum can be hurtful to veterans and others.
"You can point it out but you don't necessarily want to disrespect the national anthem or the flag," Brown said. "There are outside entities that are trying to bring this country down. We have to go back to the memories of 9-11. If that memory doesn't do anything to you as an American, then you're not really that sensitive a human being.
"When you think of the sacrifices our firefighters make, think about the service of soldiers in foreign lands and listen to their lives, you have to be careful that whatever you do, don't cast a shadow on what these great people do. They make sure you have the right to speak out without retaliation, or at least no retaliation other than other people criticizing you."
Brown said he voiced his concerns to Kaepernick.
"I talked to (Kaepernick) and I expressed my thought that his intentions are great and I back that 100 percent, because I'm glad to hear a young man speak out," Brown said. "But when it comes to our country and our flag, I don't want to tamper with that. I want to take off my gloves and work hard to deal with a process and bring about change."
Brown also cautioned that each alleged case of police misconduct should be judged on its own merits, not lumped together.
"When you talk about police killing people and brutality, that is not something you can just march in the streets and protest against because every case is a different case and should be adjudicated," Browns said. "We have people in position in the political arena that should be spearheading those types of things. That issue is above football players."
Brown played his entire career with the Cleveland Browns, leading the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons. He finished with 12,312 career yards and 5.2 yards per attempt. The Browns honored him Sunday by unveiling a Jim Brown statue outside FirstEnergy Stadium.
“There is a natural feeling that I have today of joy and celebration," Brown said at the ceremony. "This represents one of the highest moments of my life because when I look at the audience, about 95 percent of the people I know personally and most of them I know through the work that they do, the work that I do and the work we do together in the community to make it a better community."