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Hank Aaron: racists still exist. It’s just that “back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Apr 8, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

Hank Aaron AP AP

Hank Aaron dealt with a lot of blatant racism back when he was growing up in Alabama continuing on through his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s record. But as he notes in an interview with USA Today, racists are still around. They’re just wearing different clothes:

We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. 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.”

Aaron went on to cite the decrease in the number of U.S.-born black baseball players as evidence of racism:

“When I first started playing, you had a lot of black players in the major leagues,” Aaron says. “Now, you don’t have any (7.7% of big-leaguers last season). So what progress have we made? You try to understand, but we’re going backward.”

I’ll agree with him on the first point. Yes, the obvious racism of the Jim Crow era is mostly eradicated or at least well-hidden, but structural and institutional racism still exists and is perpetuated through both intentional and unwitting means.

As for the number of black baseball players: well, there may be some structural racism involved there. A lack of funds for baseball programs in which young black kids can play while expensive traveling youth leagues — available primarily to white players — proliferate. But there is a lot more going on there too. The popularity of other sports like football and basketball among them. And, as we’ve noted several times, baseball may have fewer U.S.-born black players involved, but it is more diverse than ever once you account for all of the foreign born players.

In any event, I’m happy to hear Aaron speaking out about this. There has been this sense of Aaron being elevated into some grandfatherly elder statesman of baseball. Which, yes, in many ways he is. But when people get that treatment they’re usually expected to no longer say controversial or uncomfortable things. To be above the fray, as it were, like other members of the royal class. I’m glad Aaron doesn’t feel like his enormous popularity prevents him from saying things that may make some folks uncomfortable.

202 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. zinger99 - Apr 8, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Speaking of Bush,I wonder who paints those paintings of his.

    • yahmule - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:57 PM

      Someone with faulty depth perception and palsy.

    • louislipps - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Curt Flood?

  2. eagles512 - Apr 8, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    News flash Hank. Democrats treated Bush a lot worse than Republicans are treating Obama. But why let that keep you from making your point.

    • pauleee - Apr 8, 2014 at 8:57 PM

      You’re high. Or delusional. Or both. AND you’re an Eagles’ fan. Trifecta

    • jwbiii - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:37 AM

      And you can tell that because they tried to repeal GWBush’s signature achievement, the Iraq war, far more than 50 times.

      A. Produce citation(s)
      B. Admit you are clueless
      C. You are clueless and a coward

      Your move.

    • narragansett55 - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      What idiots like Hank Aaron can’t grasp is that people disagree with Obama not because of his race, but because they disagree with his policies. I couldn’t care less how the Dems treated Bush or the Repubs treated Clinton etc. Politics has been like that from the beginning. The only difference now is lazy Democrats and liberals attributing all criticism of Obama to racism. Give it a rest.

      • zemongoose - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        What idiots like your mother can’t grasp is that Saran Wrap is not an effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

  3. 4d3fect - Apr 8, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    “All the criminals in their coats and ties
    are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise”

  4. barrywhererufrom - Apr 8, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    Please stick to Baseball Hank. These comments about politics today are embarrassing to say the least. It was disgusting the racism you experienced. But to compare gridlock in Washington to racism is beyond idiotic. When Democrats went against Bush to stop legislation that they didn’t believe in where they racists? Say it ain’t so Hank..

    • cohnjusack - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      Really? I remember the Democrats rolling over on a lot of pretty reprehensible legislation for Bush…

    • historiophiliac - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:07 PM

      How nice of you to explain politics to the old black man. Clearly, he is too stupid to understand politics and the complexities of racism. Thankfully, he has you to set him straight. Thanks, Obama!

      • narragansett55 - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        And how condescending of you tell the poster that he’s a racist. Give your race card a rest, liberal. It’s lazy, it’s tired and it’s old.

    • DJ MC - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      It would be much more helpful if this came from someone who wasn’t working with the username “barrywhererufrom”. I’m pretty sure you aren’t clarifying the location of Barry Bonds’ hometown.

    • normcash - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:01 AM

      Barry, you must be a devotee the Fox Fiction….er, News Channel…

      • barrywhererufrom - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:18 AM

        I know the same network that broke the IRS targeting scandal..NSA scandal..The Obama Care lie about millions of people being able to keep their insurance. Yeah that network. See you keep your head up your ass and continue to believe the lies of thus administration. The only thing you have left as a libtard is to blame the people who are reporting the real news about Obama.

