The beaten path has never been Jim Brown's favorite territory. Even when it comes to charity work he has strong opinions.

The former Cleveland fullback, in town yesterday for a charity luncheon at the Grand Hyatt, stressed the overemphasis on role models and the need to mobilize young black males. He was at the hotel to film a talk show for Kids In Trouble, a Washington-based nonprofit group that aids disadvantaged youth.

In recent years, he has worked with his American Program -- he said it emphasizes the last four letters of the first word -- which helps youths in prison and in gangs. And he says those people make sports role models unimportant.

"Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, these are one-of-a-kind people," he said. "You're going to hold them up in front of a nation of ordinary people? They're loved because they don't rock the boat. . . . The guys that make all the money can be role models. Not role models to bring about change, but to bring about the appearance of change. Do you think brothers today making $3 million and not speaking out are any more than house slaves?"

He said that in his program he stresses his vulnerability rather than his athletic achievements. He has tried to make inroads in the Los Angeles gang war, assigning one member of each gang to be national spokesmen for the organization.

"The young black male is the most powerful source of energy and change we have," Brown said. "My hope is to start a direction where these young men will be given respect and taught how to utilize it."

His acting career is thriving but he said nothing has given him the satisfaction his charity work has.

"It's not even close," he said. "Because the greatest art you can participate in is human development. That's the only reason we're here. What other reason is there? To build big buildings and put 'Trump' at the top? To be the heavyweight champion of the world? To proclaim yourself God? When you move people, and they move you, that's it."