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How Breonna Taylor’s killing spurs Eagles’ Jamon Brown to push for a ‘new world’

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As a proud Black man fed up with social injustice and a native of Louisville, Kentucky, loyal to his hometown, Philadelphia Eagles offensive guard Jamon Brown has taken the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor to heart.

“We’ve been out here marching and protesting for a cause, for a movement, for a change. But right now, I’m here to tell you — look around you. Literally, look around you. People say ‘One day,’ and I say ‘Day 1.’ …Today in Louisville, Kentucky, we as a people have declared that we are all the same and that we as a people deserve the same justice. We deserve the same rights. We deserve the same opportunities of life.”

Those were the words the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Brown shouted through a bullhorn as he addressed thousands of masked supporters congregated in downtown Louisville on June 6 — the day after what would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday.

A man standing to Brown’s right threw a clenched fist in the air while nodding approval. The folks scattered along the front of the crowd stretched their cell phones high, attempting to capture every word of the passionate speech.

Brown was unaware he would be called upon to speak that day, but Christopher 2X, a Louisville-based, anti-violence activist, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Brother, do it for Breonna’s mom.”

He did it for his divided city. He did it for a broken nation.

Brown, a former University of Louisville standout, marched in numerous Louisville protests during the months of June and July in memory of Taylor, a Black woman killed by Louisville police who served a no-knock warrant at her home in March. He addressed crowds of thousands on the same Metro Hall steps as Rev. Jesse Jackson did at the same event in pleading for unity and change during a racially charged time nationwide.

Although Taylor’s family was awarded a $12 million settlement on Tuesday from the city of Louisville in a wrongful death lawsuit, Brown still wants to know why the officers involved in her shooting haven’t been arrested.

“Still in the fight. Hush money won’t end this,” Brown said when asked if the settlement changed his stance about the case.

His next step will be an attempt to get answers directly from the FBI.

Brown is scheduled to participate in a conference call with the FBI’s Louisville field office at some point before the end of the month. Christopher 2X set up the call, which will include six others, including a retired Air Force general and doctoral and law students.

“It’s about making sure that the right light is shed and that they’re not able to just turn a blind eye to what’s going on,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, I can’t make people make decisions. All I can try to do is be the people’s voice to put people’s feet to the fire.”

Inside Brown’s perspective

Brown’s passionate stance stems from his upbringing. The 27-year-old has come a long way since battling poverty, bullying and brief homelessness growing up with his mother and two siblings in the predominantly Black West End of Louisville. He admitted possessing the mentality “not to always trust the pale face,” meaning white people. Some of it had to do with learning about slavery and segregation as a child. Some of it had to do with early encounters with racism.

“I remember running around with some friends in sixth grade — some white — and we were throwing rocks at abandoned houses and got caught by the police,” Brown recalled. “Of course, we weren’t supposed to be doing that, but only me and my twin brother got in trouble when we all should have gotten in trouble. The officers didn’t arrest us, but they put us in the car and took us home. Being in the back of a police car and [being reprimanded] as if it was just the Black kids and not the group who caused trouble, that’s what made it traumatizing.”

Brown, a self-proclaimed “angry Black kid,” said he was far from a model student. As a sophomore at Fern Creek High School, he said he nearly got into a physical altercation with a white teacher he believed singled him out because he was a Black athlete. Brown said that after he verbally committed to play football at Louisville, “Teachers who would throw out shady comments like, ‘Just because you committed to Louisville, that doesn’t mean you run stuff.’ Little smart comments like that would rub me the wrong way.”

In one case, the situation got heated.

“One teacher that I kind of — we really never agreed,” Brown said. “He said something like that to me one day. I got offended. I kind of swell up. We’re kind of chest to chest. Security is called. There was talk like, ‘Hey, he’s talking about pressing charges against you for intimidation. He said he doesn’t feel comfortable coming to work.’ I know that although I got upset, he did too. It was only a one-sided offense, and I was the offender at that point, when he really provoked me. And he never received any discipline for that.

“Those people kind of in power … to write the narrative. He wrote it in a light that made me seem like this big, angry Black man and didn’t shed the light on what provoked that anger. That’s when I learned: This is how life is. This is how this s— goes.”

Brown said people knew “he was a good-hearted kid” and that, coupled with football allowing him to take out his aggression in a positive manner, saved him. He started playing football at age 7. He became a high school defensive line standout and then decided to play for the hometown Cardinals over other schools such as Kentucky, Illinois and Purdue.

