Hall of Famer Hank Aaron Calls Out NFL for Not Signing Colin Kaepernick

“I think he’s getting a raw deal,” Aaron said.

Hank Aaron / RUETERS

In New York City on Wednesday, hundreds participated in a rally against the National Football League’s (NFL) alleged blackballing of Colin Kaepernick as a result of his national anthem protest and social activism.

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron has also come to Kaepernick’s defense, calling it a “raw deal” that the 29-year-old remains unsigned after opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March and becoming a free agent.

Aaron, 83, is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He experienced intense racism in his early days in Major League Baseball, including spectators throwing rocks onto the field. In 1974, as a player for the Atlanta Braves, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record (714). Whites who did not want a Black man to claim such an important record threatened his life and sent him hate mail.

According to CNN, in the early 1970s, Aaron received 990,000 letters, “so many that the U.S. Post Office gave him a plaque for receiving more mail than any other American (not including politicians).” Some wrote letters to congratulated him, while others made death threats.

Aaron talked to TV One’s Roland Martin and called out NFL owners for not signing Kaepernick to a team.

“I think he’s getting a raw deal,” Aaron said. “I’ve been watching pro ball for a long time, and I think that if you look at all of the quarterbacks in the league right now … I don’t think anybody can do the things [Kaepernick] can do.

“I just wish somebody would open up and give him a chance to do his thing.”

He said Kaepernick’s talents are being ignored.

“The thing that bothers me about this whole situation is the fact that he has gone to all these camps, and nobody thinks he stands a chance to be number one. Here’s a man, a young player who almost carried a team to a championship.”

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Aaron also said the decision not to hire Kaepernick is most likely coming from team owners, and not general managers.

In March, at a rally in Louisville, Ky., President Donald Trump, a staunch critic of the football player, boasted about a report, “Colin Kaepernick Sentenced To NFL Limbo for the Crime of Speaking His Mind,” which said some NFL owners were worried about receiving backlash from Trump if they hire Kaepernick.

“There was an article today, it was reported, that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump,” he said.

“I said, ‘If I remember that one I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky — because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag,’” Trump said at the rally to promote the Republican Party’s answer to the Affordable Care Act.

Former President Barack Obama commented in September that Kaepernick was exercising his constitutional right by refusing to stand for the national anthem. But Obama added that the nature of the protest could make it hard for some to hear his message.

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"If nothing else what he's done is he's generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about," the president said of NFL quarterback Kaepernick's decision to sit down during the national anthem.

In TV One’s interview, Martin asked Aaron his thoughts on Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality toward American Americans, adding, “It’s as if [the NFL] is saying, ‘We want you guys to just shut up and play ball,’” Martin said.

Aaron noted that times were much different for him growing up in Mobile, Ala., in the 1930s and 40s when being stopped by a police officer. There was no opportunity for a Black person to exercise his or her rights.

“To be honest with you, my mother told me when you get stopped by a cop, throw your hands down and that’s the end of it,” he said.

“But today, these kids are very smart now. They understand and know exactly what’s going on.”

Jackie Robinson, the first African American to integrate Major League Baseball, visited Aaron’s hometown in 1948. Robinson was his hero and inspired his career path. Aaron would eventually break barriers as Robinson did. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982, finishing with a career total of 755 home runs.

Kaepernick met with the Seattle Seahawks earlier in the summer, but the team decided to go in a different direction. In July, the Baltimore Ravens also opted against signing him.

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President Donald Trump, who recently admonished the ex-49ers quarterback at a rally, has presented a federal budget that could lead to de-funding of the program for seniors.

In the meantime, Kaepernick’s foundation has donated another $100,000 to three organizations — raising the total donations to $800,000 of his pledged $1 million.

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  • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey

    Yet another reason for this Milwaukee white guy to love the incredibly classy Hank Aaron. Now THAT is a mensch!

  • I’ve said it before and will say it again. If any of the NFL teams thought that Kaepernick was a talent – they’d pay for him to come play with them. I don’t think his “taking a knee” has much or anything to do with him not being picked up. Remember Dennis Rodman and the on & off court problems and antics he displayed playing basketball? The Chicago Bulls still kept him because he was talent (best rebounder in the NBA) and with him on the team they went on to win the NBA championship ring 3 years running. If Kaepernick was that kind of talent, he wouldn’t be unemployed. He just isn’t that talented. He had potential once but apparently the NFL thinks he peaked a few years ago.

