Jim Brown: When a Hero Is Nothing but a Sandwich

Harold BellContributor IIIJune 26, 2009

I recently read a commentary written by so-called sports columnist Jason Whitlock.  The commentary was titled "Jim Brown My Hero."

Mr. Whitlock, was defending Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan against Jim Brown's beliefs that they were out of touch and were not giving back to the  black community. 

He even wrote that Jim Brown was more dedicated and committed to the black community then Muhammad Ali. 

There is an old saying "It is best to be thought a fool then to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."

My friend NBA pioneer Spencer Haywood once said on my sports talk show "The Original Inside Sports" if a child has to look beyond his dinner table for his heroes, he is in trouble." Meet Jason Whitlock. 

First, let me let Jim Brown NFL Hall of Fame running back and the man picked by the football experts to be "The Greatest football player in the history of the NFL" introduce me.

Jim Brown in his own words, “Harold Bell has been a crusader for the rights of black people all of his life. He has also been a crusader in sports and has had a lot of friends in both the black and white community in sports. He has always been outstanding, always an individual speaking his mind and giving you a outlet to express your views. 

He has always provided a platform for those without one and when I was incarcerated he did everything he could to attack those who had incarcerated me unfairly. He is one of my friends. Harold is truly a man, a man who believes in his culture and his people. We have done many things together in the community over the years. He is a real man and he is always going to be that way, because no one has ever been able to change him.  That is my partner”

Two years ago I wrote an "Open Letter" to Jim related to some concerns about our friend Green Bay Packer NFL Hall of Fame player, Willie Wood. The contents of the letter can be read below.

Dear Jim,

In a telephone conversation with you on Wednesday April 18, 2007 you took off and went into in a profanity laced tirade directed at me. The tirade started after I asked why you were interrogating me about my motives as it related to Willie Wood and Bob Schmidt. My motive should have been self explanatory to someone like you. When I asked where is the money?  It did not require you to have a PHD to understand what I was saying.

This is the same Bob Schmidt who by all accounts didn’t want you to be a part of the benefit for Willie Wood until I requested that we invite you. I already knew and he was also aware that you were scheduled to be in town along with the other Pro Football Hall of Fame players for a card show in nearby Fairfax, Virginia. For whatever reason, he was reluctant to extent you an invitation until I said I would call you.

Remember, I didn’t interrogate Monique, Karen and Rock when they called me to reach out to you while you were being charge with domestic violence in L.A. I didn’t question you about your motives for destroying your wife’s automobile or your domestic violence history. I immediately came to the aid of a friend.

I can’t believe that you were taking sides against me with a “Good Old Boy” in whose clothes closet you might find a hood and robe. It sounds like the Willie Lynch doctrine to me. The surprise to me is that you have adhered to it. When I suggested sending you written documentation or doing a conference call with our friend Dick Gregory who had the documentation in front of him, you said no thanks???  For a man who is always talking about telling the truth.  It does not seem like you were interested in the truth. You have played right into Schmidt’s hands, divide and conquer.

When you sought me out to help you fight the system that was trying to railroad you off to jail I used all of my media resources to assist you and your family. I am trying to do the same thing for Willie Wood.

During your ordeal my college roommate Barney Hood helped with the media in Chicago. He called on his old and dear friend, the late Lou Palmer a power-broker in the windy city of Chicago. I spoke with Lou and discovered he was a friend of yours. He had not heard about your dilemma. He was having some health problems, Lou had lost his sight, but he jumped in and offered all of his resources.

He and Barney worked together to get your story in the Chicago Defender and on talk radio stations in Chicago. After you got out of jail you called Lou and thanked him. You have yet to thank Barney Hood. Once again you are always talking about respect but you give it only when it is in your best interest. Respect, is still a Two-Way Street.

Immediately after the benefit tribute in Willie Wood’s honor I called you to alert you that I was suspicious about the financial commitment to Willie. I asked you to get me a number for Sylvia Mackey the wife of NFL Hall of Famer John Mackey. Your response, “Harold, let me get right back to you.” That conversation took place over three weeks ago. I have called and left several messages since then without a response.

It seems to me Bob Schmidt was just an excuse for you to lash out at me, which I find all the more puzzling. What was your motive???

Jim, I first met you in Winston-Salem, NC in 1959 at the YMCA during a Winston-Salem State University athletic banquet for upper class-men only. I was a freshman but I decided to crash the party. I wanted to meet the great Jim Brown.  I decided to worry later about the tongue lashing from my football coach, the legendary Clarence “Bighouse” Gaines. I was just another face in a crowded room of athletes, but I never forgot the experience of meeting you.

