‘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.’
That’s the 84-year-old MLB Hall of Famer on athletes turning their professional sports platform into a political loudspeaker.
Aaron, when asked, said he wasn’t so interested in visiting the White House either, if ever asked: “There’s nobody there I want to see,” he said at a ceremony for the Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Awards, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
President Trump uninvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on the eve of their scheduled celebration at the White House earlier this month, citing the small contingent of players and team representatives that planned to attend. Trump has not hosted an NBA championship team to visit the White House since taking office, which some observers tie to outspoken comments by Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and others.
Trump has been a vocal critic of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem as a protest against police violence and systemic racism, saying last year that those players should be fired, and suggesting at one point that they should leave the country. In May, the NFL passed a rule penalizing players who protest during the national anthem, though players would be allowed to stay in the locker room during the anthem.
Beyond White House visits, Aaron, who appeared in 25 All-Star games and hit 755 home runs in his career, said he believes athletes should always voice their opinions.
“To be honest, I feel somewhat guilty that I didn’t do possibly as much as I could have done [during my career],” Aaron said.