Lions safety Tracy Walker will be carrying his cousin with him on the field this year.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Walker will wear a sticker with the name of Ahmaud Arbery on his helmet, and is making shirts to wear under his uniform featuring the face of his slain cousin.
Arbery was shot and killed while jogging hear his home in Georgia in February. Three men are awaiting trial on murder charges.
“It’s definitely a blessing for me to be able to do that and for the NFL and to except me to be able to speak out in that manner, especially with the whole [Colin] Kaepernick situation that went down,” Walker said. “I’m a firm believer in life is 10% what happens to you, 90% how you respond. And I can sit here and be sad and sit here and just be crying and be emotional about the whole situation, but I have to put in perspective that first off a lot of good — and I wouldn’t say I wanted this to happen this way, but a lot of good has come from that situation.
“And it has opened, like I said, a lot of eyes [to] things that’s been going on for decades, that’s just been getting overlooked.”
Arbery’s death has sparked the Lions offseason push for social justice reforms this offseason, and Walker said other incidents this offseason have caused him to reflect on ways they can bring awareness.
“It’s definitely opened my eyes to a lot of situations, which I would say as far as in meeting with my teammates, just seeing that we’re all bought in on the same objective of just trying to basically promote the idea of social equality and social unity is everything because we’re all the same and we’re all equal,” Walker said. “So I feel like that’s just one of the biggest things, just showing how everybody — I hate to say it like this, but you don’t really understand, as a Black man growing up, you don’t really understand if white people, and I don’t mean to say it like that but it’s the best way I know how — but you really don’t really understand [if] they really understand your struggle and understand what you have to go through.
“I’m not saying that it’s just we want a pity party, but at the same time our teammates have definitely, as well as our coaches, they have definitely stepped up and just listened to us as we have vocalized the problems that we face, that we have been going through just growing up in daily lives. So honestly, I just love the way that we have united as one on every aspect.”
The NFL is allowing players to wear pre-approved messages to honor social justice initiatives or to honor crime victims this season, and Walker said he also planned to wear Arbery’s name on his cleats.