I have never been into the HERO WORSHIPPING scene. My heroes were my grandmother and mother, but there have been athletes I have admired and respected, men like Jackie Robinson and Paul Roberson. I regret I never had the opportunity to break bread with them.

I think they both must be turning over in their graves as they watch “The Player Hating” going on in our community among black men. They must be wondering where did we lose, the love and the respect we once had for each other and how can we get it back???

You are always talking about keeping it real, truth and respect among brothers and sisters. I am trying to figure out where, when and why have you suddenly have not kept it real, truthful and honest with me??? My conversation with you on the telephone I still find hard to believe. How could you of all people allow someone like Schmidt to use the Willie Lynch Doctrine of divide and conquer???

That is exactly what you played into when you allowed him to get Willie’s sister Gladys off of the telephone conference call with you. You didn’t have a clue on what the problem was but you felt confident (that's right you are a intellect) talking with Schmidt a total stranger??? You didn’t even have the professional courtesy to call me and Gladys back to give us an up date about your conversation with Schmidt. When I had to call you, I knew you had let him sell you a bill of goods. I can’t believe you would allow one “Red Neck” to come between us and you talk about how black you are???  Have you forgotten the little girls blown up in church and black and white men were lynched by their necks standing up for us and now we still can’t stand up for ourselves.

I have had your back unofficially since we first met in 1959. I found your act and actions appalling.

On another level (media) I have had to endure the same type of hidden envy and jealousy.  The type you have had to endure your entire NFL career. The hostility and disrespect I encountered in sports media press rooms I still find unbelievable to this day.  I learned that there is nothing more powerful and respected in media than the written word. I may do a lot of talking, but what makes me a decent writer, I listen well and what I heard come out of your mouth on Wednesday night was not music to my ears.

Jim, once I became a media personality I refuse to allow the so-call major media or anyone to talk negative about black leadership in America. There were many who were putting their lives on the line for others. I have always had an on air response to uplift those who had become a target of a bias media. It was the written word that made me so effective on your behalf during your incarceration. The likes of USA Today’s Jon Saraceno, the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon, NBC Sports Machine’s George Michael, Fox Sport’s James Brown, etc. each cautiously walked a fine line during their news reports as it related to your incarceration. They knew I was watching and listening. I took offense to Saraceno’s column titled “Jim Brown does not know how to be a black man.”

My question to him, “What in the hell do you know about being a black man?” When I got through with him in written commentaries and on talk shows across the country, he was begging for me to get off of his ass. 

Saraceno e-mailed Reggie Hammond a sports talk show host on WCLM radio in Richmond, Virginia, he asked Reggie to contact me and tell me to please stop misquoting him. His next column in USA Today was an apology to Jim Brown.

You are now a frequent guest on Reggie’s talk show. The introduction was made by me. Did you ever thank Reggie for his support? Respect is still a Two-Way street. No one owes you anything.

There was the conversation I taped of James Brown (NFL/CBS) during his early years in broadcasting telling participants in a sports forum on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia “I am not the James Brown that does drugs and beats his wife and I am not the Jim Brown who throws women over balconies.”

Let us not forget your good friend Congresswoman Maxine Waters and her comments about you during a panel discussion at the Congressional Black Caucus weekend. She was discussing reaching back into the community to help black folks and said, “Don’t be like Jim Brown with your hand out expecting to get paid.”  This is the same Maxine Waters who you introduce to your former Cleveland Brown teammate, Sidney Williams.

When I mailed you the tape, you could not believe she was saying those kinds of things about you. I remember you saying, “Man I introduced her to her husband and she has been in my home with Jack Kemp.”

I ignored Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and Jackie Joyner Kersey calling you a “Professional Beggar” pretending you cared about the community. In fact Kersey told you exactly how she felt about you expecting today’s athlete to give back to the community to your face. The live debate was on a nationally televised forum with several high profile athletes and President Clinton in attendance.

Then there was Hall of Fame running back Lenny Moore allegedly speaking negative about you to several Baltimore Raven players. You asked me, “Harold, what is that all about I have never shown Lenny anything but love.”  I intervened and asked Lenny to give you a call and straighten, the he say, she say gossip out and he did. Lenny Moore later thanked me for being the middleman.

I remember one year at the Bobby Mitchell Hall of Fame Golf outing in Virginia, I watched in amazement when he turned you and your guest away from a luncheon in a tent.  He said, "Jim, I can’t accommodate you and your guest, we are over crowded.”

