Friday, December 14, 2007

The McGwire Paradox, Redux

Last year, I wrote a post on the burgeoning baseball steroids scandal entitled The McGwire Paradox. Noting the intense amount of loathing Barry Bonds has received as he pursued a cherished national record (namely, career home runs), I asked why Mark McGwire, who also chased and eventually broke a popular home run record (Roger Maris' single season mark) while under steroid suspicions didn't receive the same opprobrium. Now it's not like McGwire was treated with kid gloves during his run. But surely we can agree that he didn't face the same level of hostility that Bonds has: booing at every ball park, a universally hostile media, and now a criminal probe.

Working off that, Paul Butler of George Washington Law School wonders if the 89 players -- mostly White and Latino -- named in the Mitchell Report will face similar charges to the ones being pressed against Bonds. If not, Butler argues, prosecutors should drop the case against Barry.
There is a sense, both in the criminal justice system and in the social Zeitgeist, that drug use by African-Americans is somehow worse than drug use by others....To state the obvious, all drug offenders ought to be treated the same. Since we don’t have the resources to “level up” enforcement for white people to enforcement for African-Americans, we should “level down” enforcement for blacks. It seems unlikely that the 88 other baseball players accused of doping will be investigated and prosecuted like Bonds. Dropping the charges against Bonds would send the important message that when it comes to criminal justice, what is good enough for white people is good enough for African-Americans.

Butler has written much excellent scholarship on this and related topics. If you have the time (and the access), I highly recommend his article Starr is to Clinton as Regular Prosecutors are to Blacks, 40 Boston College Law Review 705-716 (1999).

1 comment:

Rich Horton said...

Several problem with this.

A) Bonds got caught up in an investigation that was not instigated to "catch" him. If he doesn't lie to the feds he wouldn't be facing the troubles he is now. Bonds is NOT BEING PROSECTUED FOR ILLEGAL DRUG USE.

B) Part of the reason McGwire didn't face the same scrutiny as Bonds is because, 1) the controversey surrounded McGwire's use of Andro, 2) Andro isn't a steroid, 3) Andro wasn't a prescription medication, 4) Andro was in no way banned by MLB, 5) the popular animus against McGwire came only after his performace in front of Congress...after he had when exactly should fans have booed him?

C) I count at least seven black players among the 53 non-HGH implicated players. (There could be more as some of the lesser known players are beyond my baseball knowledge.) 7 of 53 would seem to be close to proportional for black ballplayers to all ballplayers in general. If we are all "out to get the black man" shouldn't there have been more?

D) This report was the work of Senator Mitchell and staff, not any entity that can prosectue anyone, although they used the information gathered by actual law enforcement agencies when it was available. Thus Butler's comments are largely irrelevant. In fact, the report argued that none of the named indivduals, white, black or hispanic, should be sanctioned by MLB.

E) How does letting Barry Bonds committ perjury and objustruction of justice make up for any injustices committed against other people? It doesn't. Doesn't multi-millionaire Bonds have more than enough advantages over ordinary folks (black or white) already?