Hank Aaron, Atlanta Braves receive racist hate mail


Hank Aaron at a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of his 715th home run before the start of a baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets on April 8 in Atlanta. (David Goldman/AP)

The Atlanta Braves received a bevy of angry, racist letters this week after an interview baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron did with USA Today.

A few days ago, Aaron, the senior vice president of the Braves, told USA Today: “Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country. The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

That set off a firestorm of mail to the Braves, including a letter from someone named Edward. (USA Today only referred to those who sent letters by their first names.) The letter, which included racial epithets, said: “Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of s—.”

“The Braves have been besieged by hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls deriding Aaron for comments he made to USA TODAY Sports,” the newspaper said. Sportswriter Bob Nightengale continued: 

Marion calls Aaron a “racist scumbag.” Ronald won’t attend another Braves game until Aaron is fired. Mark calls Aaron a “classless racist.” David says that he will burn Aaron’s I Had A Hammer autobiography.

Sheer racism, exposed in vile letters directed to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, have poured into the Atlanta Braves offices over the past week.

Yes, it was like 1974 all over again, the year Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, with letters laced with the most hateful epithet known to African Americans.

 

Milwaukee Braves slugger Hank Aaron kneels in the outfield before a game, June 1957. (AP Photo)
Milwaukee Braves slugger Hank Aaron  in the outfield before a game in 1957. (AP Photo)

Aaron was the target of hate mail as he closed in on, and eventually broke, Babe Ruth’s home-run record in 1974. Nightengale noted that this new crop of racist messages came just as baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, April 15.

This isn’t the first time Aaron has weighed in publicly on issues regarding race. When critics called Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman a “thug” following his nationally televised rant after the NFC Championship game earlier this year, Aaron tweeted him. “Hang in there & keep playing as well as you did Sunday. Excellent job – you have my support,” he told Sherman.

 

h/t Talking Points Memo

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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