    • Right…By many accounts, Tim Tebow was the worst quarterbacks in recent history. It was obvious to ANYBODY with eyes, let alone anyone in a NFL front office. I mean, he literally throws like a Cricket “pitcher” (bowler). He went 9-7, had only ONE playoff win, and lasted three whole seasons. After flaming out with the Broncos, he signed with the Jets, and even the Patriots (ffs!) before the NFL finally, begrudgingly threw in the towel.

      You mean to tell me, that Colin Kaepernick, who nearly won the Superbowl, and the Division Championship the very next year, (losing to the Superbowl-winning Ravens), doesn’t warrant even a practice-squad roster spot?


    • Billy Montgomery

      Poor comparison with Rodman. Clearly, Rodman was a stellar rebounder but really an entertainer, not an activist. Kaepernick may not be a number one but he is clearly able to back up somewhere. This is all poliTRICKS.

  • This is pathetic. If they are not, the NFL should be ashamed of themselves. This is ridiculous how they represent Americans and their absolute right to free speech. It is this very behavior that they (NFL) are exhibiting that promotes such protest. But note, this is a group of white men.

    • Its all about winning and money. If an NFL owner or GM though He could help with either, he would be on a roster.

        • Not in the least. Just a realist. You believe every rich white man has an agenda to keep people of color down. I believe they are more concerned with their egos, and bank accounts. What was Kap’s salary requirement vs Cutler.

          • I’m a rich white man myself. I don’t think you’re entirely wrong, I think the owners feel Kap is going to be a greater liability than his talent is worth, because of the reaction of the few trump supporters who can still afford the stadium experience.

            There are also out-and-out racist owners that are offended when a Black man isn’t yessuh-ing with enough submission.

            I think they’re missing the advantage of signing Kap and reaping the popular approval of most young people.

            The problem with getting old is that it gets increasingly easy with the years to have your point of view stuck. I think 45 imagines himself in Patton – the 1970 movie. His frame of reference is Nixon, Wallace, Goldwater – the Southern Strategy. I also think that’s exasperated by advancing senility.

  • I’ve given this a lot of thought. Demands for Kaepernick to play on an NFL team as a player isn’t enough and is short sided. Powerful and rich owners denying a talented Black man access as a professional football player facilitating protest to unfair authorized governmental measures is much bigger than Kaepernick’s employment. These are White men with ways and means to funnel large amounts of money to politicians in favor for or against police brutality and other issues of fairness and equality as it relates to Black people via legislation.

    Kaepernick walking back on the field is not beneficial for Black people because those very same architects and engineers of racism (NFL owners) aren’t forced to change and/or topple their regime of oppression.

    Kaepernick walking back on a NFL field leading to Black people subscribing to watching pro football is supporting White oppression and supremacy all over again. Black people will have simply found false resolve, getting less than just enough as usual.

    • Can you imagine the loyalty an owner would receive if he signed him up, gave all of his players healthcare for life and helped fund TBI research? None of the bloated old men have the foresight, character or guts.

      • Loyalty in the direction of benefiting them is only what they understand. The bunch of them are evil F—-. Every last one of them. These are people owning and operating Fortune 500 and 100 companies believing in corporate greed, minimum wage @ $4.25/hr if they could get away with it, having healthcare as an option instead of a requirement, abolishment of whistleblower protections, contaminating the environment, GMO products, belief in the 13th amendment as a moral piece of American legislation, women as bed warmers, warmongering POS. I’m leaving out a whole lot.

        These people are the true enemies. They are the ones who give Dems/GOP politicians their power and blessings to do such wicked acts of evil.

        But yeah, Luke I can imagine what would happen if an owner did the right thing. The other owners would have to physically murder them because giving people hope by doing the right thing is bad for business. Gotta keep people in their place for their socio-economic status.

        • Even worse, the fascists invent enemies from the oppressed as straw dogs to energize their power grab as they divert the public’ attention.

          Antifa was invented by the Nazis in the 1930s to tell the public that the murderous traitor Jews were “the real enemy”.

          How does this dullard know five guys from Goldman Sachs? Wilbur Ross? Rex Tillerson? General Kelly? None of those men would have wiped their feet on the reality TV star. All of a sudden they’re available to serve…this charlatan?

