President Mike Holmgren said Brown informed him Monday that he wouldn’t be at the ceremony Sept. 19, when the team’s 16 Hall of Famers will be inducted as the inaugural class of the Ring of Honor inside Cleveland Browns Stadium. Holmgren expects the rest of the seven living inductees to be present and the deceased to be represented by family.
Brown, 74, sent a letter to Holmgren that was obtained by the Plain Dealer. Holmgren might want to reconsider his statement last week that “rift” is “kind of strong language” to describe the relationship between Brown and the organization.
Brown wrote he felt he was “fired” after a 10-minute meeting with Holmgren in which he took away Brown’s responsibilities as adviser to owner Randy Lerner.
“There was no conversation about anything that I felt was related to my job,” Brown wrote. “Your ultimatum to me was that you would offer me the opportunity of being that of the greeter, that of a mascot, that of a person that would represent special events by his physical presence, and for those things, I would receive a salary of $100,000. All of those things that you offered me would be controlled by you.”
Brown was also upset because he felt his agreement with Lerner stated he would answer to no one except Lerner. When Holmgren was hired, Lerner gave him total control, which included restructuring the front office.
Brown, who played running back for the Browns for nine years, said he studied last week’s news conference to announce the Ring of Honor, which Holmgren attended with inductees Paul Warfield and Joe DeLamielleure. Holmgren and Warfield said they hoped Brown would decide to attend the ceremony, and Holmgren said he wanted Brown to have a place in the organization.
“Your most powerful statemnt about me was that, and I must laugh, one monkey don’t stop the show,” Brown wrote in the letter.
Holmgren made no reference to a monkey.
“He’s part of the history of this place, a big part of it,” Holmgren said at the news conference. “Any way it comes down, it’s going to be a wonderful day. It’s going to be a celebration.”
Brown said he keeps no trophies in his home and rarely attends the Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities in Canton.
“I emphatically do not need validation from any man, so I will not participate in your Ring of Honor,” Brown wrote, concluding the letter. “Mike, there’s only one thing that I control in life, and that’s being a man.”
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