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Barry Bonds, Allen Iverson, and "Racial" Reciprocity

Our editorial yesterday on Barry Bonds received quite a bit of response from our viewers. Two of our viewers – one Black and one White – picked up on an important aspect of the dynamics at work in why Barry Bonds is not being well-received, properly covered or even promoted by the media in lieu of his awesome accomplishments this year. Our two astute viewers, Darren M. and Art P., both recognized that there may be a racial element at work in the Bonds mistreatment that actually is at work in race-relations in society at-large.

Here is what they wrote to us, yesterday, followed by a comment by us of how this is relevant to the fact that Allen Iverson was just named Time magazine’s sportsman of the year.

Here is what Art P. wrote:

Is there a racial element to the coverage of Barry Bonds' run at the single season record? I do think that some of us white folk expect (or at least hope for) some kind of reciprocation when we reach out to someone of another race, although it's probably not consciously recognized as such. If reporters are to commend Barry Bonds on his skill and achievements (and judging from an article I read about an interview he gave in the presence of his young daughter, he is a man of fundamental achievements), they tend to expect kindness and generosity in return. Maybe it's the continuation of the Hank Aaron experience, or even the Eleanor Roosevelt stereotype of liberal kindness, where the privileged expect to be appreciated when reaching out to those whom they deem to be underprivileged (I've heard that Louis Armstrong had some interesting things to say about Mrs. Roosevelt, contrary to the sanitized autobiography "Satchmo" that I read as a child). Perhaps Barry Bonds could do humanity a great service by gently raising the "reciprocation" point with a group of reporters, although I'm not sure that's his style.

Bonds deserves adulation simply because he's gotten to this point in both single season and career HRs so quickly and despite an incredible walk tally. His comprehensive baseball skills leave him on par with Willie Mays. If there is a legitimate "mark" against him, I think it would be his lack of a championship or a pennant, and his seeming refusal to assume a solid leadership role (which would appear to be interrelated). A "bad attitude" should not preclude one from being a great leader. Consider Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, George Patton, Attila the Hun...

Here is what we received from one of our viewers, Darren M.:

Bro. Cedric,

I listen to alot of sports radio, and while most of it starts with journalists, this attitude towards Barry extends out into the general populace. As you know, american culture is founded on white supremecy. Americans have a hard enough time seeing Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods making all these millions, but at least they smile and say all the right things. "How dare Barry Bonds act like he is not eternally grateful for what we have allowed him to become?", the supremecist's mind says.

I live in the bay and hear alot of his interviews and Barry Bond's biggest problem is that he does not do what folks like Louis Armstrong and his own godather Willie Mays felt they were forced to do and smile graciously when asked assinine, stupid and non-sensical questions repeatedly. In a hot second, Barry will roll his eyes and tell the reporter "I aint answerin' that".

White folks hate that!!

I listen to them everyday and they all but say "I hate Barry's black ass". They can't stand that he doesn't give a f--- what they think.

Yesterday, Allen Iverson was named Time magazine’s athlete of the year. As recently as a year ago, Iverson had a similar problem as that which Bonds has today. He did not care for members of the media and had more than a few problems with noted journalists. As a result, it is believed, that his coverage and image suffered. But in addition to that he displayed a healthy amount of resistance to conforming to the professional standards of the NBA. But his ability as an athlete, according to most basketball fans was nearly as good in 2000 as it was in 2001. But the depiction of Iverson in the media changed as he treated reporters with more respect and gave the image that he wanted to form a better relationship with the 76ers front office and the NBA. He was transformed from a rebellious thug into America’s most loveable thug; “the little thug who could”, as Iverson and his ever-changing cornrows battled against all odds against the giants of the NBA. In one year, Iverson went from the Black representative of the so-called Generation X to the holy status of the prophet David battling Goliath. Only the mainstream media can do that.

That change, more than anything that Iverson did on the court, although his team improved significantly from the year before, led to his being embraced by the sports media and the NBA as its new shining star. Those who doubt our opinion should consider that while Iverson did not have any off the court problems in the 2000-2001 season like he did in the 1999-2000 NBA season; Iverson had planned to release a rap album that the media deemed to be very unflattering to women and gays. But because Iverson apologized for anyone who may have been offended by the excerpts of the lyrics of the album, splashed throughout the media, and because he worked to improve his relationship with the media and the 76ers executives and the NBA, his rap album was “forgotten” and his image was cleaned up by the NBA PR machine.

As Art P. wrote, Iverson “reciprocated” to those Whites in the media and the NBA and was rewarded with an embrace and a measure of PR “spin” that was out of proportion, we believe, with his real change in conduct. We never thought Iverson was a bad person as the media initially portrayed him to be and therefore we never saw him turn into a “good person” as the media landscape artists have recently depicted.

Art and Darren, from different sides of the street have this thing pretty well figured out. We wonder if Barry B. and A.I. do.

Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

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