On the field, Jamon Brown has been working alongside his teammates in Flowery Branch getting ready for the season during the strangest offseason of our lifetimes. Off the field, though, he’s been working tirelessly, using his voice and platform for good.
Jamon took the time to speak with The Falcoholic about what preparing for an NFL season during a novel coronavirus pandemic looks like, as well as the excellent work the Jamon Brown Foundation is doing to push for justice for Breonna Taylor, provide COVID-19-related relief, and other social justice efforts in Brown’s hometown of Louisville, Ky.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Jeanna Thomas: One of the things I’m really excited about going into this season, when you, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary all have a year with this unit under your belts, and knowing how important cohesion is along the offensive line: I think that that should be a real benefit, but it’s been such a weird offseason. How are you all adapting as you prepare for the season?
Jamon Brown: Like you said, it’s been really unique that we could virtually still form and and build on that camaraderie that we had already started to build on last year. Of course, it was difficult because not being there in person, it’s hard, but from being back today with the guys, it’s like we never left. It’s like we didn’t miss any time, and I’m excited. Obviously, like you said, we have a year under our belts, so we all know how things go, how things work, and who people are and what to expect. And so now we can really focus on ball and getting better and everything else, the smaller new details coming a little easier now. So I think that although we did have a weird offseason, just from the first day on the field, it feels great. It feels great. So I’m excited to see how we continue to grow. Obviously, things are still different. You know, we’ve got the masks, we’ve got the trackers, we’ve got — things are still different. So we’re still trying to, I guess, acclimate to what the new norm is. But doing it with those guys has been fun already.
JT: Well, it’s got to be nice to not just be around people you’re related to.
JB: We as football players, we don’t typically get this much time. Even in offseasons, we typically don’t have this much time with loved ones. So from the plus side, COVID-19 was able to slow the world down a little bit and allowed us to get quality time that sometimes is cut short. But like you said, being amongst different people is definitely great, too. So, I’m glad — a little anxious, right? Because things are still so weird. Today was rough for a lot of us, just because of all the rules, and you have a mask on, and when you were home, you didn’t necessarily walk around with masks. So we’re just getting used to making sure you keep your distance, but still, seeing other people has been great.
JT: That is great. I’m glad to hear it. I know one of the elements that a lot of fans are very excited about that the team added this offseason season is Todd Gurley. And so as somebody who’s going to be primarily responsible for creating holes for him, what did you get to see from him today? And how are you feeling about that acquisition?
JB: Well, so this is it’s more so like a family reunion with me, because obviously me and Todd were added to the St. Louis Rams at the time together. We spent three and a half —well, the time that I was there was three and a half years — I kind of already know who he is. He’s definitely — on the field, he’s everything you read about and everything you hear about. And I think he was able to show a little bit of that today — stuff that I already knew, right, but he still impresses me, of course, with some of the things he still does. But I think he’s a great back. He’s been a great back. So it’s not really new. The biggest thing I want to see from him is really just embracing the new team. I mean, being in a new setting — I went through it twice already, right, going to the Giants and then now with the Falcons. And so I saw how I had to acclimate to the new levels and new heights that I’ve been, but to see him because I know him — he’s a funny guy. He’s outspoken; he’s a leader. He’s passionate about what we do. And so I think once he starts to really show that to the team, the team’s really going to love that.
JT: I think so too. And I know Dan Quinn will love it, so I’m really excited to see what he can do this year.
So I’d like to talk about a lot of the work that you’re doing in your hometown of Louisville. And I want to start just by talking about Breonna Taylor. This is very close to my heart. Obviously you’re familiar with all the details, but she deserves justice. I was relieved when I saw that the the FBI is finally investigating.I’ve been calling several times a week the Chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department, the Mayor there in Louisville, trying to push for justice for her. So I’m really, really pleased to see some forward progress there. I would just love to hear about how you’ve been approaching your support for justice for Breonna Taylor and other social justice efforts in your hometown.
