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By Richard Lapchick

Special to Page 2

 

The media's coverage of Barry Bonds' move past Willie Mays and into third place on the all-time home run list has been remarkable. From last season to spring training to Opening Day to No. 661, it seems as if a day did not pass without a story or at least a reference to the landmark home run, which he hit Tuesday night in San Francisco in the Giants' 4-2 victory over Milwaukee.

 

Barry Bonds rounds the bases after hitting home run No. 661.

The extent of the buzz and the diversity of the perspectives have been striking. But most remarkable is the issue left out: the racial factor. We read about the achievement; the achievement tainted by rumors of steroid use; the aloof and arrogant persona that keeps Bonds at arm's length from the media and fans; the death last year of Bonds's father as the son approached his godfather's mark.

 

 

Race does not seem to be on the radar screen.

 

I was a guest lecturer in a class on the African-American athlete at a Big Ten university last week. Of the 32 students, half were white and half were African-American. We discussed the possibility that race factors in to the public's response to Bonds. When I asked how many of the students think race is a factor, all of the African-Americans and two white students raised their hands. When I asked who didn't think it is a factor, all the remaining whites raised their hands.

 

When I am interviewed, I am repeatedly asked why the public doesn't embrace Bonds. Why didn't they love him in 2001 when he broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run record like they loved McGwire when he broke Roger Maris' record? Why don't they love him now as he becomes the third-greatest home-run hitter in history?

 

Lessons from Lapchick

Richard Lapchick, who directs the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, begins a regular series today as a commentator on ethics and diversity issues for ESPN.com. Lapchick has authored 10 books and is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the College of Business Administration at UCF.

I sense that writers expect me to comment on Bonds' lack of cooperation with the media, which, in turn, keeps the fans from knowing who he is. No doubt, many writers resent Bonds, and that contributes to an under-appreciation of him. To many, he seems arrogant and aloof. Lately, writers ask for comments on the BALCO case and its implications, which reinforce years of rumors that Bonds' records are built on chemicals. Steroid use would make it easier to dismiss what he has done.

 

Somehow, we want to avoid what may be a real factor regarding the public's unwillingness to accept Bonds. He is a powerful black man who plays by his own rules, not the rules of baseball decorum or white social norms. He does not often share his smile with fans; instead, he is as likely to scowl or glare at those who approach him. To many whites, that fits a stereotype of African-American men as menacing or threatening.

 

 

In contrast, Michael Jordan smiled constantly and interacted with the public when he was an active athlete, and he was embraced for it. Fans bought his gear and put his poster on their children's walls. He wasn't threatening, and instead seemed lovable. Other African-Americans athletes noted that and adjusted their off-the-court demeanor accordingly.

 

Smiling and interacting with fans constantly is not Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds never did.

 

 

As a civil rights activist and a student of race relations for four decades, I have no doubt that there are white fans who will never embrace Bonds simply because he is strong, unconventional by white standards, and black. Studies on race consistently show that we all hold stereotypes about other racial groups. More than half of white people think African-Americans are more prone to violence, more likely to use drugs, less inclined to work hard and less intelligent than whites.

 

A Gallup poll released last week shows how wide the gap between African-Americans and whites really is. While only five percent of African-Americans and 12 percent of whites believe that race relations in America are very good, twice as many whites as African-Americans (76 percent to 38 percent) think African-Americans are treated fairly. Five times as many whites as African-Americans think African-Americans have equal job opportunities.

 

So why do I believe that race is a factor in our non-celebration of Barry Bonds? A look at Henry Aaron's run at Babe Ruth's career home-run record 30 years ago -- which was marred by death threats and a barrage of hate mail -- shows how deep the scars are. (Racial patterns do persist across history. Sixty-three percent in the aforementioned Gallup poll said race relations "will always be a problem.") The negative reaction to Aaron convinced him that America didn't want the record to be held by a black man.

 

Aaron was not aloof. He talked to fans and the media, and wasn't perceived in the same way as Bonds is today. He was simply a black man about to smash a great white icon's record. But in his shining moment, he lived in fear of bigotry.

 

Arthur Ashe was a black man who became a great champion playing tennis, a white man's game. As Aaron did, Ashe interacted with fans and the media, and he became a success on the court and in business. Infected with HIV contracted from a blood transfusion during surgery, Ashe wrote that living as a black person in America was harder than dying of AIDS. That is quite a statement about race in America.

 

 

During the dramatic 1998 baseball season, McGwire and Sammy Sosa exemplified how sport can bring people together across America's racial divide. As the two men chased Maris's single-season home run record, many fans came to adore Sosa's gestures and accepting smile. In fact, Sosa seemed to interact with fans more than McGwire did. Yet there is little doubt that the media -- and even Major League Baseball -- paid more attention to McGwire than to Sosa. I know many African-American and Latino athletes who are sure that McGwire was favored because he is white, and the record could be kept in the family.

