Anyone who has seen the movie “42” has a pretty decent understanding of the type of hateful fan mail the Los Angeles Dodgers received when they made Jackie Robinson the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. Threats and racist letters toward black players continued right into the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, they still exist today.
Hank Aaron told Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports last week that he keeps his hate mail as a reminder that racism is still very much an issue. He used president Barack Obama as an example.
“A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go,”Aaron said. “There’s not a whole lot that has changed. 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.”
Nightengale later specified that Aaron was not comparing Republicans to the Ku Klux Klan, rather simply stating that anyone would be a fool to think racism is a thing of the past. That hasn’t prevented the Atlanta Braves from receiving a new wave of racist hate mail over the past week.
“Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)” a man named Edward says in an e-mail to the Braves front office obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
Edward invokes the epithet five times in four sentences, closing with, “My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur).” …
… 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.
Here we are 40 years later, and the only difference is bigots don’t have to write their letters by hand. The hate mail is less frequent, but the fact that it still exists is embarrassing.