Hank Aaron's Friend Says MLB Great Has 'Just About Given Up' on Civil Rights Fight: Report

Jordan Cohn
June 25, 2020 - 4:00 pm

Not long after MLB legend Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, shattering Babe Ruth's all-time record, Georgia congressman Andrew Young had some poignant words to say about the slugger.

"Through his long career, Hank Aaron has been a model of humility, dignity, and quite competence," Young said. "He did not seek the adoration that is accord to other national athletic heroes, yet he has now earned it," (via the National Baseball Hall of Fame).

He went through a lot to get there. A lot. Which is why it's so upsetting to hear that after his long and strenuous journey to stardom, through immense levels of hatred and racism, through what seemed like it could have been the worst possible era in Civil Rights history, it's only now that he may finally be giving up.

Bryant additionally mentioned that he's had similar thoughts regarding his own uncle of similar age and that it's his "nightmare" to think that President Donald Trump may be the last living memory he has. Since the initial tweet, Bryant has not yet spoken about his call with Aaron.

Again, Aaron has been through more than most anybody in terms of dealing with social justice -- or injustice, rather -- and race issues. It wasn't just through his ball playing that he earned the respect and support of millions of loving fans. It was through his fight to get there.

He's shared stories about hiding from the Ku Klux Klan as a child in Mobile, Alabama. His baseball career started not in the Major Leagues, but in the segregated Negro Leagues. He had rocks thrown at him throughout his early career. He received death threats, which grew exponentially as he neared Babe Ruth's record, increasing in both the malice of their content and in the frequency with which he'd receive them. Mail from extremely racist fans was filled with extremely disturbing messages, including one which read "How do I tell my kids that a n***** did it (broke the HR record)" and another that read "Retire or DIE... You will not vandalize his record," (via Jen Christensen of CNN).

He fought through all of this -- all of this unimaginable hatred and evil -- which adds to his legacy and makes it easy to see why he's as beloved as he is, but also makes it devastating to hear that our current times may top it.

And it's not like he hasn't done his part. He's a hero in every sense of the word. He's helped to set up and operate diversity initiatives in baseball, which is amazing in itself, but his achievements go beyond the diamond, too. He's provided scholarships to underprivileged children throughout the nation with the Chasing the Dream Foundation, among many other charitable organizations. He's been a lifelong supporter of the NAACP. He's been awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rock throwing, death threats, the KKK right outside his window... it's only now that Hank Aaron may finally be giving up the fight. After all, what more can a person possibly go through, possibly do, before he or she views a task as insurmountable?

But this doesn't mean you should give up. He's fought incredibly hard for you. Now, do your part and fight for Hank.

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