Growing up biracial in the heavily segregated, suburban town of Brandon, South Dakota, former NFL player Dale Moss felt like an outsider. This sense was compounded by both his parents’ limited means and his sister Amber’s intellectual and physical disability, which became the source of schoolyard taunts. Moss recalls his kindergarten classmates pointedly asking what was wrong with Amber, and subsequently feeling both distraught and protective of her. Yet Moss, now 29, remembers his fourth-grade sister taking the jibes in stride.
“I expected her to be super hurt by it,” he recalls. “But she was like, ‘Don’t worry, Dale, they just don’t understand. Once they understand, that won’t happenAmber’s markedly mature, Zen-like pronouncement suggested that her classmates had had little exposure to differently abled bodies—yet she maintained faith in their ability to accept her. Despite Moss’s young age, this represented a turning point for him. Increasingly better-equipped to put diversity and inclusion into perspective, Moss grew to see his sister as not only their family’s de facto leader, but as someone who broke boundaries and lived fearlessly.
He sees a similar ability to transcend and defy expectations in Special Olympics athletes like Danny Davila, whom he first met while Davila, 21, was competing in 2017’s World Winter Games in Graz, Austria. There, Davila, a native New Yorker, won a bronze medal as part of the unified floor hockey team representing the United States. Ultimately, Davila hopes to become a Special Olympics ambassador himself, a wish he expressed on ABC’s Good Morning America, when they featured him in a Special Olympics segment last fall. “I want to see the young generation achieve the same goals that I did. I want them to have the same opportunity to travel all over the world, to get on TV,” he adds. Davila considers the organization he first came to via the Manhattan Occupational Training Center, aka P.S. M721, akin to a big, always-welcoming family.
Now part of Davila’s extended circle himself, Moss initially became involved with Special Olympics through his sister, who competed in track and field, basketball, and wheelchair races. Of course, she wasn’t the only athlete in the family. Prior to segueing to the entertainment and fashion worlds as a model, influencer, and host, Moss was a South Dakota State University college football star and NFL wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, among others. During the off season, he lived in Los Angeles, host of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, and he sought to get involved. When the Games committee invited Moss to play in the unified soccer experience, he found it all pretty surreal. “Not only was it meaningful on a personal level because of my family ties,” he says, “but being able to be around 7,000 athletes from over 150 countries and just seeing how unified the city was in that one moment, was completely unbelievable.”
PHOTOGRAPHS SLOAN LAURITS
FASHION MICHAEL VENDOLA
CREATIVE DIRECTION THE STYLE COUNCIL PARIS
GROOMING DANA BOYER
CASTING EVELIEN JOOS
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