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What bothered me about the Barry Bonds case?

  • Written by Bill Fletcher Jr.
  • Published in News
I don’t particularly like the attitude of former San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds.
 Bill Fletcher Jr.

I don’t particularly like the attitude of former San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds. I don’t care for the way that he treated his fans and supporters. I don’t appreciate his smugness. Yet, at the end of the day, that is not what was at stake in the Barry Bonds court case.

Barry Bonds faces up to 10 years based on his conviction for obstruction of justice. This is not what prosecutors were looking for and it remains unclear how much jail time he will actually serve, if any. Nevertheless, when I think about the amount of money and attention that has been focused on this case, I cringe. And I ask myself, toward what end?

Don’t get me wrong, I am against performance-enhancing drugs. That said, it is clear today that such drugs were accepted as standard operating procedure in Major League Baseball for years. That does not make it right. It means that when a line is actually being drawn it cannot be drawn backwards. If owners, players and the media were all involved in this culture of steroid use, then the bottom line is that there needed and needs to be total enforcement, which includes changing the culture of baseball so that it is understood that such drugs are unacceptable. Saying today that what was done in the past was unacceptable when, in fact, the industry accepted it rings of hypocrisy.

 Barry Bones
 Barry Bonds

Yet what really bugged me about the Bonds trial is what sportswriter Dave Zirin discussed recently in a column. No one has yet been prosecuted for the circumstances surrounding the financial collapse of 2008. No one has gone to jail, and yet millions of people, yes, quite literally millions of people were affected by the double-dealing and shenanigans of Wall Street, thereby losing their homes, pensions, and jobs. A crime the scale of the 2008 financial collapse should have been the subject of thorough investigations followed by a wave of indictments. Such actions certainly would have changed the culture of Wall Street.  

The failure to take prompt and stern legal measures is the equivalent of Major League baseball having taken a pass on performance-enhancing drugs for so many years. When no steps are taken, then the behavior is understood to be acceptable, if not permitted outright. Instead of such actions, we are treated to the Barry Bonds show-trial, and the resources that were put into it.

So, I don’t know whether Bonds or anyone else will go to jail. His career has been wrecked, in part due to his own arrogance, but certainly due to the steroids scandal itself. Other players are ducking for cover. More than likely this will all fade like an early morning fog. It seems, however, that it is far easier for the powers that be to focus their attention on one baseball player possibly involved in questionable activities rather than on an industry – big finance – that crushed the lives and futures of so many people who were simply trying to live an honest life.

Go figure?

(Bill Fletcher Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of “Solidarity Divided.”  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)  

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