During his NFL Hall of Fame speech, Randy Moss talked about the struggles of growing up with a single mother in West Virginia. He boasted about his kids and the motivation they provided him to succeed on the field. He thanked his wife for supporting him through his struggles. But it wasn’t what Randy said that had the most profound effect. It’s what he did.
On one of the biggest professional stages, one of the best receivers in NFL history wore a tie with 13 names on it. Gregg Gunn, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Paul O’Neal, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Brenden Glenn and Akiel Denkins.
24-year-old Akiel Denkins was shot and killed in Raleigh during a struggle with Officer D.C. Twiddy. There were conflicting accounts of what happened by officer Twiddy, who said Denkins reached for a weapon, and witnesses who said they never saw a weapon. Twiddy was not charged.
Denkins’ mother, Rolanda Byrd, who heard about Moss’ tie honoring her son when a friend tagged her in a picture of it on Instagram, told Carolina Blitz that she is so thankful for him and others like Colin Kaepernick for using their platforms to keep stories like her son’s alive.
“It meant so very much. It’s amazing to see our people of color with those platforms, such as Randy Moss and Colin Kaepernick, use them to keep these stories going because there are a lot of people who aren’t getting justice. It’s not justice when the officer is allowed to go back and patrol the streets and attack someone else’s child.”
Byrd has continued to fight for law enforcement accountability through a group called Raleigh PACT, a coalition of community-based groups, community leaders, and non-profit organizations committed to human rights. She has gone to Raleigh’s city council calling for every police officer to be outfitted with body cameras and the establishment of a citizens review board.
“There is a problem here in Raleigh with the treatment of people of color. My purpose from now on is to be able to advocate for other people’s children…other people’s sons and daughters who are getting unfairly treated by law enforcement. “
Rolanda described her son as having the biggest heart – someone who never met anyone he couldn’t call a friend and a young man who was trying to change his life for his two sons. She wants everyone, from those with large platforms like Randy Moss to residents of her Southeast Raleigh neighborhood, to continue to speak up, to use their phones to record incidents of injustice and to say something when they see something.
“I’m very proud of these men using their platform. Let’s keep people aware of what’s going on. If we are silent to everything we see, then we are a part of the problem.”