Hank Aaron was a legend, and he was also a Ravens fan.
The American icon and baseball Hall of Famer who passed away Friday at age 86 watched Ravens games faithfully and cheered them on. Aaron shared a friendship with Ravens Executive Vice President and longtime General Manager Ozzie Newsome, both natives of Alabama and legendary sports figures.
After learning of Aaron's death Friday, Newsome issued a statement about his admiration for Aaron.
"Growing up in rural Alabama, the Atlanta Braves would be on the radio every night, and my father, grandfather and I would listen religiously," Newsome said. "Hank has always been a hero to them and to me.
"I had the honor of meeting him at the 2000 Super Bowl when he came and spoke to our team. We became casual friends and remained in contact up until his death today.
"We have lost an American hero who broke barriers and changed our nation through grace, character and integrity. I send my heartfelt condolences to the Aaron family and the countless people whom Hank inspired."
In a 1999 article written in the Baltimore Sun by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Aaron talked about his loyalty to Newsome, the first Black general manager in the NFL.
"What people have to remember is Ozzie Newsome is a friend of mine," Aaron said. "Being in his position as an African-American, I want him to be successful. My allegiance is to him. I want his team to do well. It's a reflection on him and every other African-American."
Aaron also pulled for the Ravens because he was a fan of the Cleveland Browns when they joined the NFL from the All-America Football Conference that disbanded in 1949. Aaron rooted for the Browns because they were underdogs joining a new league. When Newsome became a Hall of Fame tight end with the Browns, the bond between Aaron and Newsome was sealed. When the Browns moved from Cleveland and became the Ravens in 1996, Aaron's allegiance went with Newsome from Cleveland to Baltimore.
Tributes to Aaron came from around the world Friday, and his place in history transcends sports. Aaron received racist death threats on his way to surpassing Babe Ruth to become baseball's all-time home run leader in 1974, and he fought for civil rights throughout his life. Many remembrances of Aaron were shared Friday on social media.