JB: I’m really just listening. First I think a lot of times too many of us in in those positions of leadership, in positions of power, we assume what a problem may need or what a situation may need before we really give it time to tell us what it needs. And so for me, my approach has just been — I’m very coachable. So it’s kind of been, like, getting a general feel of what’s going on, figuring out, hey, how do I plug in? How do I help us move the dial? And then I’m going and doing that wholeheartedly. And so for me, the whole thing started with just a simple cleanup.
My foundation, we did a cleanup to clean up after protesters that were already protesting, right. I hadn’t been back home that long before really hearing the details [about Breonna Taylor’s death] again. I had heard it had happened, because it happened two days before my birthday. But it wasn’t until around March 20, when I got back home, that I really started to hear the details around what happened. And at that point it was a no brainer. Just because us when you look at other murders or other types of cases like that, and you look at the time sensitivity, there’s really no lapse. And for the people that were involved to have this much time, right, in between figuring out who’s responsible, if someone’s responsible, for it to just take this long is where I just disagreed. And just looking at it rawly, right — they’re still a citizen, right? A citizen of the city, although they may wear the title of law enforcement, how are they basically above the law and procedures that a normal citizen will go through? Right? If I right, go out and murder someone, Right, I’m held in jail until proven innocent. In this situation, these people have been basically the opposite. Right? They’re innocent until proven guilty. And I don’t think that that is fair to us as citizens, to Breonna Taylor, to Breonna Taylor’s family, to Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, all right? Just the message that it sends to the people that are affected by this whole situation, right now it’s not only the city, it’s the nation, right? I don’t know, if the people in the foreign countries that have been protesting are protesting are because of Breonna Taylor, but who knows — it could have reached that far. See what I mean? And so when you look at the effect that this case has had on everybody, you you can’t help but but wonder, how do we change this, right? How do we generally hold people accountable for the same types of actions?
JT: Yeah. And I think that’s so it’s so infuriating because, first of all, she was sleeping in her bed. Secondly, her boyfriend owns a legally licensed firearm — that is his Second Amendment right. And he fired at them he thought that it was a break-in, which any one of us would have thought, and then they didn’t render aid to Breonna for 20 minutes after they shot her, and they might have been able to save her. That last part in and of itself is what really drives home the point that there have to be consequences for the officers who did this.
JB: You know, that’s where I think the people are getting upset. It’s just because [the officers] haven’t gone through the steps that any other person would go through — like they have yet to be tried, they have yet to even be apprehended. It’s the simple steps that another person will go through — like even myself, right? I don’t think that me being, I guess, a celebrity status or whatever you may consider an NFL football player, I don’t think that that that gives me an OK in certain situations to be not held accountable for my actions. And so that’s why I got up off my couch and was like, hey, listen, we all are mutually the same, right? Regardless of our employment status, regardless of our ethnicity, regardless of our religious beliefs, we’re all human, right? And the thing that bothers me is our leaders of our community, the people that I put my trust in, the people that everybody puts their trust in have not been the leaders we need them to be. Right in the moments of chaos, when they could really control the chaos and give people some sort of peace, they’ve done all the wrong things. I mean, even if you’ve got to blow smoke at someone, you could at least say at least say the right things. And after so many chances and opportunities for them to do that, they have yet to do that.
And so, me being a leader in my community, right, I’ve stood next to these people on so many different causes. And like you said, you’ve reached out them — I’ve reached out to them, too, right now we’ve been able to have meetings other times. I have yet to have a conversation about this matter. It bothers me. That bothers me. Because, again, I try to represent our city, represent the people of our city, in the right way. Right? And since I’m a citizen of Louisville, my mayor, my attorney general, my police chief, they have not represented me the right way. I don’t want to send a message of, “you’re not held accountable for your actions.” I teach my daughter, listen, every action has either a consequence or a reward. That was what I was taught, regardless of what it is, and so for our leaders not to hold that same model in any situation, that bothers me. And that bothers a lot of people.
JT: And it should, because those leaders are not leading, period. Oh, I could not agree with you about all of that more enthusiastically.
