Michael Wilbon Recalls ‘Surreal’ Summit Where NFL Legend Jim Brown United the Crips and Bloods
Jim Brown died on May 18, 2023, at 87. The former NFL player’s passing led to many remembering stories — both good and bad — about the polarizing icon. That includes ESPN’s Michael Wilbon telling the tale of the time Brown invited members of rival Los Angeles street gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, to his house for a “surreal” and peaceful summit during the LA riots in 1992.
Brown is an extremely complicated figure who led an astonishing life. That included being arguably the best running back in NFL history, a prominent civil rights leader for the Black community, and a Hollywood actor. It also involved multiple arrests for violent acts, including several against women.
While others will recount the ups and downs of Brown’s life, Pardon the Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon remembered the legend by sharing an incredible story about the 1992 Los Angeles riots and Brown brokering a piece between LA’s most notorious gangs.
Michael Wilbon covered the LA Riots and ended up at a one-of-a-kind ‘summit’
In the Spring of 1992, the streets of Los Angeles, California, erupted in violence after a jury acquitted four LAPD officers for the caught-on-tape beating of Black motorist Rodney King.
The six days of rioting resulted in arson, vandalism, assaults, and murders, as well as over $1 billion in damage to the South Central and Koreatown neighborhoods of LA.
During the racially-charged uprising, a young Michael Wilbon was out in California covering the events for the Washington Post he shared on his PTI co-host’s podcast, The Tony Kornheiser Show.
In LA, Wilbon got “a piece of information that Jim Brown is going to have this thing — this summit — at his house in the Hollywood Hills. And the Crips and Bloods are going to be at his house,” the host recalls. “Even as I say it now … it sounds apocryphal. What are you talking about? The Crips and the Bloods? LA was on fire.”
So, in true ’90s fashion, Wilbon got word to Brown through mutual contacts that he wanted to speak with him, and Brown called the reporter at his hotel room. The former RB invited Wilbon to his home to witness the meeting, giving him “turn-by-turn” directions in the days before GPS.
The reporter-turned-talking-head then drove to Jim Brown’s house for what he now calls “the most surreal night of my life,” where he stood on Brown’s back patio beneath the famed Hollywood sign and watched “Los Angeles burning” while an unbelievable meeting was going on inside.
Jim Brown brokered peace on the streets of LA in 1992
As a young Michael Wilbon drove up to the home of Jim Brown in late April or Early May of 1992, what he experienced next was nothing short of amazing.
“I get there, and there’s already people lined up,” Wilbon shared with Kornheiser. “And I’m thinking, there’s gotta be a uniformed guy, a uniformed police person. There’s gotta be somebody on the door. How do you have the Crips and the Bloods in your house, and there’s no metal detectors?”
The host of the gathering quickly answered that question.
“Jim Brown says to people coming in, ‘If you carrying something, you put it down. You lay it down over here. You don’t bring anything into my house. We won’t have that.’ And that was it,” Wilbon recalled with amazement. “The most dangerous people at the time in Southern California who are part of the reason that the city is ablaze, they just — because Jim Brown said, ‘You don’t bring this into my home.’ He had the moral authority, and guys looked at him like he would kill them, and they did not do it.”
The PTI host continued with his recollections, noting that newscaster Ted Koppel was also present that night, as was fellow sports reporter Jim Gray, who was so “terrified” of the situation that he “stood by the door the whole night.”
He also recalled that Brown ordered some of the gangsters to help him with his story for the Post, including one who Wilbon remembers vividly nicknamed “Lil’ Monster.”
In the end, the most incredible part was that Brown told the Crips and the Bloods that night that the gang violence needed to be over, and “for a while, it was over.” And that was because of Jim Brown.