'Bitter' Hank Aaron 'Fed Up' Readers Took KKK Quotes Out of Context, Was Referring to 'CEOs, Corporate America'

Atlanta Braves legend Hank Aaron is reportedly "upset" and "bitter" because he feels that readers -- not the reporter who wrote the story -- took his comments that implied those who opposed President Barack Obama's policies now wear "neckties and starched shirts" instead of KKK hoods out of context.

And the reporter who wrote the story is claiming Aaron should not have to apologize for something he never said because Aaron was talking about CEOs, American society, and corporate America and not referring to a political party.

Last week, in a story that appeared the day before Aaron was honored for the 40th anniversary of his 715th home run that broke Babe Ruth's record, USA Today's Bob Nightengale quoted Aaron in a story in which Aaron expressed disappointment that there is still racism in President Barack Obama's America. 

In the story, Nightengale quoted Aaron as saying, "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 said on CBS radio on Wednesday that Aaron was talking about "CEOs, corporate America, everything else" and "he wasn’t referring to a political party."

“People can say things behind closed doors; they try to be more politically correct publicly, but (they) can (say and) do a lot of different things privately,” Nightengale said. “I agree with him. I agree that stuff now is kept more private. You’ll hear things at private parties or things behind the scenes where people won’t say things publicly, but they’ll certainly say it in whispers and things like that." 

MLB.com writer Terrence Moore mentioned that he has known Aaron for "over 30 years," and he said on two national television shows on Wednesday that the slugger is "fed up" with people believing that he was speaking ill about Republicans. 

"I talked to Hank earlier today and Hank is very upset with this entire situation," Moore said on ESPN's Outside the Lines. Moore said that "Hank feels he has been taken totally out of context here," and there is the "big focus is on that statement he didn't make that the Republican party is analogous to the Ku Klux Klan, which he never said."

"He is very bitter about this situation," Moore said. "This just opens up old wounds that he would rather not deal with." 

Host Bob Ley asked Nightengale whether the way in which the quotes were placed in the article was a "fair reflection of the proximity of the comments." Nightengale said it was a "fair reflection." Moore said Aaron through the years has been "very leery of the media because there has been a tendency to take him out of context," but praised Nightengale's story for being "perfectly accurate" and "perfectly acceptable." Moore even said there is a perception that "Hank said these things opposite of what Bob wrote."

Nightengale also said that Aaron had just broken his hip and gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor and was "very close to President Barack Obama and this stuff is just close to his heart." He said Aaron was not degrading any political party and was going from "one thought to the next." Nightengale seemed perplexed why people would think Aaron compared conservatives to the KKK even though Aaron spoke about racism in America and Republicans who oppose Obama directly before, by Nightengale's admission, making the comments about hoods and starched shirts. 

"I don't know why people draw that line about Republicans and the KKK," Nightengale said. "All Mr. Aaron was saying is that don't believe that racism doesn't exist now because we have a black president." 

Nightengale, on Outside the Lines, said "never did" Aaron "say the way he's treated is because people are racist because of political party. He never said that. So I don't know why people are drawing an inference to that." 

"Racism was a lot more overt back then and it still exists but it is a lot more camouflaged right now," Nightengale said. "But never was he saying that if you don't like President Barack Obama or his policies that you're a racist or degrading any political party... He has every right to be bitter for what he went through 40 years ago and never once has he lashed out."

Appearing later in the day on MSNBC's The Ed Show, Moore again denied that Aaron ever compared today's conservatives or the Republican Party to the Ku Klux Klan and said he was "fed up with this." 

Here are the relevant portions from Nightengale's USA Today article last week in which he quoted Aaron:

Aaron's march to history ended 40 years ago today, when his 715th home run vaulted him past Ruth as baseball's all-time home run leader. Yet it was an often joyless and lonely pursuit, and Aaron says he has good reason to hang onto the cruel correspondence.

"To remind myself," Aaron tells USA TODAY Sports, "that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. 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."

Aaron, 80, looks around and sees few African Americans as CEOs of major corporations. He reads and watches about incidents such as the Trayvon Martin case, a racially charged trial in which George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was acquitted after shooting and killing Martin, an unarmed black teen. Zimmerman was accused of racial profiling; he claimed he acted in self-defense.

And, of course, Aaron looks at the faces on the ballfield.

"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."

Nightengale looked at 25-30 "sickening" e-mails and letters the Braves received that were obtained by USA today and said the Braves were stunned "that this stuff still exists today." Nightengale said though Aaron did not receive death threats after his story was published, some emails were racist in nature. Nightengale said things have changed in America, but "a lot have stayed the same." The Braves organization has declined to comment on the letters or the situation surrounding Aaron's comments.


advertisement

Breitbart Video Picks

advertisement

advertisement

advertisement

Send A Tip

From Our Partners