Four University of Kentucky football players helped break the color barrier in the Southeastern Conference, but the pioneers know the work can’t be done yet. A statue of Nate Northington, Wilbur Hackett Jr., Houston Hogg and Greg Page stands tall near Kroger Field, and now Northington and Hackett are continuing to use their voices to shine a light on the racial injustices in America, as seen in a new report by Mark Story for the Herald Leader.
The column, titled “UK football’s racial pioneers heartbroken by enduring racism” retells the inspiring story of how these four African American men helped change the conference and the sport for the better, and how Northington and Hackett want to see the power of sports continue to make a difference.
“I think athletes have to take a more active role in the community,” Hackett says in the article. “Interact with the police. Interact with the black community. Interact with the white community. They have a platform, they need to use it.”
From high school recruits to the professionals, athletes are doing just that. Coaches from across the country – including Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow – are marching along with them in Black Lives Matter protests. And while Northington says things have certainly changed for the better since his time as a student athlete, he’s frustrated and saddened by current events, specifically referencing police brutality and the killing of George Floyd.
“It breaks my heart to see the things that are taking place, the societal and and racial injustices that are still continuing to happen,” Hackett says. “We have made progress, but what we are taking now are giant steps backwards. These are not small steps, these are giant steps.”
Technology, especially police body cameras and cell phones with the capacity to quickly and clearly record and share videos – has made it easier than ever to spot those backward steps.
“Racism has not changed,” Northington says. “But with the videos, people are able to see those things as they happen. It brings more things to light when you see it with your eyes.”
For more from Northington and Hackett about their UK football careers, their lasting legacy on the sport and their hope for the future, I encourage you to read the full story, linked below.