On the field, Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown's peers treat him like a regular human being – the way he deserves to be treated.
Off of it, however – when not wearing team-issued apparel like he had on during his Friday virtual media session with local reporters – he experiences the same racism faced by Black men in America.
"I am a football coach, I'm passionate about what I do, but I am who I am first," Brown said. "And when I take this (gear) off, whether I was at Georgia playing, whether I was at Wisconsin coaching, Miami coaching, Marshall coaching, South Carolina coaching, anywhere I've been coaching, I'm always treated differently when I have this logo on, because people love football. But when I take it off? I'm treated the same exact way every other so-called Black man in this country is treated."
Brown, 34, said he has experienced and been exposed to racism since he was eight years old, when he moved into an all-white neighborhood in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a suburb about 30 minutes east of Atlanta. As the Rams continue engaging in conversations about social justice in wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, head coach Sean McVay said Thursday that Brown is someone "who has been an incredible influence on me and a help in terms learning, understanding, getting a better perspective on all this."
Brown recognizes that while talking about it is important, what's most crucial as he helps educate Rams players and coaches is for them to move on from dialogue and channel that anger and frustration into tangible action.
"If talking had solved racism," Brown said, "it would've been solved a long time ago."
For Brown, the best solution instead is to hold systems, structures, institutions and people accountable and speak out.
"Being able to educate our guys about how to attack the system – I told them, they have to realize that we have been at war in a lot of ways, from a black community standpoint, from the very beginning," Brown said. "I've never been shy about that at all, and I'm not going to be quiet about that in any room I'm put in. I think being able to direct those guys to be able to use their voices, use their power, but also understand that racism is about economics. You can't oppress people if you can't keep them poor, keep them impoverished. Whether it be police brutality, whether it be education, whether it be the financial world, every institution in this country has racist components."
Dismantling racist institutions is important to Brown because he believes trying to change the minds of racist people is a waste of time. They don't have control over the system, so it's more important to him to show players there are other ways to hold people accountable to affect change.
"We talk about the influence of, whether it be police policies, whether it be the mass incarceration of the Black community, when it comes to underfunding of schools from an education standpoint and limiting opportunities in the black community, there are people who control things that have money that hide behind institutions," Brown said. "That's what has to be attacked, called out and exposed."
That brought Brown to a key agent of change he mentioned at the beginning: Economics. It's also critical to him to show players things they can do day-to-day to give back to their communities from a financial standpoint.
Brown explained that while events like autograph signings, summer camps or reading to a classroom of young students are beneficial to their communities, "ultimately someone has to help the community to combat some of the stuff that has been against them for a long time."
In closing, he used the analogy of the coaching staff game-planning for an opponent each week.
The staff learns an opponent's weaknesses and builds a gameplan around the most effective ways to attack them. The same mindset must apply to attacking racism.
"There are many ways you can attack it, there are many ways to build a team to go about it, but I think being able to educate our guys is important, but also more importantly to empower them," Brown said. "It's what is going to help bring about change."