          A guy who hangs fake Time magazine covers in his golf clubs? A guy who peddles tough steaks, cheap wine and bogus “universities”? HOW IS HE SUDDENLY ASSOCIATED WITH REAL BUSINESSMEN?

          Antifa and BLM are hate groups my ass.

  • Things Colin will have to accept responsibility for:
    * Opted out of a $10m contract to become a free agent after a three year steady decline in performance. Very atypical move for a player to make.
    * Chose to go out on his own with his protest after he was participating with a larger group of players in coming up with a league wide demonstration.
    The power of many, spread across the league, would have had much greater impact. To me he comes off selfish and with self pity. His intent was good, his execution in my opinion was awful. Beyond what Colin is doing with his charitable efforts, there have been no publicly reported stories of him working out, practicing on a high school or college field with local guys etc. He needs to demonstrate equal effort to his profession as he does his beliefs or there definitely won’t be any offers. If he makes his cause the only reason he isn’t hired then you have something. The smarter move would have been to stay under contract, work his tail off in pre-season and collaborate with players of all backgrounds around the league to continue to raise awareness. That’s leadership. His plight has now become the story and that is the greatest shame in all of this.

  • LeSean McCoy’s assessment of this issue is accurate and honest. Go read his interview.

  • Hank Aaron is one of the few successful, courageous African American athletes who hasn’t forgotten where he came from and the white racism he faced to get there.

    Where are all the other cowardly NFL Hall of Fame athletes from historically Black colleges (HBCU’s) like Michael Strahan, Jerry Rice, Emmett Smith they paraded at the SuperBowl? These Black male betrayers should be speaking out on Kaepernick’s behalf like Aaron, Shannon Sharp, Michael Bennett, and Richard Sherman. That’s why we as Black people label them as cowardly “Uncle Toms” and “StepNFetchits.” You should NEVER forget how you were once the “ni@@er in the room;” white folKKKs would have preferred the elephant!

    Luke and Lee, thank you for stating righteous facts and “busting the chops” off white racists like Peter Kyle’s perception deception. Comparing intelligent, sophisticated Kap with a cross-dressing succubus slut like Rodman is analogous to comparing Jesus with Judas.

    Speaking of pierced-lipped, blubber-lipped Rodman, he could praise a psychotic terrorist and genocidal maniac like North Korea’s Jim Jung Un, but can’t speak out on behalf of a fellow American athlete like Kap!

    As a fellow Milwaukeean, I’m proud of Kap’s courage. As a Black female lawyer who fought against 21st century racist oppression in the so-called “New South” (Atlanta and Houston) and the Northwest town of Seattle, I’ve been battered, fried, and home-cooked by hypocrites posing as progressives for calling out racism, injustice, and violence against Blacks. 99.9% of Black lawyers are cowards like the NFL Hall of Fame athletes. Like those glossed-over, pseudo-macho betrayers, they’re afraid to offend their racist white wife or golfing buddies at the country club.

    Where’s media-seeking, sold-out jacklegged preachers like Sharpton and Jesse? There’s not enough money to exploit in Kap’s case. As much as I love football, I’m going to “take a knee” too and boycott it on behalf of my fellow Milwaukeean. I’ve never had any athletic jersey (because it’s a form of idol worship), but I will get a Kaepernick jersey and wear it proudly. I’ve already had one confrontation with a white racist at work over Kap’s protest– like the white owners are doing to Kap, I put this racist “in his place” and shut him up!

  • Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks, similarly protesting and starting on the team’s defensive line. If Seattle, who needs his skills, would crazily release or cut him, 17 other teams would line up to offer him a contract.

    • 80% of quarterbacks are not Black, coaching staff are even more segregated, 70% of non-quarterback positions are filled by Black players.

      Think about that for a minute. Are Black people too stupid to be coaches or quarterbacks? Or are opportunities systemically denied Black people?

      The reason he isn’t being picked up is the homogeneous culture of the white owners (perhaps not racist in intent, but absolutely racist in results). Nobody’s going to step out of line, no matter what it costs them.

  • FrankieJo Ellis

    It bewilders me. All these white guys freaking out that their second amendment rights are being taken away, but when a black guy exercises his first amendment right, they demand he is fired from his job.

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