 

McGwire was tagged Big Mac. Bonds was known as a Killer B.

In a racial context, history has not portrayed big, powerful, surly, white men as menacing or threatening. Instead, that stereotype has been reserved for African-American men.

 

 

After McGwire admitted to using androstenedione, a precursor to steroids, there was little talk about putting an asterisk next to his single-season home run record. Although Bonds denies that he uses steroids, numerous reporters and fans talk about an asterisk next to Bonds' 73 home runs in 2001. Do they hope to elevate McGwire's record back to the top?

 

I am sure many fans and many in the media are turned off by the fact that they don't have a personal relationship with Bonds. They see him as distant and haughty. I am sure they are concerned that his achievements might not be totally legitimate because of the steroid rumors. But I am equally confident that an important part of the reaction of at least some white media and fans is related to the fact that Bonds is powerful, independent and black.

 

The Bonds story demonstrates that the issue of race is still an open wound for America. Whites and African-Americans still do not look at an event or a person and see the same thing.

 

Richard E. Lapchick has been a civil rights activist for more than three decades. He is the Chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. The author of 10 books on race and social issues, Lapchick also directs UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and is Director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport.

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I dunno, I'm not sure if I buy the whole he's less respected than McGwire because of race. I think part of the magic with McGwire was that no one had challenged the Maris record for almost 40 years. He did it, it was amazing, and then all of a sudden, four years later, Bonds does it. It lost some magic, but that's not to say that no one cared. I think also part of it is that Bonds hasn't been the greatest guy with the media, and that reflected some of it. But I hate when people play the race card. Not everyone hates black people. I think what Bonds is doing is pretty amazing, and the fact that I get to live it as a baseball fan is pretty cool.

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That's a load of sh*t, I have had it when ever a black person faces adversity it is because of their skin color, not so many other things.

 

The Bonds story demonstrates that the issue of race is still an open wound for America. Whites and African-Americans still do not look at an event or a person and see the same thing.

 

Obviously the writer is a racist, choosing to single out blacks by calling "them" "Afrifican American" and choosing not to call whites "European American."

 

Why are people critical of Bonds and not Mark?

 

1. People were critical of mark, I can get a billion political cartoons that make fun of him

2. He admited to using a LEGAL steroid, so there's never the question whether he's testosterone enhanced

 

and pertaining to Bonds alone

 

3. His Dad was never popular with the media and Bonds never acted in the proper fashion as well (demanding 3 lockers, shooting his mouth, fighting Kent, and ect.)

4. His muscle mass exploded following the 1998 home run race and the same with his skill

5. Claimed he was better than the greatest player of all time, Ruth

6. Became a poster boy for a steroid ring

7. His personal trainer and childhood friend distributes steroids to ball players

8. Is pretty much a dick and is two faced. He threatened people in the media if they "touched his son" and when he's angry he speaks in a very visibly ignorant and less coherent matter (and not even very angry) than when he's "calm." Recently he made mention of race and called himself the most wanted man in America...not a very classy thing from the soon to be all time home run champion.

 

 

It has nothing to do with race and all to do with Bonds being a complete ass and cheater.

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Why are people critical of Bonds and not Mark?

 

1. People were critical of mark, I can get a billion political cartoons that make fun of him

2. He admited to using a LEGAL steroid, so there's never the question whether he's testosterone enhanced

 

and pertaining to Bonds alone

 

3. His Dad was never popular with the media and Bonds never acted in the proper fashion as well (demanding 3 lockers, shooting his mouth, fighting Kent, and ect.)

4. His muscle mass exploded following the 1998 home run race and the same with his skill

5. Claimed he was better than the greatest player of all time, Ruth

6. Became a poster boy for a steroid ring

7. His personal trainer and childhood friend distributes steroids to ball players

8. Is pretty much a dick and is two faced. He threatened people in the media if they "touched his son" and when he's angry he speaks in a very visibly ignorant and less coherent matter (and not even very angry) than when he's "calm." Recently he made mention of race and called himself the most wanted man in America...not a very classy thing from the soon to be all time home run champion.

1. Not the way people were critical of Bonds

2. So McGwire admitted to doing it, while there is 0 proof on Bonds, yet Bonds gets all the crap

3. About the three lockers, all the greats get that kind of treatment, and a black guy being vocal is "shooting his mouth".