“I didn’t want those experiences to deter me from my dream,” said Brown, whom Louisville converted to a guard during his freshman year. “If I ran away from it, then I alter what I aspired to make happen for myself.”

After he made it to the NFL as a 2015 third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams, he established the Jamon Brown Foundation devoted to helping at-risk kids and the underprivileged in Louisville. He plans to use his platform to combat issues such as systemic racism, which he said he deals with even today.

“I haven’t been killed for it, but I’ve experienced being treated like I’m not supposed to be somewhere,” Brown said. “I have neighbors that act like I didn’t pay for my house like they paid for theirs. It’s white people that do that to me, and I hate to say that because I have so many white friends. I get random texts from white people saying, ‘I’m sorry that white America doesn’t understand.'”

Brown wants everyone to comprehend the magnitude of the injustice involved in Taylor’s killing. But he said it’s not just Taylor. It’s George Floyd. It’s Ahmaud Arbery. The list goes on.

“It’s too many Black lives that have been wrongfully taken,” Brown said. “There are so many other situations that have been swept under the rug. What you see now is people saying, ‘Enough is enough.'”

Holding the police accountable

Taylor had big plans for her future, working to become a full-time nurse after serving as an emergency room technician and a certified EMT. The circumstances behind her death infuriate Brown.

According to reports, Taylor was shot five times and killed inside her apartment on March 13 after plainclothes police officers forced their way in using a battering ram after midnight to serve a no-knock warrant, which allowed entry without warning or identifying themselves as law enforcement. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg, believing he was an intruder. Police returned fire.

No drugs were found. The target of the probe was not at the scene.

Detective Brett Hankison subsequently was fired. Retiring interim police chief Robert Schroeder said in Hankison’s termination letter that Hankison shot 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment with actions that displayed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

“We can simply hush things up by firing all the people involved and taking those three officers to trial,” Brown said.

The Louisville Metro Police Department declined to comment when contacted by ESPN, citing the ongoing investigation. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron released a statement saying there was no timetable for the investigation’s conclusion.

Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, also declined an interview request. Brown shared several moments he had with Palmer during the Louisville protests.

“I told her that everybody is saying her name; everybody knows who Breonna Taylor is,” Brown said of his talks with Palmer. “As bad as it sounds, her daughter was the sacrificial lamb for change. You have people like myself — people who are in places of what people would call power — who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure those who did wrong are held accountable.”

Brown said Taylor’s case feels personal to him because he believes it could have happened to a loved one, such as his mother or sister. He didn’t know Taylor personally but views her as a “little sister.”

Athletes and celebrities have felt the same type of connection to Taylor in speaking out and demanding justice on her behalf. LeBron James wore a red ball cap to the Los Angeles Lakers‘ playoff opener with the words “Make America arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.” Oprah Winfrey had Taylor’s face put on the cover of O magazine and put up 26 billboards in Louisville calling for the officers to be arrested. WNBA players have dedicated the season to Taylor, wearing her name on the back of their jerseys.

Brown might not hold the same status as LeBron or Oprah, but he has done as much as anyone to keep Taylor’s memory alive. Participating in the protests was just the start. Brown, who was signed to the Eagles’ active roster from the Chicago Bears‘ practice squad on Tuesday, plans to wear Taylor’s name on the back of his helmet, as the NFL is allowing players to display such decals. Four of his former Atlanta Falcons teammates — Grady Jarrett, Jaylinn Hawkins, Sharrod Neasman, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson — also chose to wear Taylor’s name. Brown said although wearing her name means a lot, it would mean even more to see Taylor’s memory make a long-lasting impact on everyday society.

“It’s moving forward, everywhere,” Brown said. “That’s what I’m pushing for: a new day, a new world.”

Getting answers

The FBI call is aimed at establishing an open dialogue between law enforcement and concerned citizens.

Robert Brown, the special agent in charge of Louisville’s FBI field office, gained respect for Brown a few years ago. A framed picture of the family of Dequante Hobbs, a 7-year-old Louisville boy who was killed by a stray bullet in 2017, sits in the FBI office. The family is holding a No. 7 Rams jersey with “Hobbs” on the back. The jersey was donated by Jamon Brown when he played in Los Angeles.

“It’s helpful to have leaders like Jamon Brown setting an example and saying that, ‘We have a right to answers that we seek, and there’s a way to go about showing support and ensuring that we do have reform,'” special agent Brown said in a phone interview.