      • narragansett55 - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        And you must be a braindead lemming follower of MSNBC, right Norm?

  5. southpaw2k - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    I’m sure the fact that I’m a white moderate conservative in my mid-30s plays a role in my view, but I have a serious issue with the sheer term “racism.” I simply do not believe that skin color differentiates one race of humans from another. We’re all human beings at heart, and it’s our ethnic differences that have led to different skin colors and/or physical traits developing.

    I hate that Hank Aaron had to suffer through the kinds of threats and trials when he was chasing Babe Ruth’s record 40 years ago. I hate that there are people still today who drive us apart from each other largely based on something as trivial as skin color. I hate that conservatives are viewed in the general public as hate-mongers simply because they disagree with President Obama on philosophical points, especially when one of the greatest hate-mongers during segregation was George Wallace, a Democrat.

    More than anything else though, I hate that there’s this misconception that we are of different races because some of us have white skin, and others have darker colors. It’s a classic Occam’s Razor: we are all one race on this earth, and that’s the human race. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

    • jollyjoker2 - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:11 PM

      Hank made an opportunity… . America isn’t created for everyone to win – just like sports. I might think I am good enough to be a CEO and run a large corporation – but I am also delusional. It certainly doesn’t make the people who didn’t hire me racist —does it?

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:56 PM

      We all trace our ancestry back to Africa. We are all cousins. But some of my fellow whiter folks refuse to accept that and insist they are better than folks of a darker hue. They still insist on denigrating and even mistreating darker skinned folks. And for lack of a better term, we call that racism. It’s a learned disorder. The known cure is education.

    • narragansett55 - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      Outstanding post southpaw.

    • mpzz - Apr 13, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      The point is, and I realize most of you right-wingnuts aren’t smart enough to follow this, but the point is that Obama is actually pretty conservative. I’m a liberal, and am intelligent enough to know Obama isn’t one. If he were white, you wingnuts would mostly love him! Your opposition to him is completely because of the color of his skin.

      • southpaw2k - Apr 14, 2014 at 7:29 AM

        Way to jump to crazy assumptions there. I didn’t like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Liebermann, John Kerry, or John Edwards any more than Obama. I’m not sure how you classify Obama as “conservative” by your standards, but I sure don’t share any political ideologies with him.

  6. jollyjoker2 - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    Yes, there are racists – so what. I bet if you ask 95% of blacks why they voted for their king – 90% of would say race. Look in the mirror buddy.

    • thebadguyswon - Apr 13, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      What percentage of the black vote went to Obama? 94% I believe…..that is also racism. I realize many blacks are democrats, but there was a TON of racial preference in that voting block.

      Which is fine – I don’t really care. But lets not for a second pretend that racism is the sole domain of the old, white man.

      • mpzz - Apr 13, 2014 at 4:27 PM

        You think because blacks voted for another black person, as opposed to a white billionaire who HATES them and follows a cult that says black people only get into heaven if a white person lets them in as a SERVANT, that that makes the black voter racist?
        You are truly a moron.

      • thebadguyswon - Apr 13, 2014 at 9:47 PM

        LOL….truth hurts huh. Idiot

  7. musketmaniac - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    wow, Hammerin hank and 100 comments by people with a lot less intelligence than they pride themselves on. KEEP THIS SIMPLE racism and baseball. Hanks old team the atlanta braves are moving their team in to a new stadium so that there white fans won’t have to drive thru neighborhoods containing people that look like hanks relatives.

    • barrywhererufrom - Apr 9, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      And if their were high crime white neighborhoods they would still move the stadium you’s about crime rates not skin color you racist!

  8. chill1184 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:39 AM

    On the base statement Hank is right, racists still exist for anyone to think that racism went away is foolish if not retarded.

    Racists just changed their tactics by supporting policies like the drug war, gun control, affirmative action, minimum wage, ‘immigration’ controls, occupational licensing and so forth. However it’s important to note that race hatred will never go away, you’ll always have the Al Sharptons, Pat Buchanans, Jesse Jacksons, Frosty Wooldridges, Louis Farrakhans and David Dukes of the world. They’re always a younger version of them ready to take the mantle when their leaders kick the bucket.

    • straightouttavtown - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:42 AM

      Affirmative action is racist against Asians and white. It’s reverse racism.