But the one about the fight with kent, Kent was cussing out a teammate so Bonds came to his defense and told him to back off and Kent got into his face and shoved him, so Bonds had to defend himself

4. So? Ever heard of lifting weights?

5. He is better than Ruth, and Mays is the greatest of all time

6. 0 proof

7. So? He has multiple trainers and just because he's friends with someone does that convict him? If a friend of yours is a drug dealer does that make you a druggie?

8. About the thing with his son, they were crouding him and his son in the locker and literally stepping on him, he politely asked them to back off and when he didn't he said "you're stepping on my son, back off or i'll snap". He's doing what any good father would do. And i'd be angry too when the media treated me like that. And he does have to deal with a lot of race. Not to the level of Aaron but he still does.

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I'm not sure what more Giants fans want. The author of this article is right; the Bonds' story has dominated the news, places like Sportscenter since the end of last season. I have a feeling the only people upset about him having "not enough attention" or whatever is Giants fans who are upset that the world isn't stopping for what Bonds is doing. There were certainly people who did not like McGwire, but they aren't racist (and is that because people can be racist against white people?) I dunno, I just think the whole race thiing is just a call for attention.

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I'm not sure what more Giants fans want. The author of this article is right; the Bonds' story has dominated the news, places like Sportscenter since the end of last season. I have a feeling the only people upset about him having "not enough attention" or whatever is Giants fans who are upset that the world isn't stopping for what Bonds is doing. There were certainly people who did not like McGwire, but they aren't racist (and is that because people can be racist against white people?) I dunno, I just think the whole race thiing is just a call for attention.

lack of recognition is not a problem (although it was when he broke McGwire's record and hit his 600th homer), but the fact that he is given an evil image because he's a dominate black guy

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McGwire was tagged Big Mac. Bonds was known as a Killer B.

In a racial context, history has not portrayed big, powerful, surly, white men as menacing or threatening. Instead, that stereotype has been reserved for African-American men.

Obviously this guy does not remember the Astros "Killer B's" of Jeff Bagwell (White), Craig Biggio (White), and Derek Bell (Black) of the early 90s and the Bagwell, Biggio, and Berkman (All White) combo of today.

I want this guy to come up with a menacing nickname for Mark McGwire.

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McGwire was tagged Big Mac. Bonds was known as a Killer B.

In a racial context, history has not portrayed big, powerful, surly, white men as menacing or threatening. Instead, that stereotype has been reserved for African-American men.

Obviously this guy does not remember the Astros "Killer B's" of Jeff Bagwell (White), Craig Biggio (White), and Derek Bell (Black) of the early 90s and the Bagwell, Biggio, and Berkman (All White) combo of today.

I want this guy to come up with a menacing nickname for Mark McGwire. that part is ridiculous but the rest is right on

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People who don't like Bonds are either

1. Jealous that he's not on their team

2. Racist, either consiously or unconsiously

3. Gullible, and believe everything the media tells them

Or we...

4. don't care and wish that the media and Giants fans would stop pushing Bonds Bonds Bonds down our throats.

5. think Bonds achievements aren't nearly as impressive as they are made out to be after considering the time (improved strength and conditioning, small ballparks, juiced up balls, idiot managers who will intentionally walk anyone, depleted pitching, unbalanced schedule, etc.)

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People who don't like Bonds are either

1. Jealous that he's not on their team

2. Racist, either consiously or unconsiously

3. Gullible, and believe everything the media tells them

Or we...

4. don't care and wish that the media and Giants fans would stop pushing Bonds Bonds Bonds down our throats.

5. think Bonds achievements aren't nearly as impressive as they are made out to be after considering the time (improved strength and conditioning, small ballparks, juiced up balls, idiot managers who will intentionally walk anyone, depleted pitching, unbalanced schedule, etc.) 4. The media doesn't give Bonds as much recognition as he deserves

5. How about the fact that Bonds played in two of the toughest parks for hitters, especially for home run hitters, in history, compared to Ruth who played in a park that was built so he could hit homers easily.

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This article is bull, people aren't embracing Bonds because he is black. It is because he is arrogant and doesn't come across as a nice person. I promise you if Griffey was going after this record like everyone thought he would be 6 years ago, he would be embraced by almost everyone.

 

McGwire was embraced because he had respect for the record he passed also, Bonds has already disrespected Ruth one of the guys he's trying to pass, and I think that that hurt Bonds also.

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This article is bull, people aren't embracing Bonds because he is black. It is because he is arrogant and doesn't come across as a nice person. I promise you if Griffey was going after this record like everyone thought he would be 6 years ago, he would be embraced by almost everyone.

 

McGwire was embraced because he had respect for the record he passed also, Bonds has already disrespected Ruth one of the guys he's trying to pass, and I think that that hurt Bonds also.

