By Charles Glover, Jr.
On Tuesday, April 15, Major League Baseball (MLB) will continue its annual tradition of honoring Jackie Robinson throughout the league. All players will have the option of wearing his league-wide retired number 42 as a way of celebrating Robinson’s contributions to the game. Meanwhile, Henry “Hank” Aaron continues to point to changes that still need to occur in the game and in society.
Aaron remains in the consciousness of MLB as the 40th anniversary of his record- breaking 715th home run was honored on April, 8. Aaron explained how taxing the mental and emotional toll was during the 1970’s as he was approaching Babe Ruth’s record. Some were bothered by Aaron’s comments about the racism he faced and the racism he still notices in the game of baseball. Aaron made reference to the difference in racism by stating:
“The biggest difference is that back then they had hoods…now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
Aaron’s comments were made in reference to the many issues President Obama has faced with Republicans and points to Aaron’s awareness of the continued challenges facing African-Americans and other minorities in this country.
This country has seen a great deal of advancements in racial disparities in sports, business, and politics since Aaron’s last MLB season in 1976. With these changes has come an argument by some that this country has moved past the deep bigotry and prejudice that unfortunately is woven into the fabric of this nation. Aaron continues to stand as a firm reminder of struggles many black people have faced and overcome as his baseball achievements may only be surpassed by his civil rights contributions.
Aaron will always be defined by his mentality of hard work. As he states:
“If a person wants something bad enough, he works very hard for it.”
This approach has not only resulted in a Hall of Fame baseball career, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom (in 2002) and the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP (in 2005). Aaron’s recent comments gave insight from a man who has experienced extreme prejudice while demonstrating prolonged excellence.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson is a close friend of Aaron’s and worked along his side for years while working towards improving civil rights in this country in the late 1960’s.
“We worked very closely during that period,” Jackson recalls, demonstrating how long Aaron has dedicated his life’s work to bringing people together.OnPointPress.net
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.