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Historian interviewed by NPR on slugger Bonds breaking baseball's biggest record

Posted: August 8, 2007

On August 7, before a sellout home crowd in San Francisco, Giants fans cheered Bonds on as he hit his 756 home run breaking the previous record held by fellow black player Hank Aaron. Reporter Tom Ashbrook asked Moore why there is so much controversy over this achievement and the question of steroids use by Bonds.

"The Barry Bonds controversy must be examined through the lens of American race relations. The only reason that it is indeed a controversy is because Bonds is black," Moore asserts. "I refuse to believe that Americans really care about steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. If that were the case then Lance Armstrong would not be an American icon because it is widely known in Europe that he was a big-time steroid user."

According to Moore, this whole situation is bringing up "American's love-hate relationship with African American athletes." He points out the fact that several other talented black athletes besides Bonds have been unrelentingly scrutinized by the media for the smallest transgressions such as Adam "Pacman" Jones, Terrell Owens, Ron Artest, Randy Moss, Allen Iverson, and Michael Vick.

"As long as black athletes remain grateful and assume a servant-like posture, they will be rewarded. However, once they begin to go outside the lines of acceptable white middle-class behavior then you see the media go on the attack," Moore said.

He explains that the controversy also has to do with Bonds' unwillingness to cater to sportswriters. He is "his own man" and refuses to follow anything of the Michael Jordan tradition of pandering to the media. Bonds represents "a new version of the former Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson: cocky, arrogant, and confident."

And on Hank Aaron's silence: "He allowed the sports establishment to use him in a game of 'Good Negro/Bad Negro,' when he refused to support Bonds. Aaron's silence spoke volumes and it left Bonds on an island."

Moore is an associate professor in the Department of History and also the director of UT's Pre-Doctoral Scholar and Mentoring Institute in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement Office.

On Point Radio Show produced from Boston's NPR News Source will air the show again tonight, August 8, at 7 p.m. ET
KUT2 Radio will air the show streamed online and HD radio at midnight.

Related Sites:
Associate Professor Leonard Moore
UT's Division of Diversity of Community Engagement

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