He wouldn't be considered arrogane if he was white. Bonds disrespected Ruth because Ruth gets too much praise, only because he's white. At best, Ruth is the third greatest player of all time and the only reason why people put him in the top two is because he was white.

McGwire was beloved because he was white. In the 98 home run chase, if you were to replace Sosa with another white player, it would get even more hype. If you were to replace McGwire with Bonds, Griffey, or any other black player, it wouldn't get half the hype.

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Ya know, campaigning to make people like something might be the biggest waste of time in the history of everything.

 

People like what the like, you're not going to change it, get over it. I personally like Bonds, but that doesn't mean everyone else has to.

 

Nobody HAS to like anything or anyone. End of story.

 

Although I am impressed by your ability to "read minds" and tell people why they don't like Bonds.

 

You forgot:

6. You're a Pirates fan and are pissed off that he left.

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someone posted this on another board that says it perfectly:

Race is more of a factor then most would like to believe, more subconsciously than anything. I just don't think it is fair for people to judge bonds as they do. If you asked anyone why they hate bonds they wouldn't have a real answer. He doesnt talk to the media that much so you can't say he's a obnoxious dork like shaq and he doesn't brag at all so you cant say he is full of himself. I have really no clue why people don't see him as the greatest of all time. And it goes farther than steriods, no one has ever liked the guy. I personally know what he has done and realize how great of a player he really is. People need to start asking themselves why they hate the guy and not act like the blind people they are.

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This article is bull, people aren't embracing Bonds because he is black. It is because he is arrogant and doesn't come across as a nice person. I promise you if Griffey was going after this record like everyone thought he would be 6 years ago, he would be embraced by almost everyone.

 

McGwire was embraced because he had respect for the record he passed also, Bonds has already disrespected Ruth one of the guys he's trying to pass, and I think that that hurt Bonds also.

He wouldn't be considered arrogane if he was white. Bonds disrespected Ruth because Ruth gets too much praise, only because he's white. At best, Ruth is the third greatest player of all time and the only reason why people put him in the top two is because he was white.

McGwire was beloved because he was white. In the 98 home run chase, if you were to replace Sosa with another white player, it would get even more hype. If you were to replace McGwire with Bonds, Griffey, or any other black player, it wouldn't get half the hype. The idea that Bonds is arrogant didn't just come out of nowhere when he started piling up numbers so quickly, he's been called arrogant his whole career. Griffey has not been looked upon like that and I promise you that things would be different if he was in Bonds' place.

 

As far as Ruth when he hit 61 he had more home runs than most teams that year.

Enough said.

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People who don't like Bonds are either

1. Jealous that he's not on their team

2. Racist, either consiously or unconsiously

3. Gullible, and believe everything the media tells them

Yeah, you wish. Bonds is a total jerk. It's pretty hard to like anyone who has that kind of attitude towards people. It would also be nice if he didn't have a massive ego, and wasn't concerned about making every penny off of his name that he could, which included removing himself from the MLBPA licensing program, so that he wouldn't have to lend his name to licensed games and baseball items if he didn't want to. Only a handful of players ever do this, and the only reason is because it's about money. Now he wants to sell everything he autographs through his own company, so he can take in all the profit. Additionally, I've heard tons of stories about how Bonds' ego has gotten in his way before. It's also pretty bold to say that people that don't like Bonds are either racist, jealous, or gullible. Sorry to say that I'm none of those three. Unfortunately your bias, being a Giants fan, sticks out like a sore thumb with this post.

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Griffey has not been looked upon like that and I promise you that things would be different if he was in Bonds' place.

Which Griffey are we talking about?

 

Fun-loving Seattle Griffey? Or Big Baby Cincinnati Griffey? Maybe I just have been blind but I'm not sure what you are talking about. Last couple of years he's had plenty to complain about, but I haven't heard him complain. When they were dismantling the team last year I didn't hear anything from him.

 

Maybe you can enlighten me because I'm not sure what you are talking about.

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Maybe I just have been blind but I'm not sure what you are talking about. Last couple of years he's had plenty to complain about, but I haven't heard him complain. When they were dismantling the team last year I didn't hear anything from him.

 

Maybe you can enlighten me because I'm not sure what you are talking about.

You didn't hear him complain because he refuses to talk to the media anyway.

 

And I'm just being an idiot, some have said he's been a problem in the locker room, but who knows if you can believe that. There's been a general feeling around the Reds (i.e. Reds media coverage) that Seattle Griffey was an act and he's no different from all the other primadonnas. I've heard him compared to Bonds a few times.

 

Again, who knows if it's true. He won't talk to them, so I'm sure they have a vendetta.

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