History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
So the adage goes—and in the case of Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, it is painfully true. The 80-year-old legend was subjected to racist slurs and threats days after a controversial interview with USA Today.
Last week Aaron spoke to the news site about the lack of advancement in race relations, seemingly likening Republicans to the Ku Klux Klan.
"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," he said. "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," he added. "Now they have neckties and starched shirts."
To be fair, Aaron never directly linked the GOP and the KKK. As the original writer, Bob Nightengale, put it in a follow-up article at USA Today: "Never in our 50-minute conversation did Aaron suggest anyone critical of President Obama is racist. Never did he compare the Republican Party to the Ku Klux Klan. Simply, Aaron stated that we are fooling ourselves if we don't believe racism exists in our country. It's simply camouflaged now. And, yes, he feels sorry for his good friend, President Obama, and the frustrations he endures."
Aaron's words were interpreted otherwise, however, and as that same follow-up article reveals, the baseball star—who has kept threatening racist letters from 40 years ago—now has more odious notes to add to his painful collection.
"Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)," one man wrote in an email, according to USA Today Sports. "My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur)," the man, whom the news site identified as Edward, added at the end of his note.
According to USA Today, the offices of the Atlanta Braves, Aaron's former team, have been inundated with similar hateful phone calls, emails and letters from those upset over Aaron's comments.
One person called him a "racist scumbag," while another called him a "classless racist." One particularly upset individual said that he'd burn Aaron's autobiography.
It seems that these folks have missed the irony of their comments. Decades ago Aaron received similar letters as he set his sights on Babe Ruth's home run record. One letter he kept claimed, "Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. My gun is watching your every black move."
And for four decades Aaron has held on to those painful letters as a reminder—"that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself," he told USA Today in the interview last week. "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."
It would appear that he's right.
Read more at USA Today.