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Hank Aaron compares Republicans who oppose Obama to KKK

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Hank Aaron during a pre-game ceremony on Tuesday.
Hank Aaron during a pre-game ceremony on Tuesday. (USATSI)

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Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th career home run, and while speaking to Bob Nightengale of USA Today on the historic day, Hammerin' Hank went on a political rank against Republicans, comparing them to the Ku Klux Klan. Here are the relevant quotes:

"To remind myself," Aaron tells USA TODAY Sports, "that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. 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.

"We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. 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.

"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. Now they have neckties and starched shirts."

Aaron also recounted his chase of the home run record, which are not fond memories for him:

"I don't think about it that much," Aaron says, "just because of the pain. I think about other things. There were other things in my life that I enjoyed more than chasing the record.

"I was being thrown to the wolves. Even though I did something great, nobody wanted to be a part of it. I was so isolated. I couldn't share it. For many years, even after Jackie Robinson, baseball was so segregated, really. You just didn't expect us to have a chance to do anything. Baseball was meant for the lily-white.

"Now, here's a record that nobody thought would be broken, and, all of a sudden, who breaks it but a black person."

Aaron, now 80, received death threats in the weeks and months leading up to the record-breaking homer. Newspapers reportedly prepared obituaries in case he was murdered prior to or soon after claiming the top spot on the all-time home run list.

The Braves had a pre-game ceremony in honor of Aaron prior to Tuesday night's game. Chairman Terry McGuirk said Aaron “set the home-run record the old-fashioned way” while retired broadcaster Pete Van Wieren said he is “still recognized as baseball's true home run king.” Commissioner Bud Selig made similar comments.

The Braves wore 1970s era white-and-blue uniforms on Tuesday and will wear an Aaron 40th anniversary patch on their uniform sleeves this season.

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