I don’t want to take up too much of your time. But I do want to ask you about some of the other excellent work that your foundation team is doing, particularly in the Louisville area. I know that you experienced homelessness when you were growing up, and I know that is a primary focus of what you do. And I think that as we look around at the current economic climate in the U.S., as we look at the impact of the pandemic, and I know that you’re also focusing on coronavirus support, too — I would just love to hear a little bit more about what you’re doing there, because I really feel like those efforts are so important right now — now more so than ever.
JB: Right. I’ve got to hand it to my support team on the foundation work because again, I didn’t come up with all this stuff myself, right? is it’s a collective group that we sit down we discuss, hey, what does our city need? What do people need? And then we we we try to act that out. Like you said, homelessness was something that I experienced growing up. And I think and I feel like the nation that we say we are, the people that we say we are, there’s no reason that we have anybody on the streets, right? Even still, how do we help people move ahead if they don’t have anywhere to live?
When you’re homeless, it’s kind of hard for you to focus on being a better person, being a better worker, a better citizen. You have nowhere to protect you from the elements. When I made my dream a reality, I thought that it was my duty — I think is all of our civic duty to help our neighbor. So my priority was just, how do I help people get off the streets? I know that there’s a lot that goes into getting them there, right? But if we were all judged on some of the decisions that we’ve made, unfortunately, a lot of us would be in different places. We’ve just had a little cushion or we’ve had different things that have obviously prevented us from being there. But I just feel like all it takes is one decision or one wrong — like one pandemic, right? It could be something completely out of your control that could have you there.
Let alone there’s homeless veterans, there’s people that have served our home. I don’t want to say our country — this is our home, they have served our home, tried to protect our home, and they still have no help. I just disagree, right, because I’m in a field where not only do I make great money, I have great benefits. I have stellar insurance, and I think that that’s where it’s tipped. I think that since I make great money, that I should be able to pay for some of the services, and then the person that makes less money should be offered those services, so I think that just kind of equals things out a little bit, but we don’t do that. To me it’s not reasonable. So it’s hard for me to stand by and watch that happen.
So what I’m doing a little is trying to create different ways to combat that problem on COVID-19. Nobody predicted COVID-19 there’s a lot of areas that already struggle with healthcare and being able to have access to an opportunity. I feel like for me to try to step in and help out, I can’t help everybody. But I think we could if we did it together. I mean, that’s really what I’m just trying to do in my community is I’m trying to be that model or that example of, hey, if we look at our community as a team, our culture as a team, right, for us to score a touchdown, it takes 11 players. It’s not just Todd Gurley running across the goal line. It took Julio Jones cutting off the back side safety. It took Jake Matthews getting that Will linebacker, that backside linebacker. It took Alex Mack giving a good snap to Matt Ryan. It takes so many pieces, and so I kind of approach our problems in the same sense. I can’t totally fix it, but we can fix it. We can fix it. And so that’s my approach with anything.
And then, of course, since the Breonna Taylor incident, the Jamon Brown Foundation has been like, hey, we can make a pivot into social injustice and try to push for change there, because to me that’s just so much bigger right now than all of us — this, and coronavirus, and homelessness. But these are problems that we’re going to fight until it’s over with. Our perception of people, our laws and our different systems that are in place I think can be completely different. I do. So I look at I look at our systems and our different laws and things like the iPhone, right? There’s no way we can’t reform these things, right? We come out with a new phone, new apps and features every year, and we have yet to reform some of the things that have been put in place so long ago. I think it kind of contradicts how we work right? I mean, everything’s coming up with something new. Yeah, we come up with more laws, right? We do create more new laws, but yet we have yet to go back and fix some of the ones that need fixing. And so I’ve been trying to bring light to that, bring awareness to that because again, with my platform, for us as athletes, we stand up and speak, we bring a lot of attention, like you see in basketball, them being able to wear different things that they stand for on their jerseys, right? We bring so much attention [to these causes], so that’s what I’ve been trying to manipulate — bringing attention in those places that are vital to the longevity of our our nation.
If you want to support the work Jamon Brown and the Jamon Brown Foundation are doing to provide coronavirus relief, combat homelessness, and bring justice for Breonna Taylor, you can donate here.