"It's so obvious what's going on," [Hunter] told USA Today. "He has never failed a drug test and said he never took steroids, but everybody keeps trying to disgrace him. How come nobody even talks about Mark McGwire anymore? Or [Rafael] Palmeiro [who tested positive for steroids in 2005]?"Baseball just doesn't like black people"? The fact that Hunter is echoing this sentiment leads me to believe that he agrees with it. To me, it is a ridiculous assertion. Presently, some of baseball's most treasured heroes are black. Hank Aaron. Reggie Jackson. Willie Mays. Jackie Robinson's number is retired in every Major League ballpark. Who's unquestionably the most popular player in Minnesota Twins history? Kirby Puckett. Who's arguably the most popular player on the team right now? Why, I believe you are, Mr. Hunter.
"Whenever I go home [to Pine Bluff, Ark.], I hear people say all of the time, 'Baseball just doesn't like black people. Here's the greatest hitter in the game, and they're scrutinizing him like crazy.' It's killing me because you know it's about race," Hunter told USA Today.
To answer the very obvious questions posed in the quote, the reason people aren't talking about McGwire or Palmeiro anymore is because neither are active ball-players. Palmeiro was heavily scrutinized after testing positive last year and has subsequently retired and faded out of the public eye. Hunter seems to feel like Bonds is being unjustly grouped with steroid users, but it is beyond naive to act like Barry claiming that he never took steroids means that he never took them and we should just take his word for it.
When people try to act like racism is at work every time an African-American is scrutinized in any situation, it only perpetuates racism in general. There's no way I would try to argue that racism is not around in this country, or even that it's nowhere to be found in baseball. But to claim that baseball's latest investigation into steroids is somehow based on racism is really bad form. It's quite easy to see why Selig ordered the investigation, and it's quite easy to see why Bonds is the main figure being attached to the investigation. There is a mounting pile of evidence connecting Bonds to steroid use, and he is on the verge of breaking one of the game's most celebrated records (one that is, by the way, held by a black man).
If Pete Rose was black, can you imagine how many accusations of racism we'd be hearing regarding his banishment from baseball? Why doesn't anyone say that he's being held out of the Hall of Fame because he's white? I don't see any of the African-Americans who agree with keeping Rose out of baseball being labeled racists. And they certainly shouldn't be.
Some people try to relate the current situation to 1998 when McGwire was chasing Roger Maris' single season home run record, noting that everyone supported Big Mac and he didn't draw the same scrutiny. I have no doubt whatsoever that if the same type of evidence was out connecting McGwire to steroid use at that time, there would have been just as much talk of cheating and asterisks and investigations. I'm pretty sure I recall seeing just as much support for Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. during that season.
Racism remains a problem in American culture, and not just against blacks. There is sadly a great deal of prejudice out there, aimed at Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and even whites. I am all for racism being exposed and condemned in all legitimate cases. However, there is no way that I will be led to believe that this investigation, nor the general sentiment that Bonds is a cheater, is in any large part due to the color of his skin. For Hunter to come out and make these comments is, in my opinion, ignorant and in very poor taste.