Barry Bonds, Steroids and the Double Standard of Race

Major League Baseball's all-time home run king Barry Bonds hopes to clear his name at his perjury trial, which is expected to begin this week./Photo Credit: HGSTAR-1 News/Haywood Galbreath

By Dennis J. Freeman  Commentary

The moment of truth is here for all-time home run leader Barry Bonds. In the midst of March Madness, a much bigger sports story will be unfolding. Bonds, Major League Baseball home run king with 762 dingers, will be trying to save his skin from doing possible time behind bars as his perjury trial begins this week.  

It’s also a moment of truth for the justice system, major league baseball and the way the media handles Bonds’ perjury trial.  Bonds have been accused of allegedly lying to a federal grand jury about knowingly using steroids.  

For all the hell and scrutiny that Bonds has had to go through the past few years about his alleged knowledge of using performance enhancing drugs, his white and non-black peers, for the most part, have been basically given a salute for admitting they have used the substance.

When major league baseball headliners like Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi were found to have used steroids, all they had to do to gain sympathy from the media and the public was to shed a few fake tears, pretend to have a contrite heart, say all the right things and all would be forgiven.

Unfortunately, for Bonds, that won’t work. He’s a man playing in a different bracket. That bracket Bonds belongs to is being black, supremely confident, the owner of numerous MLB records and unapologetic to his critics.

 In short, in order for Bonds’ image and name to be completely exonerated, he would have to be cleared 100% of everything alleged against him.

This trial will say a lot about where this country stands on race. But in many ways, Bonds has already gone through the court of public opinion for the last few years, including his pursuit to the all-time home record, and have been unjustly condemned. While white and non-black player have been subjected to some criticism, Bonds have been outright vilified.

The hating on Bonds has had a much sinister tone to it than regular criticism. And in my opinion, it has been driven and fueled by race.  Except for O. J. Simpson, I’ve never seen such vile hatred distributed by the media and the public towards another prominent black athlete.  

Look, even the pitcher that served up Bonds’ record-tying 755th home run is a drug cheat, having been suspended for his use of steroids. But that conversation, of course, barely caused a ripple on the media’s radar screen. This is not sports thing. It’s a black thing. The double-standard of life is in black and white.  

Bonds have been dammed by mainstream media. On the other hand, for white ballplayers, that standard of accountability has been lowered or scuttled altogether. Memories become short. Everybody wants to keep things moving. The topics of the day quickly change.  

For all the talk to have Bonds’ accomplishments marked as tainted or have an asterisk put by them, the white athlete apologists, better known as the mainstream media, are trying hard to overlook the sins of their own. That would include the stumbling, bumbling mess that seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens now finds himself in.

Three years ago, some members of the media seemed to marvel at Clemens defiant stance at his Congressional hearing to find out if he used performance enhancers to improve his pitching skills. There was even a bodacious suggestion that if Clemens is brought up on perjury charges for lying about using steroids, he would be granted a Presidential pardon.

 Of course, that went out of the window when former President George W. Bush left the Oval Office.

In Bonds’ case, there is no such talk.     

While Bonds continue to be demonized, the stingy criticism aimed at him seems to evaporate when it comes to white ballplayers. White athletes, it seems, are afforded the opportunity to apologize and make amends. Not so with Bonds.

 To do so would just ostracize his name even more, not to mention it would land him behind bars for lying to a federal grand jury. Bonds, and every other black person in America knows, he would not be granted the same pass as a white player like Clemens or Pettitte.

Speaking of Pettitte, I wasn’t impressed at all with retired New York Yankees’ pitcher’s apology he made a couple of years ago He’s a cheater and a proven liar. Pettitte was exposed as a fraud when he denied using steroids or HGH, according to a 2006 Los Angeles Times article. 

“I’ve never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball. I don’t know what else to say except to say it’s embarrassing my name would be out there,” Pettitte is quoted as saying in the story.

That turned out to be a bold-faced lie. Way to string us along, Andy. With Clemens battling to save his image and reputation, Pettitte came out and admitted that he used human growth hormone on a couple of occasions in 2002. Come to find out that Pettitte reportedly did the HGH thing again in 2004, when his own father supplied them to him.

 Bonds lost at least two years of playing because of the allegations levied against him. Meanwhile, Pettitte pitched again with no repercussions. You can see the difference in favoritism in reporting by mainstream media when it comes to Clemens, Pettitte, Giambi or any other athlete not named Bonds.

Sports are supposed to bring about an equal playing field. Now, I’m not so sure it does.

 News makers are trained to be fair and objective. However, as we see in the case of professional baseball, the only line of equality is measured in the way you hit and catch the little white ball. Let’s just hope that fairness will be dished out the same way to Bonds at the conclusion of his trial.

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