You looked into the tent and then at me as if to say, "what in the hell is going on?" You then invited us up to your room in the hotel and ordered room service for everyone. This is the same Bobby Mitchell that you lobbied to get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With friends like Bobby Mitchell you don’t need any more enemies. On the ride to the airport the next day you were very quiet and then you said, “Harold what do you think of Bobby Mitchell?"  My response was, ‘he ain’t worth two dead flies’ a wide grin broke out across your face and you fell off to sleep.

I had never before said a word to you about Bobby Mitchell until you asked me that day.  This brother has never stood for anything in his life, he has been nothing but a follower.

I even reminded Calvin Hill (Dallas Cowboys) at the Willie Wood tribute after I saw him up in your face smiling.  I said, "Calvin remember this is the same Jim Brown that you said according to Bubba Smith, thinks he is smarter then everyone else and he always wants to take over every discussion.” I called him a hypocrite; I despise hypocrites, smiling in your face while stabbing you in your back. Hypocrites don’t get any bigger then Calvin Hill.

Don King, you recently said to me, “I think Don is doing a wonderful job.” This is the same Don King who you said to me during the Tyson years, “I stay out of that nigger’s way, he is poison.”

It is now becoming much clearer why you and Schmidt hit it off. You two belong together he has played you like a bad call in the forth quarter. Bill Cosby recently said “The enemy is us” I am in total agreement. We have sold each other out. I remember you bad mouthing Bill Cosby, you wondered why your one time tennis partner and friend had kicked you to the curb? Evidently, he saw the handwriting on the wall before most of us.

I have heard you say on several occasions “You can’t wait for anyone to deliver you.” I am further confused on why do you think you are the only one who should get today’s athletes and entertainers to fund your community projects?

My wife and I have always put our own monies back into our community projects. There have never been any grants or loans to bankroll our commitment to our community.

For example; when Prentis Byrd approached George Foreman at a reception in Los Angeles reminding him that he had made a promise to me that he was coming to DC to do a fundraiser for Kids In Trouble. You told Prentis to step aside and said, “I will handle and take care of this for Harold.”  The arrangements were never made and to this day you have never said one word to me.  But George was seen giving you a check later that evening. There was another occasion that you were to contact Minister Louis Farrakhan for me and there was no follow through on that one either. It has always been about Jim Brown.

I have said this to you before, I have always earned my own way.  I have never asked anyone for a hand-out, only a helping hand.

The athletes and sports personalities who have benefited from Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports read like a Who’s Who. For example; John Thompson, Dave Bing, Doug Williams, Don King, James Brown, Oden Polyniece, Michael Wilbon, Dave Aldridge, Adrian Dantley, Adrian Branch, Lamont Jordan, Dave Dupree, etc. Not one of them has ever donated a toy or dollar to the program. I operate under the premise that if you have never benefited from the programs Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports you don’t them anything, but if you have been a benefactor you owe the programs to reach back.

There is nothing wrong or criminal about reaching back to help someone, everybody does it but us. Don Imus, is not the problem, we are the problem. I have never seen so many envy, jealous and selfish people in one community.

My question to you, where is the beef and exactly what is your problem? Why did you find it necessary to tell me to kiss your ass and fuck me over the telephone because I asked you why are you questioning me over the motives of some “Good Old Boy” who has shown no respect for Willie Wood, his family and me? You are as wrong as two left football cleats.

Several years ago when I brought to your attention I had a project that I was working on that could be worth millions of dollars if marketed and promoted in the right hands. I offered you a piece of the project. You never responded. So you got a problem and I am going to let you keep it.

Just like you lobbied to get Bobby Mitchell into the hall of fame, I lobbied to get Willie Wood and Earl Lloyd into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and NBA Hall of Fame respectively. Much like I lobbied to get your black ass out of jail.

Several years ago Earl Lloyd was heard on WTEM all sports talk radio here in DC with fraudulent John Thompson saying, “Harold Bell maybe controversial but I have yet to hear anyone call him a liar.” Guess what, I am still sticking to the truth.

In closing, I think you got me mixed up with one of your cheer-leading friends. Your profanity laced tirade reminded me of an uneducated rapper and street thug who has run out of a logical solution to the problem being discussed. He then turns to the vulgar language of the streets. You sounded nothing like the Syracuse University scholar that you are made out to be. I for one don’t need all this hate from a so-called BLACK MAN like you. I have been your friend for over 30 years and I am not going to suddenly become your bitch.

You got a wrong number. Now you can team up with the rest the frauds like Don King, Rock Newman, Michael Wilbon, James Brown, John Thompson, Dave Bing, Sugar Ray Leonard, Cathy Hughes, etc and your new found friend Bob Schmidt in the “I hate Harold Bell fan club.” In the meantime I will keep you and your family in prayer.



Harold Bell


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