Mike Holmgren Denies Rift Between Browns, Jim Brown
Speaking at a news conference to announce the team would include a Ring of Honor in Cleveland Browns Stadium that would first honor the team's 16 Hall of Famers, Holmgren said there was no rift between the team and Brown, and added he had a very good conversation with Brown earlier this week.
"The importance of Jim Brown to the Browns and this community, none of that changed," Holmgren said.
Then he said that Sept. 19, the day when the Ring is unveiled, would be a special day for the Browns and the families of their 16 Hall members: Jim Brown, Paul Brown, Joe DeLamielleure, Len Ford, Frank Gatski, Otto Graham, Lou Groza, Gene Hickerson, Leroy Kelly, Dante Lavelli, Mike McCormack, Bobby Mitchell, Marion Motley, Ozzie Newsome, Paul Warfield and Bill Willis.
"I'm absolutely overwhelmed," Warfield said.
The Browns join about half the other 32 NFL teams that have a Ring of Honor. The team previously had honored its past with a Legends Club, with plaques placed outside the stadium. The Ring inside the stadium is the decision of Holmgren, who took over as team president prior to this season.
Brown and Graham are the most recognizable names of the Hall of Famers, and a story in Sunday's Cleveland Plain Dealer indicated that Brown was not pleased with the team following the ending of his tenure as a executive adviser to owner Randy Lerner. The report quoted Browns' wife, Monique, saying he could not rearrange his schedule to be at the ceremony and reported that Brown had distanced himself from the team.
Holmgren acted is if that were news to him.
"We had a very good conversation," Holmgren said. "I'm hopeful he can be there. Jim Brown is synonymous with the Cleveland Browns, one of the great players in the National Football League. This will be a great celebration for all of us and the 16 families on that day and I trust he'll be part of that."
Brown appeared on Syracuse radio station 1260 The Score on Thursday. He chuckled when asked if he was going to be at the ceremony. Then he gave a lengthy answer, essentially saying he would not comment.
"I've been very quiet about my situation in Cleveland," Brown told The Score host Danny Parkins. "Sometimes when you comment on things, all you do is create problems. And the last thing I want to do is create problems for anyone or especially disrupt the team or ownership or the plans of other people.
"But on the other hand, as an individual, I have plans of my own. I have a dignity and character of my own that I also protect. So I don't really need to comment on where I go, why I go, why I don't go. And all the people that are involved should be doing all the commenting. Because they're the ones with the power. I'm just an individual that played football and worked for the Browns for a while.''
Parkins asked Brown if his feelings at no longer having an official role with the Browns affected his thinking.
"I have feelings," Brown said. "I'm a very sensitive person. And I do like to be respected. And I'm very loyal. And I like it to be a two-way street. So my feelings play a big part in what I do, because my main work right now is to help the players with the pension plan and the health-care situation. Because it's an atrocity how some of them are suffering. And it's all based upon how I feel about it.
"I think we should chip in, even if the league doesn't do it, I think those of us who are well enough off financially should chip in and really start the ball rolling so these players can be given the respect that baseball and basketball gives their players. There are a lot of issues that have to do deal with character and how people feel and how people are treated. We have to treat people with respect and sensitivity."
Holmgren said Brown's reduced role was part of inevitable change when he became president.
"Change took place with a lot of people," Holmgren said. "That happens."
He said he had insisted to Brown that his influence and impact with the team had not changed. After his duties changed, Brown wrote an extremely gracious letter to Lerner to express his thanks.
"The one thing you learn about life is that you don't try to hurt people, you don't try to defend yourself, you don't try to do anything but be helpful," Brown told the Plain Dealer shortly after he and the team parted ways. "So I stand by who I am, what I am and what I do. I will never open up any Pandora's box because I have too much respect for the Lerner family and the Cleveland Browns and the way I've been treated. I've been treated like a champion."