NFL legend Jim Brown sues Bohemia sports auction house over championship ring

Former Cleveland Browns Hall of Famer Jim Brown Former Cleveland Browns Hall of Famer Jim Brown at an NFL news conference at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix on March 18, 2013. Photo Credit: AP

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Long Island and NFL football legend Jim Brown is suing a Bohemia sports memorabilia company for allegedly selling his stolen championship ring and falsely claiming that he is suffering from mental lapses due to concussions.

Brown -- a schoolboy star from Manhasset who claimed multiple NFL rushing records with the Cleveland Browns in the 1960s -- said Lelands.com is auctioning off what it claims is his 1964 NFL championship ring without his permission.

The ring, he says in federal court in Manhattan, was stolen from him in the late 1960s, but the company has refused to return it and owner Josh Evans added insult to injury by saying in an interview on CBS' "The Morning Show" that Brown's memory was impaired by "thousands of hits to the head."

"Defendants, in an attempt to injure Mr. Brown's reputation, intended to create a link in the public consciousness between Mr. Brown's athletic career and the recent, high-profile litigation regarding retired NFL players and the effects of concussions on mental faculties, particularly those suffering from dementia," Brown's lawsuit says.

Lelands.com, according to the suit, says on its website that it has received an offer of $58,978 for the ring, but the auction is open until Friday. The company, Brown claims, says it got the ring from a relative of his.

Lelands.com describes itself as "the largest and most respected Sports Auction House in the world" on its website. In a statement Wednesday, Evans called Brown's claims "entirely without merit" and said, "We intend to vigorously defend against them."

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Brown, 78, says in the lawsuit that he reported the ring stolen to Cleveland police in the late 1960s, and Lelands has profited from suggesting that he might be lying -- with the auction getting more attention because of the controversy.

He wants an injunction blocking any sale, return of the ring being auctioned if it is genuine, and damages for defamation, which he claims has harmed his post-football work as a youth speaker and counselor.

"The statement is injurious to plaintiff in his business in that plaintiff, as a community leader and role model, must present an image to troubled youth and individuals of being of good and honest character," his lawsuit says.

Brown still holds the NFL record for rushing average per carry and yards per game.

Almost four full pages of the lawsuit are devoted to his biography and athletic accomplishments at Syracuse, in the NFL and later as an actor.

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