Commentary: Barry Bonds and the O.J. Effect

Commentary: Barry Bonds and the O.J. Effect

Does America have a beef with the Black professional athlete?

Published April 14, 2011

It took six years and between $10-$50 million of taxpayer money to find Barry Bonds guilty of perjury. No, wait, the jury came to a mistrial on the perjury charges. So what did they charge him with? One, count 'em folks, one charge of obstruction of justice. So what does that mean exactly? After years of speculation about did he or didn't he, we still don't know. But that doesn't matter because he's guilty, right?

Hmm, sounds like another famous Black athlete that was plagued by the courts until they finally got something to stick. As O.J. Simpson sits in prison, serving his 33-year prison sentence for robbery, we can only shake our heads at the turn of events that landed him behind bars. Only in America can a person be put in jail for stealing something that was stolen from them in the first place. It's no secret that the justice system has had it out for O.J. ever since he skated on the brilliant “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” defense. Then Simpson had the nerve to pop up with another woman that looked similar to his murdered ex-wife? Like E.M.P.D., it's bad for business.

Let's be real, Barry Bonds was not the most likeable baseball player. He was more like Charles Barkley than Ken Griffey Jr., but Bonds was talented. He is the home-run king, asterisk or no. His stats speak for themselves. And throughout this whole BALCO, performance-enhancing drugs scandal, Bonds never tested positive for human growth hormone, cocaine or any other drug legal or illegal.

Yes, it seems highly unlikely that he really thought that it was flax seed oil that was giving him his new strength and not steroids, but when the perjury charges are thrown out, it is time to let it go. If Bonds is guilty of anything, it's not being the personable, non-threatening Black man that's always smiling. He was proud of his ability and refused to play by the system's rules.

Quiet as it's kept, America still hasn't come to grips with applauding the Black man. We love to see Black professional athletes succeed and push whatever game they're playing to new levels and break boundaries. We also love to tear them down when they soar too high. And when a Black athlete beats the system like many white athletes often do (Ben Roethlisberger and his two rape accusations, anyone?), it seems that the athlete lands on the country's secret most wanted list. Similar to the hip hop police, the athlete is placed under constant watch, waiting for the first misstep and then they strike.

The life of the Black professional athlete is filled with triumphs and privilege, but under all the glitz, glamour and championships, there's always an underlying thought. Who's next? Who will they be tearing down next?




(Photo: AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Written by Sherri L. Smith


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