The NFL's Atlanta Falcons and also Atlanta United of Major League Soccer have confirmed that they will retire the No. 44 for the 2021 seasons to honor Atlanta Braves legend Henry "Hank" Aaron.
Aaron died on Friday at the age of 86. Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said for the prepared statement:
"When you look at icons of Atlanta and the sport of baseball, Hank Aaron is undoubtedly included in that group. But he was more than an icon in sports, he was an icon off the field as well in how he carried himself and treated others. Because of that we are honored to celebrate his awe-inspiring life by retiring number 44 this season for our Atlanta Falcons. He was a true icon and yet when you encountered him, he always made you feel special. He was a great ambassador for the game of baseball, a great ambassador of the City of Atlanta and quite simply a great person."
Aaron spent 21 of his 23 MLB seasons with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves and held the all-time record for career home runs (755) when he retired. He also faced unspeakable acts of racism during his playing career and served as a civil rights activist from his time with the Braves through early 2021.
He recently received a COVID-19 vaccine to help promote the shot's safety to Black Americans.
Atlanta United president Darren Eales added:
"To celebrate the incredible life and career of baseball legend Hank Aaron, we are proud to retire the No. 44 this season for our Atlanta United and ATL UTD 2 teams. He was an American hero, a trailblazer and arguably Atlanta's greatest sports icon. The impact he had on our city, our country and the sports world is immeasurable. Hank Aaron will undoubtedly live on through the countless lives he touched and through the young athletes across the globe who he has inspired."
Aaron was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1982.