Hank Aaron, the baseball Hall of Famer who famously broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record in 1974, has received a flood of racist hate mail after comments he made in an interview last week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his achievement.
Speaking with USA Today in early April
, Aaron recounted his time in the major leagues, explaining how hard it was back then when he received death threats when he came within striking distance of Ruth's record.
Aaron, 80, saved the threats, showing them to the interviewer. One read: "You are [not] going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it. Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. My gun is watching your every black move."
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Aaron continued to talk about the progress of African Americans, moving from baseball to politics and raising eyebrows when he seemed to compare the Republican party to the KKK.
"We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics," he said "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."
Upon the publishing of the interview, Aaron and the Atlanta Braves, of which he is senior vice president, received "hundreds" of racist letters, emails, and phone calls, according to USA Today
In reaction, the paper said "it was like 1974 all over again, the year Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record."
Some of the letters accused Aaron of racism himself for seeming to equate the Republicans with the KKK, while others proved Aaron's point about racism still being alive and well when they simply wrote to berate him while using racial epithets and slurs.
Aaron ended the interview by discussing the decreasing lack of representation African Americans have in the MLB, and efforts to reverse that trend.
In the past, the Atlanta Braves team itself has also come under fire for what some prominent Native Americans like W. Richard West Jr. say is a racially offensive team name, along with the Cleveland Indians, the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.
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