“And for someone like Jamon to come back and want to be involved in the lives of the youth is unusual. You don’t see that as often as we should.”

Jamon Brown puts on football camps yearly to connect with Louisville’s youth. He orchestrated a street-cleanup effort one morning after the Taylor protests. And he helped pay the funeral expenses for a 1-month-old child who died in Louisville after being hit by his father in a post-video game tirade.

“Jamon is an amazing attribute to Louisville,” said Amanda Mills, founder of the Southend Street Angels, a Louisville-based organization that helps the homeless. “He inspires many and gives hope to those who may not believe anything is possible.”

Standing together

On one of the first days he protested in early June, Brown said he had a confrontation with a white police officer in a parking lot off Louisville’s Shelbyville Road. Brown had joined about 30 others to protest on behalf of Taylor. But the officer, according to Brown, threatened to arrest him and others for trespassing.

“That offended me,” Brown said. “We hadn’t even begun to protest yet. We could have said we were just there as customers if those were private businesses there. But he jumped to a conclusion before even knowing.

“At one point, I was chest to chest with the officer. I was slightly nervous because with everything going on, you don’t know what could have transpired. From that point, I knew I was going to stop to bring awareness to the bigger matter: to push Breonna Taylor’s story.”

Brown hasn’t had any second thoughts about his passionate stance toward this cause. Before being released by the Falcons on Aug. 24, he spoke to Atlanta coach Dan Quinn about his activism. He informed Quinn about possibly being arrested during a protest, as Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills and 86 others were when they were protesting at Attorney General Cameron’s home. Stills initially was charged with felony intimidation, but the charges were dropped.

While Brown is focused on football and providing veteran depth for the Eagles, he said he knows his mission of achieving justice for Taylor is far from complete. In an Aug. 11 call organized by Christopher 2X, Brown spoke to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on how to implement measures outside of the new “Breonna’s Law,” which now prohibits no-knock police warrants.

Brown has an even bolder future plan to inspire change in his hometown. He is seriously considering running for mayor after football. He graduated for Louisville with a degree in justice administration.

“I’m potentially trying to be the president,” he said. “I’m going to shoot for the stars and land on the moon.”

Before Brown hits the campaign trail, he wants to see a ruling in the Taylor case beyond a multimillion-dollar financial settlement. Even if he doesn’t find the answers he seeks from the FBI, Brown said it won’t deter him from fighting for justice. It won’t stop his quest for equality.

“I’m alive during times that I read in history books: protests, that’s stuff I’ve watched on movies, not outside my front door,” Brown said. “That’s how real it is. That’s why we’ve got to wake up. White people, you have to wake up.

“It’s either we’re standing together or we’re falling apart.”

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Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson week-to-week with foot sprain

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RENTON, Wash — Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson is considered week-to-week after an MRI confirmed a mid-foot sprain, coach Pete Carroll said Monday.

Carson suffered the injury in the first half of Sunday night’s 37-34 overtime loss at the Arizona Cardinals and did not return to the game.

“There’s something there that we could see,” Carroll said of Carson’s MRI. “It’s just week-to-week, so we’ll see what happens. We don’t know. He was real determined to say, ‘I can go with it,’ but we won’t know until the end of the week, for sure.”

That’s just the start of the injuries the Seahawks (5-1) are dealing with in a suddenly banged-up backfield.

Veteran Carlos Hyde and rookie fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas were their only available tailbacks by the end of Sunday night’s game, after Carson and Travis Homer went down hurt. But Carroll is unsure of Hyde’s status for this week due to tightness in his hamstring. The coach said Homer has a knee bruise and not an injury, adding, “So that’s something he has a chance to recover from.”

The Seahawks have no other tailbacks on their active roster or practice squad. Rashaad Penny, their 2018 first-round pick, is still on the physically unable to perform list as he works his way back from a knee injury. Carroll said Penny is “getting close” to practicing, but the coach didn’t give the impression Penny would begin doing so this week.

It’s a potentially problematic situation for the Seahawks given how COVID-19 protocols make it difficult for teams to adjust to injuries on the fly. Players must go through several days of testing before they’re allowed to enter an NFL facility. That will make it impossible for the Seahawks to sign a free agent in time to reinforce their backfield for this week’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers (4-3), unless that running back had already started or completed his testing.

