Herschel Walker, a legendary former NFL running back and Heisman trophy winner, is considering a potential 2022 run for United States Senate in Georgia.
A Georgia native and ardent Republican who served as an honorary co-chair of former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler’s campaign, Walker was reportedly encouraged to run for the seat himself by former President Donald Trump, his longtime friend going back to the 1980s. During a recent radio interview, Trump, who posted an official statement several months ago gauging interest in a Walker campaign, referred to the retired athlete as a “patriot” and a “loyal friend.”
“Wouldn’t it be great if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia?” Trump wrote in a statement in March. “He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the NFL. He is also a GREAT person. Run, Herschel, Run!”
While Walker is still in the early stages of building his campaign, the football hero’s pivot to politics has raised concerns due to his turbulent past, which includes repeatedly threatening his ex-wife’s life, according to the Associated Press.
Walker, who was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, wrote a book in 2008 detailing his long struggle with mental illness. He wrote candidly about sitting at his kitchen table in 1991, pointing a gun loaded with a single bullet and playing Russian roulette. Walker’s ex-wife told ABC News that at one point during their marriage, her husband pointed a pistol at her head and said, “I’m going to blow your f’ing brains out.” She filed for divorce in 2001.
Beyond his violent history, Walker also joined the board of directors of a foundation operated by pro-Trump-attorney-turned-QAnon-celebrity Lin Wood, underscoring the NFL legend’s affiliation with the far-right conspiracy movement.
Wood, who first gained notoriety when he represented Richard Jewell, a security guard falsely accused of planting the bomb in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, has since reinvented himself as a Trump advocate. Along with fellow attorney Sidney Powell, Wood filed lawsuits seeking to undo the 2020 presidential election results in several swing states, which made him a celebrity in the far-right QAnon conspiracy movement.
Prior to becoming a QAnon mainstay, Wood founded the #FightBack foundation with a stated mission to “protect and defend the constitutional rights, livelihoods and property of people and businesses that are being targeted and destroyed.” Wood’s foundation gained notoriety as part of the legal defense team for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with the fatal shooting of two people during an August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The foundation also set up a fund to cover the legal fees, eventually amassing more the $2 million in donations. Wood, however, eventually shifted his attention away from the case in favor of trying to undo the presidential election results in Georgia. Rittenhouse’s mother later claimed that Wood wanted Rittenhouse to stay in jail to maximize the fundraising potential.
It is worth noting that Wood and several other pro-Trump lawyers are facing potential discipline for a lawsuit they filed last November that made baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the most recent U.S. presidential election. Despite the controversy surrounding Wood, Walker continues to maintain a relationship with the lawyer.
“Herschel is aware of the many false attacks on me and my mental health by the State Bar of Georgia, the media, and others who do not stand for truth,” Wood wrote on Telegram in February 2021. “Herschel told me that he would stand proudly side by side with me to fight the false accusations against me and work with me to insure honest elections and to defend our Constitution.”
Walker’s campaign has also raised concerns from fellow Republicans, many of whom are unsure of the pro-footballer’s stance on key conservative issues or how he will handle discussing his well-publicized mental health struggles. As Republicans aim to win back the Senate majority they lost in January when the Democrats won the two Senate runoff elections in Georgia, some may worry that Walker could prove to be a detriment to their cause.