Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jackie Walker - You Inspire Me

Maybe it's not a national recognition, but Jackie Walker's induction into the Greater Knoxville Hall of Fame is well warranted and long overdue. Unfortunately, Walker isn't around to witness or receive it.

Jackie Walker was the first African-American football player in the Southeastern Conference to be named an all-American and the first to captain an SEC team. He still remains in NCAA record books for his interception touchdown record. His records on both the high school and college levels are phenomenal. But Walker had a problem. He was openly gay.

He was drafted to the San Francisco 49er's shortly after college but he was axed just before the season began. Many have concluded that it was his decision to live outside of the closet that led to expulsion from the team.

As he was dying of AIDS related complications in 2002, his brother promised that he would get Jackie into the Greater Knoxville Hall of Fame. It took some persistance, but his promise has finally been fulfilled. Although this award comes posthumously, it is still significant.

It is sad that times haven't change. I still don't think we're at a place where a professional athlete (specifically a male pro athlete) can come out and have a successful career. Kudos to Walker for being authentic and true to himself - inspite of the consequences. You are a role model for young LGBT athletes and a signal for why a change must come.

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