Is Barry Bonds the object of a racist witch-hunt? Over the last week I have had to publicly argue this issue against some of the finest minds of my generation (all right, John Rocker and Jose Canseco). In addition, I have duked it out on talk radio, sports radio, email chats, and various blogs. The dominant argument I hear repeatedly, whether from Mr. Rocker or Mr. Liberal Blogger, is that I am an idiot if I think that the Bonds steroid-mania is all about bigotry run amok. Unfortunately that is not my argument.
To be clear:
I don't think that everyone against Bonds is a racist. I don't think every sportswriter who wants Bonds punished is a racist. And I certainly don't think anyone who believes in harsh penalties for steroid use is a racist. One can hate Barry Bonds and also spend Sundays singing "We Shall Overcome" with the Harlem Boys Choir before reading select passages from Go Tell it On The Mountain. But to argue that race has nothing to do with the saga of Barry Bonds is to practice ignorance frightening in its Rocker-ian grandiosity.
Of course you can always simply agree with San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan, CEO of Safeway Supermarkets and anti-union zealot, who believes that it is a remarkable sign of racial progress that Barry Bonds is flayed before the public. Magowan said, "I don't believe this is a case of racism. In fact, I think this shows how far we've come. If the media brought this up 20 years ago, they would have been considered racists."
Now that's progress. The media can be as racist as they want without being called on it.
The fact is that racism smears this entire story like rancid cream cheese on a stale bialy.
First and foremost, there are the death threats. USA Ttoday reported yesterday that Bonds is being deluged with letters that threaten his life, many with overtones about as subtle as a burning cross. Today I was on a tremendous radio show out of Cincinnati called
Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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