World Gym is honoring Jim Brown this week at its convention in Las Vegas with its lifetime achievement award.
I'll be the first to admit: I was star struck when I saw Brown at the IHRSA show in March. Brown was in the Star Trac booth as a guest of Michael Bruno, Star Trac's owner. Brown addressed the Star Trac team before the show, and we included that video in our post-IHRSA show blog.
I respect Star Trac and Bruno, and I respect World Gym and Managing Director Guy Cammilleri, who I profiled last year. He and his family have turned around World Gym over the last five years.
I also applaud Brown's efforts in the community—particularly in the African-American community—and his views on social justice. He has been an influential figure for almost 60 years, first as a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back and later as an actor.
"Jim Brown has had an outstanding career both on and off the field," Cammilleri said in a company press release. "The World Gym family is proud to pay tribute to such an extraordinary athlete, actor and humanitarian who continues to have such a profound impact on the lives of so many."
If it were up to me, however, I would not give Brown a lifetime achievement award. Again, that's just me, and apparently, I'm in the minority. Just as World Gym announced Brown as its recipient, the Muhammad Ali Center announced last week it would honor Brown with its lifetime humanitarian achievement award, which promotes achievements for social justice.
Brown's checkered past with domestic violence holds me back. He has been charged with several acts of violence against women and men over the years, as this CNN timeline shows. He served four months in a county jail in 2002 for refusing court-ordered counseling and community service hours stemming from a domestic disturbance with his wife in 1999.
Domestic violence—always a pertinent issue in society—has been in the news of late. The National Football League recently changed its punishment for domestic violence and other forms of assault for players as well as all NFL employees. A first offense is a six-game suspension. A second offense is a lifetime ban. This comes after the league imposed only a two-game suspension for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for an incident with his then-fiancée (and now wife) in an elevator that was caught on video. Many people were outraged that Rice did not receive a harsher punishment.
People make mistakes, and they certainly can change their ways. I hope Jim Brown, even at 78, has changed. He remains an iconic figure. His accomplishments should be admired. I just would not be the one to honor him with a lifetime achievement award.