Jim Brown: I'm with Colin Kaepernick '100 percent'

Cleveland Browns Hall of Famer Jim Brown is best known as perhaps the greatest player in NFL history.

Coming of age in America's turbulent 1960s, though, Brown is also recognized for a social activism beyond football that led to the Black Economic Union and the Amer-I-Can program which has changed the lives of former gang members and ex-convicts.

Appearing on Monday's edition of NFL Total Access, Brown weighed in on the controversy surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's recent protest during the playing of the national anthem.

"I listened to him and he makes all the sense in the world. He's within his rights and he's telling the truth as he sees it," Brown explained. "I am with him 100 percent. ... Now if you ask me 'Would I do that?' No I won't, because I see it a little differently. I'm an American citizen, I pay my taxes, I want my equal rights but this is my country, and consequently I don't want to open up for ISIS or anybody that will take away what we've already gained."

When Brown arrived on the NFL scene in 1957, he fought for equal rights in a league that still limited the number and influence of African-American players.

"We had to fight in a certain kind of way to make it better," Brown said, "so these young people can make the kind of money they're making and the league can be 80 percent African American.

"Young men in my day really stepped up. ... These were champions for freedom, equality and justice for all humans beings, and they were educated individuals that used their education and knowledge to represent their case. So now 50 years later we have a young man saying something that was kind of taken for granted in our day. We were way past that. For me it's like going back in time."

While professional athletes have been reluctant to speak out in recent years, Brown believes there are signs that they are becoming more outspoken and willing to deal with the public backlash -- as Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett implored late last month.

"Absolutely. I think Pandora's Box is open. I'm very happy that it is," Brown continued. "So many years, we had the great Michael Jordan who stated that Republicans buy sneakers, too. ... And for a couple of generations it was about making money, not messing with your image. And the agents became the pivotal figure for a lot of these guys. And the agents kept reminding them that you have to be this all-American boy to make these kind of dollars and these dollars are astronomical dollars. So the money came into the culture and created a couple of generations of individuals who did not want to speak up."