Boston Red Sox star pitcher Curt Schilling put it bluntly to Roger Clemens: Prove your innocence or cough up four Cy Young awards. It was a big, brash, and bold challenge to the icon pitcher. But so far Schilling has been one of the few within or without baseball to make that challenge.
When the Mitchell Report fingered Clemens as the biggest name suspected chemical performance juicer, outside of Barry Bonds, and shoved him to the top of its A-list of offenders, the by now all-too-familiar double standard quickly kicked in with a vengeance. That is that a venerated white superstar gets a free pass from the bash and blame from the media, the public and the sportswriters when accused of bad or criminal behavior, while a scorned and shunned black superstar gets pounded for the same dubious behavior. The Clemens and Barry Bonds treatment proved that.
The legion of talking head analysts, sportswriters and commentators, and packs of fans did their patented twists and vaults to nitpick, niggle at, downplay, or flat out apologize for Clemens. The hard core Clemens apologists branded the report a tissue of gossip, hearsay, unsubstantiated testimony, and a cheap ploy to grab headlines. The few fans and writers that had the temerity to pound Clemens for cheating drew an equally predictable torrent of angry rebuttals, dodges and apologies.
Clemens quickly sniffed that the how-dare-you-speak-ill-of-our-hero wind was blowing at gale force and played the persecuted wronged babe in the woods victim. The equally predictable one day in and then out rule came into play with Clemens. The rule put simply is that allegations of or real misdeeds by or about white superstars draw a CNN headline, gets the tongues wagging, and a bit of press ink for one day. Then they quickly disappear from the news and just as quickly from the public's radar scope. The offender is not rehabilitated he's just forgotten. If not for Schilling's demand that Clemens come clean, that almost certainly would have been the case with Clemens too.
That brings me to Bonds. The Clemens apologists frothed at the mere hint that there is a double standard in the kid glove treatment of Clemens and the relentless flogging of Bonds. They turn twists and vaults to prove the difference. Clemens didn't lie to a grand jury. The allegations against him are unproven. He was a good role model for the game. All are patent nonsense. He didn't lie to a grand jury because he wasn't hauled in front of one and compelled to testify. That's even not a valid rationale to let anyone off the culpability hook. If someone participates in a crime and they keep their trap shut about it they are just as guilty. The allegations against Bonds until he's convicted of the charges of lying about steroid use or makes a public admission that he used them are just that, allegations. As for the clean Roger image, and the bad guy Bonds image, Mike Piazza can best answer that one. Clemens in a pique threw a shattered bat at him. Bonds has never physically attacked another player.
Even after the Mitchell Report named names, lots of them, that didn't take the focus or the heat off of Bonds. The other names were dismissed as a motley collection of washed up has beens, no-names, and bit players who added little to the game. The names that anyone really paid any attention to were Clemens and, of course, Bonds. But even with the finger of suspicion momentarily pointed at Clemens there was never any real danger that he would topple Bonds from his rarified perch as MLB's and the fan's public enemy number.
Schillings in his challenge to Clemens to prove his innocence also gave him a way out. He advised him to assemble a legal team and demand that Mitchell proof the allegations. If he can't then he suggested that he demand an apology and a retraction. That was a charitable way of giving Clemens the benefit of the doubt. There is no record that Schilling extended the same charity to Bonds. There was no talk of Bonds assembling a legal team to demand hard proof of steroid use, and if none were found demanding an apology and retraction of the charges against him. Neither Schilling nor any MLB player has given any public hint that they'll be in court to give support to Bonds when his day in the docket eventually comes because they believe that as Clemens he is also innocent until proven guilty.
No matter how many reports and articles alleging junk use in the MLB are written. No matter how many timid and weak fingers of suspicion are pointed at Clemens, and the other suspected chemically juiced up players, the fact remains, and will remain, that Bonds is the only ball player that has taken the full fall for the sins of MLB. That's no real challenge to Clemens or baseball, let alone disproves there's a harsh double-standard treatment of Bonds.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press) hutchinsonreport@aol