During his playing career, former Atlanta Braves outfielder Hank Aaron let his bat do most of the talking. As Aaron looks at sports today, the Baseball Hall of Famer sees an era where athletes are more vocal than ever before.
Speaking at the “Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Awards,” Aaron was asked about athletes using the attention they receive to voice their political opinions. Aaron did not hesitate to give his perspective on the intersection of politics and sports.
“I think they ought to voice their opinion, regardless of what one may think,” Aaron said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We didn’t get to where we are today because we kept our mouth closed or scratched our head and sat and didn’t do anything. If you have an opinion, then you should voice it and let people know that is your opinion and you’re not speaking for anybody but yourself.”
Aaron was then asked if he would go to the White House, as many athletes have declined to do. After initially joking about the question — “Go to the White House? You mean pass by it?” — Aaron gave a sincere response.
“Would I visit the White House? Would I go?” Aaron said. “I have no reason to go. I’ve been there once or twice. And there’s nobody there I want to see.
“I can understand where the players are coming from. I really do. I understand they have their own issues and things they feel conviction about. They have a right to that, and I probably would be the same way, there’s no question about it.”
Aaron lamented that he felt guilty about not speaking out more in a time when athletes such as Olympic runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos were at the forefront. Aaron explained that former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young told Aaron that what he did — playing for 23 seasons, making 21 MLB All-Star games, breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record — “was much (bigger) than what we were doing on our end.”
The 84-year-old Aaron remains fairly busy as a member of the Braves front office and made it apparent he still keeps up with world events.
“There are certain issues that I try to make people understand I’m not totally satisfied with,” Aaron said. “But I’m only one person.”