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The BET Awards mistakenly included politician Willie Lewis Brown Jr. in its “In Memoriam” segment on Sunday night. Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, is still alive.
The show’s producers likely meant to spotlight former NFL star Willie Brown, who died in October at age 78. The Hall of Fame cornerback played with both the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders before going on to coach.
Willie Brown, the 86-year-old retired politician, served in California’s State Assembly for 30 years, including 15 as speaker. Later, he became the first Black person to serve as mayor of San Francisco.
In an interview with San Francisco’s KGO, Brown joked about the mix-up: “Wait a minute, why don’t I make sure that every creditor that I owe money to gets the message that I’ve gone All my debts will be over! Over!”
He also said he received a call from someone at BET, and he told them not to fire the person responsible for the error.
“I said, ‘Willie Brown is a very common name.’ I know at least 6 other people whose names are Willie Brown,” he said, and then praised the late NFL star Brown for having “one of the greatest interceptions ever” in the 1977 Super Bowl. “And I am taking credit for that day in and day out. So it’s ok if I have to take credit for his death.”
BET told The Hollywood Reporter that “an apology has been issued” but declined to comment further.
Others included in the segment were Diahann Carroll, Bill Withers, B. Smith, Roger Mayweather, Ja’Net Dubois, Nikita Pearl Waligwa, Huey and Gregory Tyree Boyce.
Updated 3:35 p.m. July 1: Added Brown Jr.’s comments
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