While many of the 50 year old and up group will remember the summit’s defence of Ali and the 1968 Olympic protest (and George Foreman waving the American flag after winning the gold medal) few realized that both life changing events was influenced by the courage and determination of a group of African football players in the 1965 AFL all-star game held at the time in New Orleans, were segregation was rampant.

Just before the event, the players were told it (the segregation) would stop; it didn’t. The African players had a hard time getting cabs, eating in restaurants, and sleeping in good (meaning “white”) motels. Some players called a meeting, and it was at this meeting one Carlton Chester Gilchrist spoke out saying it’s “got to stop.” On the strength and conviction in that man, all the African stars decided to boycott the all star game. Even more beautiful was that many of their Caucasian brethrens supported them in the cause. The game was forced to move to Houston. Meanwhile, New Orleans, which was in the running for an NFL franchise, was stunned that the AFL had pulled out. They started de-segregating lickety-split, and a short time later. New Orleans eventually got their franchise a few years later, and was a city thought to be over their African hatred until Katrina.

The Cookie That Did Not Crumble.

This was supposed to be the name of a long awaited but never completed autobiography of a MAN of principles, integrity and conviction. They called him Cookie, but while he was sweet to watch, he was extremely difficult to pin down, hold down and to many NFL-CFL-AFL players hard to tackle. Cookie Gilchrest died on January 10th at an assisted living centre near Pittsburgh. He died of throat, prostate and colon cancer at the age of 75. He left two men and a woman, who he raised to be principled people.

Cookie Gilchrest was one of the American Football League’s first marquee players, He was a 251-pound bruiser whose ferocious running style drew comparisons to that of the great Jim Brown, and his grit and single-mindedness extended beyond the football field. Gilchrist took stands against racism and wasn’t afraid to demand better contracts.  There’s no doubting that Gilchrist was one tough cookie, uncompromising on the field and off it in an era in the late 1950s and early ’60s when it was pretty much unheard of for a black player to be outspoken. He felt he was a victim of racism throughout his football career.

“He was a strong-willed guy who never gave in to pressures people put on him,” said his son Scott, who lives in Toronto. People say he could have been a wealthy man if he had acquiesced or kowtowed to the opinion of the day. “He always did it his way and lived life by his rules. . . Either people really loved him or didn’t like him that much.”

“I think the guy was chiselled by God,” said Canadian Football Hall of Famer Angelo Mosca, who played against Gilchrist. “He was a guy who asked no quarter, gave no quarter. The guy was just an awesome athlete.”

An incredible athletic force at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, the native of Brackenridge, Pa., dominated on both sides of the ball during a time of two-way players. While fullback was his prime position, but he also played halfback, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback and even kicker. He was born in 1935 in Pennsylvania and after high school, applied for entry into the NFL draft where he was taken by the Cleveland Browns. He was denied entry by the commissioner and ended up playing in the CFL, as he became ineligible to play football in both the NFL and at the collegiate level.. He first ended up with the Sarnia Imperials and the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen of the Ontario Rugby Football Union. In 1956, at 21, he joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and won a Grey Cup with them in 1957.  He also played for The Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1958.

For five straight years in the CFL, Cookie Gilchrist was an all-star at running back, amassing 5,111 yards rushing during his CFL career. He also had 12 interceptions in his time on defense. And, in addition to linebacker he played as a 250 lb cornerback. . He also truly wanted to be paid for all three positions. “I fulfill three roles on your team so I want three salaries,” he used to say, and when he didn’t get it he was vocal about it. Cookie Gilchrist didn’t drink, do drugs, or smoke, but may have had a touch eccentricity within him as he drove a car with the words: “Lookie Lookie Here Comes Cookie” on it.

For three of those five seasons he played with the Toronto Argonauts -1959-1962 — he still holds the single-game scoring record of 27 points. The Argos would flash “Lookie, lookie, here comes Cookie” on the scoreboard to let the opposition know he was coming, but there was little they could do to stop him.

In 1960 he was a finalist for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award, losing to Edmonton’s Jackie Parker. “Possibly, for his age, he may have been as good as Jim Brown,” said former Ti-Cat Angelo Mosca. He was probably the most outstanding football player I knew,” said former Argo teammate Norm Stoneburgh.  Stoneburgh recalled the time some would-be tacklers ended up pulling Gilchrist’s pants down. “He continued down the field without slowing down at all,” he said. “He was running in his underwear — or his jock.”  But his departure from the CFL left him bitter and he felt exploited by the league establishment. He rejected all offers to put him in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

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