Let’s look at how Barry Bonds was portrayed in the media based on race and his character. I expect to see race play a factor in the media narratives leading up to his breaking of the all-time home run record but not after he broke the record. I don’t expect to see his character attacked at all by the media.
He was a very polarizing figure in the media with “black fans wanting him to break the Home Run Record vs white fans who didn’t want him to break the record”. There was an “I Hate Barry” parade by callers on the radio They said it wasn’t about race just the fact that he was a cheater.
Bud Selig MLB Commissioner at the time said he wouldn’t attend any games in which Bonds might break Aaron’s record because of racial overtone. This shows the racial divide between whites and blacks when it comes to sports and athletes having the potential to break all-time records in that sport. There are white people who believe that Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids and therefore, didn’t want him to break the all-time home run record. However, blacks are reluctant to believe that he took steroids and were rooting for him to break Hank Aaron’s home run record. Blacks are twice as likely as their white counterparts to want Bonds to break Hank Aaron’s home run record and nearly twice as likely to think that Bonds has been treated unfairly. Bond’s story being as prominent as it is with his suspected steroid use made Bud Selig just want him to go away. Jemele Hill, one of the few black women with a high-profile voice in sports journalism wrote a column asking God if he can smite Barry Bonds before he breaks the home run record. Some journalists have attacked Bonds by saying that we should hang him for using steroids to help him break the record. Another more disturbing attack by a media member on Bonds brings up how he once punched someone in high school and leaves his underwear on the locker room floor.
“Bonds didn’t get the respect of other power hitters like Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth because of his steroid use” (Kunester,2006). Race could have also played a factor in this as well but wasn’t as prominent as his steroid use. There was one article from the San Francisco Chronicle that cited race as a prominent factor between Bonds and his detractors. Unconscientious concepts of race and the institutional favoring of whiteness can be used as the primary basis for the predominant negativity surrounding Bonds and why he was portrayed as falling short of baseball’s mythological ideas. One news journalist asserted “that the media and fan outcry directed at baseball player Barry Bonds is “nothing more than rank racism aimed at a premier athlete” (Calmese, 2007). “This could not be further from the truth” (Calmese, 2007). They are mostly upset with Bonds for cheating rather than his race. Many question if Bonds is really the fraud, he is made out to be by the grand jury, or if he is being wrongfully targeted for destruction because of his race. It’s hard to say whether or not race played a significant role in the investigation into Barry Bonds steroid use. It could have been that the government was out to get him because they don’t like blacks threatening the mainstream white attitude in America. There is evidence that Bonds lied when he said that he never knowingly took steroids. The portrait that emerges of Bonds is one of an arrogant, jealous athlete who used performance enhancing drugs to try to one up Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Some fans even went as far as to send Bonds death threats, and hate mail as he inched closer to Mark McGwire’s single season home run record. This shows that many fans and media members alike don’t care about the record chase because everybody knows he’s a cheater.
One of the magazine articles says that” the cheater label has stuck to Bonds” (“Barry Bonds”, 2007). It also states that “Bonds home run record is tainted at best no matter what he claimed” (“Barry Bonds, 2007). Some media members argue that Bonds shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame because of his steroid use when he was playing. Even though some voters may give him the nod because of his accomplishments no matter what he had to do to achieve them. The value system works to communicate a particular social value system which favors the white, middle-class community. The distinction between Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds may shed light on the social and societal roles deemed appropriate for African Americans.
Another magazine article states that “journalists often portrayed Bonds character negatively by calling him arrogant and rude while questioning his work ethic” (Ventresca, 2011). They also used other disagreeable portrayals of his characteristics including “prickly primma donna”, ill-mannered, or rude (Ventrescca, 2011). Some of the media members said that Bonds was the most stand-offish players in modern Giants history.
Bonds behavior can be childish at times he pulled the race card in 1993 when Ron Kittle a former White Sox player asked for his autograph and Bonds said he doesn’t sign for white people” (Kunester, 2006). Bonds denies this claim by telling the media to tell Kittle he’s an idiot. Which leads some of the media to state Bonds isn’t being racist just an idiot. Some journalists argue that this specific example also shows how immature Bonds can be at times in his career.
Barry Bonds character was attacked quite a bit by the media. This could be in part because of his unfriendly image in the media and his involvement in the steroid scandal. Nobody in the media seemed to like Bonds and some San Francisco media members were even suggesting that he be traded. One sports writer in Canada called Bonds “The San Francisco Creep”. Some of the media dislike of Bonds seemed to stem from the fact that Bonds didn’t care what the media thought of him. As a matter of fact, when he was asked to comment on a story a Sports Illustrated writer wrote about him, he told the media member who asked that question to get out. Some of the media and others hate Barry Bonds not because he’s a cheater but because in their eyes Bonds is a jerk. One website ran a column saying that Bonds elbow brace gave him an unfair advantage. This was refuted by another journalist by saying his arms haven’t grown since the start of his career.
One journal article states that Barry Bonds set off a firestorm in 2004 when he told a Boston sportswriter that he would never finish his career as a designated hitter there because it’s too racist for him. When the reporter tried to suggest to him that the city of Boston has changed, he said that the city isn’t changing. According to one of Bonds former teammates he may arguably be the best to ever play baseball, but he won’t get the recognition because he’s not nice. Bonds says the he doesn’t fault the media for the way he’s being portrayed he faults himself. He says when the media threw the bait out there, he took it and ran with it. This is what Bonds says has really damaged him is his inability to keep his mouth shut. His behavior has been portrayed as objectionable which in some people’s eyes is indictive of his character. There was a book written about Bonds that destroyed his reputation as one of baseball’s all-time greatest players. This is one of the reasons he will probably never be considered as one of the game’s best players ever. There was actually a plan by HBO to make a film about the steroid investigation with Bonds. Another MLB player Albert Pujols said that the media needs to back off in their portrayal of Bonds as a steroid user. Bonds supposed steroid use is one of the reasons why he hasn’t gotten into the Baseball Hall Of Fame yet and probably never will.
The media analyses for the most part rejects the hypothesis because he was portrayed in the media based in race throughout his career and not just leading up to his chase for the all-time home run record. Bonds was attacked by the media for his character as well as his race. We found negativity regarding his race, character, and personality throughout his career by the media because they didn’t like him all that much.
- Brad Botkin. (May 19, 2006 Friday). It’s easy to hate Bonds — but not for the reasons you’d think. Eureka Times Standard (California). Retrieved from https://advance-lexis-com.proxy-tu.researchport.umd.edu/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:4K0D-TNX0-TXCN-F3BJ-00000-00&context=1516831.
- Leitch. (August 7, 2007 Tuesday). Barry Bonds: Have Barry Bonds’ Arms Really Not Grown?. Deadspin. Retrieved from https://advance-lexis-com.proxy-tu.researchport.umd.edu/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:4PCH-F1P0-TXF2-74YG-00000-00&context=1516831.
- Ventresca, Matt. “There’s Something about Barry: Media Representations of a Home Run King.” NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, vol. 20 no. 1, 2011, pp. 56-80. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/nin.2011.0037
- Verducci, T. (2006). THE CONSEQUENCES: Now Barry Bonds could wind up alongside Pete Rose in baseball purgatory. Sports Illustrated, (11). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgbc&AN=edsgcl.142933876&site=eds-live&scope=site