Syracuse University is in hot water for their decision to unretire number 44, which was famously worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little. These were three of the best running backs to ever play the college game, but they were also important with breaking down barriers for black athletes.

And if you do not understand what a number means, plenty of schools have jersey numbers designated for a specific player or retired because they mean so much to the college. For instance, no one in Ole Miss will ever wear 18 again after Archie Manning, but sometimes at places like USC the number 55 is solely reserved for a game changing defensive beast like the late-great Junior Seau.

Now, 44 means something because of the athletes that donned it. Jim Brown and Floyd Little were amazing talents that developed into Hall of Fame players in the NFL, but Ernie Davis, who died way too soon, was the first African American to ever win the Heisman Trophy. So obviously, there is history behind this number, which is why certain folks are upset about Syracuse’s decision.

“It bothers me to see the decision being made by my alma mater to unretire the legendary 44,” Syracuse-alum Donovan McNabb said on Twitter. “The great RBs who wore the number put SU on the map. What message are we sending across college football and to the football world that it’s okay to unretire such history that was so strong that a movie was made about one of our great RBs in Ernie Davis.”

“No one should be rewarded in wearing that number. Do [you] see other schools taking numbers down from the [rafters] for any reason at all? I think it is totally disrespectful to those who have worn it and for those who wore the mighty Blue and Orange. It was retired in [2005] for a reason. Which it should have been done along time before then.”

The school, for now, has since backtracked a bit, so it is unclear whether this decision will actually go through.

Jim Brown Comments On Syracuse Unretiring 44

Syracuse, in their original statement, said they got approval for the decision from both Little and Brown. Well, Brown just appeared on The Rich Eisen Show, where he was asked about the whole ordeal.

“I didn’t exactly endorse it. I just didn’t complain.” Brown stated. When they asked him a follow up question, he continued, “I didn’t talk to anyone before they decided to do it, so they couldn’t have my blessings.”

“To unretire something, there has to be a commercial aspect to it. So if it’s going to help the team professionally or help a scholarship fund or something like that, then that’s good. But for me, to endorse something that takes away something from you, that doesn’t make sense. Unless I did something to deserve it. It seems like a punishment to me. I didn’t take it that way, but it couldn’t be a positive thing unless someone explained it so all of us could see the positive aspect of it.”

While a jersey number never mattered much to me, I can see where Brown and McNabb are coming from. This 44 was worn by some of the greatest athletes to have ever played the game. And to possibly sully the name by unretiring and giving it to a kid can be difficult to swallow. Still, the number was worn before Brown and after Little until it was retired in 2005. In fact, six people wore it after Floyd and even two wore it between Brown and the aforementioned Little. So one can ask, has the school really taken that much care of the number?

But like Jackie Robinson’s family convening about giving out the number 42, if Syracuse continues with their plan, then they need to include Brown and Little on the decision. They, at least, owe them that much.

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