      • 4d3fect - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:13 AM


  9. hateonlyhatred - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:54 AM

    I resisted reading this article because I knew that Hank Aaron would disappoint me with his comments and he did. To say the Republicans treat Obama badly because of his race is just outright disingenuous. Republicans treat Obama badly because of his policies. You know, those Socialist/Marxist tendencies he has. How are you supposed to treat a President who says the Constitution, which he is sworn to uphold, gets in the way of things he’d like to do?

    I understand that Mr. Aaron has legitimate claims of racism as he was growing up and working his way through baseball to eventually break Babe Ruth’s record, but these kind of hollow words do nothing but diminish real racism, which by the way is just not a white on black crime.

    Yes, blacks have fallen behind, but the percentage of black baseball players isn’t really relevant when discussing why it has happened. Broken families is the malady that should be discussed when broaching this subject. Nobody wants to discuss the real issues because they are afraid of falsely being labeled a racist. Again, false racism claims only drown out real racism cases. When men spread their seed to four or five different women and take no responsibility in raising their children you are bound to have failure. Good old Al and Jesse are still able to make tons of money over the scams of false racism, but they never talk about the real issues. They’d rather focus on George Zimmerman than deal with all the black youth being murdered in Chicago.

    There is much to be fixed in the world of race relations and I just wish the Hank Aaron’s, the Jamie Foxx’s, and the Oprah’s of the world would be part of the solution rather than fanning the flames within their own race by spreading lies. Their world view is clouded by the lives they lead and they seem to be blind as they see the world through their wealthy eyes.

    • largebill - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:32 AM

      “To say the Republicans treat Obama badly because of his race is just outright disingenuous. ”

      Yes, you’re right, but for Hank Aaron to openly say something so clearly wrong shows how successful the left has been in selling such nonsense. Such a disgusting false allegation should only be muttered in low whispers between conspiracy theory fools not openly in public by otherwise intelligent people.

    • American of African Descent - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      President Obama is about as far to the left as Regan and Eisenhower. And when Republicans claim that President Obama is really a foreign national, or a secret Muslim, or harp on the fact that his middle name is Hussein, they are painting him as “other” and “different.” My friend, that is pure, unadulterated racism.

      Are there issues where black American could lift itself up by its own bootstraps? Yes. But to say that institutional racism still doesn’t exist? Can I come live in your world?

      • historygeek6 - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        Can I come live in your world?

        Sorry, no you can’t! …redlining.

        …Oh, wait… …that ended in 1968 didn’t it?

        OK. Come on over! We’re one big happy family now!

      • largebill - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        You have to be incredibly ignorant of history and politics to claim the nonsense you posted there. Whether you like President Obama’s political positions or not, it is ridiculous to argue he is not far to the left of President Reagan.

        Separately, it is not racism to note that a guy raised in Indonesia and schooled in a Muslim madrasa during his early years and then abandoned by his mother to be raised by far left grand parents in Hawaii during his teen years is “different” from someone raised in a stable two parent household on the mainland. FYI, Muslim is not a race. Ergo, correctly or incorrectly believing someone is a member of the Muslim faith is not an act of racism.

        Also, disagreeing strongly with Obama on issues is not an act of racism. Many people disagreed with Clinton and Carter among others for the same reasons they disagree with Obama.

      • American of African Descent - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        That’s right, historygeek. We passed some civil rights statutes and that all of a sudden ended discrimination and changed attitudes for all time! Yay!

        Largebill, there is an ignorant person in this conversation. (Hint, he’s not me.) Further, no one said that disagreeing with President Obama for legitimate policy reasons makes one a racist. Claiming that he is a secret Muslim (even though President Obama has made a profession of faith), or that he was really born overseas, or harping on his middle name, or demanding that he produce a birth certificate makes one a racist. No one ever claimed that McCain converted to Buddhism based on his time in Vietnam, or demanded that McCain (who was born in Panama) produce a birth certificate to prove he was really born in the Canal Zone. Why the double standard? (Here’s another hint: look up Occam’s Razor.)

      • hateonlyhatred - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        “President Obama is about as far to the left as Regan and Eisenhower.”

        That is one of the most ignorant statements I’ve ever read. OBAMA IS MORE LIKE LEFT OF TROTSKY. You, “American of African Descent” are dismissed as a loon who could never be taken seriously.