The Seahawks are hoping to have All-Pro strong safety Jamal Adams back this week, but Carroll said it isn’t clear whether he’ll be ready to practice by Wednesday. Adams has missed the past three games with a groin injury. Seattle had its bye during that span.

“I talked to him on Saturday before we left, and his workouts are going great and all that,” Carroll said of Adams. “He really wants to get back, but he’s going to have to show it that he’s capable of doing all the stuff that we need him to do football-wise. Because he’s so close to being back, I think this will carry into late in the week and we’ll see how it works out. But I can’t tell you conclusively right now.”

Carroll expects defensive end Rasheem Green (neck) to practice this week with the hope of playing next week. He has been on injured reserve, as has wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Carroll said Dorsett is running at 90 percent capacity but isn’t sure if Dorsett will practice this week.

Cornerback Shaquill Griffin is also dealing with a nagging hamstring injury in addition to the concussion he suffered against Arizona, Carroll said.

The 2,875 yards Seattle’s defense has allowed this season are the most through six games in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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Struggling New York Jets QB Sam Darnold gets pep talk from Adam Gase

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Coming off one of the worst statistical games of his career, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold received a pep talk and a vote of confidence from coach Adam Gase.

“I just keep thinking, ‘He’s 23, none of this can be easy,'” Gase said Monday, adding that he spoke with Darnold on Sunday night. “He’s a guy that did so much good in college and won a lot of football games. Things haven’t always gone as smoothly as everybody always hopes when they get to the NFL.”

The Jets haven’t won any games this season, as Darnold — expected to make a big jump in the second year under Gase — has shown signs of regression. The slump has fueled questions about Darnold’s future, with speculation the Jets might draft Clemson star Trevor Lawrence if they land the top pick.

In Sunday’s 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Darnold passed for only 120 yards with two interceptions for a 31.1 passer rating, the second-lowest of his career. It was a horrible offensive performance by the Jets (0-7), who managed only four yards in the second half — the team’s fewest yards in a half in 40 years.

Gase absolved Darnold of any blame, putting it squarely on the offensive line, which allowed six sacks. Gase said “it was collapsing quick on him” and he “didn’t have a lot of time to throw the ball.” When he did, the throws were tight-window attempts.

In five starts, Darnold has twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three). His numbers have declined from last season in all the major statistical categories.

Gase, hired to develop Darnold, insisted his pupil isn’t going backward.

“If you look at it statistically, we’re not good anywhere statistically,” he said. “What I see in practice a lot of times, I see things that were better than last year. When we get to games, we just have to figure out a way to protect him and let him get in rhythm. I saw some really good things the first half [Sunday]. Then it started getting really muddy in the second half.”

Darnold said he remains upbeat, although he admitted his interception at the end of the first half was “a terrible mistake, something I truly feel won’t happen again.” He called it a “dumb decision,” a pass into heavy coverage.

He was under duress throughout the game, as the Bills cranked up their safety blitzes in the second half. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, calling plays for the first time, had no answers.

The rebuilt offensive line was supposed to be improved this season, but it has allowed 24 sacks.

“I think everyone is frustrated. I don’t think it’s unique to Sam,” guard Greg Van Roten said. “We need to put him in a position to be successful. If we, as an offensive line, are playing like we did [Sunday], we’re not giving him a chance to show what he can do.

“And that’s not fair to him. That’s not fair to the team.”

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Cowboys DC Mike Nolan feels heat after hot sauce mishap during conference call

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FRISCO, Texas — When the Dallas Cowboys practice Wednesday, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might be on the injury report. The reason? Tabasco.

Nolan had to step away from his weekly conference call with reporters Monday because he got some hot sauce in his eye in the middle of answering a question about the effectiveness of pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.

“He’s been active every week as far as, I think, disrupting the quarterback. He’s escaped several times to do that,” Nolan said. “Obviously, the frustration for him as well is — look, it’s when he misses them. Whoop, excuse me. I’ve got something in my eye. Just had some Tabasco on my finger and it went in my eye, that wasn’t good. Ugh. Terrible, geez. I’m sorry.”

It’s been that kind of season for Nolan.

The Cowboys are on pace to allow 555 points this season. They have given up 243 points so far, which is more than they have given up overall in 11 seasons in franchise history, not counting the strike season in 1982, and equal to what they allowed in 1992.

Nolan was able to clean out his eye and return to the news conference.

“My eye feels a lot better,” Nolan said. “But it was burning.”

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