        My observation of people’s perceptions continue to amaze me. Thankfully I’m able to isolate myself from you fools.

      • American of African Descent - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        Is that because you choose to live in a compound with the rest of the wing nuts?

  10. largebill - Apr 9, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    “The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

    Oddly enough that quote comes from a guy wearing a necktie and a starched shirt who seems fixated on race.

    • psousa1 - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      You beat me to it…………..

  11. psousa1 - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    Does Hank Aaron believe the evil white establishment are twirling their handlebar moustaches then rubbing their hands together and saying “let’s keep the negroes out…………” Guess what? White kids aren’t playing the game as much either! You are going to see more and more foreign born players in the next 10 years to the point it will be 50/50.

    All kids – black, white, Asian are now playing soccer year round and lacrosse during the spring. I know this doesn’t fit the narrative of the race baiters but it is fact.

  12. theroc5156 - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    What’s the percentage of black players in the NBA?
    What’s the percentage of black players in the NFL?

  13. theroc5156 - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    So basically, Aaron is saying that progress isn’t being made because the percentage of black baseball players is declining. Has he looked into why? Perhaps black kids aren’t playing baseball as much? Perhaps the influx of foreign-born players has lowered the percentage? I sincerely doubt owners of baseball teams are practicing institutional racism. The only one acting like it’s 1950 again is Aaron.

  14. apeville - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    my take:

    • historygeek6 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      I applaud you for at least trying to be progressive in your outlook. But there’s SO much more going on that you’re not aware of!

      When 95% of the population (who happen to be white) declares this to be the greatest nation on Earth, and 5% (who happen to be non-white) are sitting back in the shadows, looking at each other, and quietly shaking their heads, it IS effectively the greatest nation on Earth! And when it’s 85% and 15%, it’s still the greatest nation on Earth. But we’re fast approaching the point where the numbers are getting closer to 60% and 40%! And we’re pretty soon going to be forced to be a bit more honest about “greatest for whom”? And why?

      Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a few random scattered bigoted fools. It’s much bigger than that. And has been for a very, very, very long time.

  15. goodellisruiningtheleague - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Hank’s wearing a neck tie and starched shirt in the picture posted…

  16. azarkhan - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Shut up you old fool. You are completely clueless.

  17. doughpro160 - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    This saddens me. He is parroting something that Charlie Rangel said years ago. The thing is, and every southerner should know this, that it’s the democrat party that wore the white hoods. Is he also claiming that it’s the democrat party who has Obama’s feet in the mud?

    I am burning every card of his that I have…

  18. musketmaniac - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    a gaggle of geese, a pride of lions, a stripe of zebras, and now you guys. a bunch of bozos.

  19. musketmaniac - Apr 9, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    enlighten me. where is the nearest white ghetto. poland?

  20. musketmaniac - Apr 9, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    barry I do love the moron comments. this is my favorite type of human interaction.

  21. RichardRider - Apr 10, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    Baseball icon Hank Aaron has dropped from venerated sports idol to being a bitter, ignorant, bigoted, pitiful old man. It’s truly sad for us more senior folks to read this story.

    Aaron equates modern Republicans with the KKK. And there’s no equivocating about it. If Republicans criticize Obama, that’s racist. Modern coat and tie Republicans used to wear white sheets — according to Aaron.

    Consider his concluding “proof” that blacks are being discriminated against in MLB:

    As an example, Aaron cited the decrease in U.S.-born black baseball players as evidence of modern-day structural racism. Last season, just 7.7 percent of MLB players were black.

    “When I first started playing, you had a lot of black players in the major leagues,” Aaron said. “Now, you don’t have any. So what progress have we made? You try to understand, but we’re going backward.”

    Pathetic. Blacks are being “replaced” primarily by HISPANICS, plus players from other countries (especially Hispanics, but also Japan). Whites are NOT “replacing” blacks in MLB.

    Today the black culture holds talented black football and basketball players in the highest esteem — but seldom extols black baseball players. Black kids get the message early — concentrate on football or basketball — the “black” sports.

    Some talented black kids have found that tennis and golf offer more lucrative opportunities — sports that in the past were denied to them, so they might have concentrated on baseball. Moreover, inner city schools simply don’t have baseball diamonds. Nor is there any pressure to provide them.

    Black interest in baseball has largely evaporated — a significant concern to MLB. For more detail on how MLB treats blacks, see this “report card”:

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