Matt Towery

Immediately came the chorus that race is a motivating opinion in all of this.

Yes and no. It's true that more whites than blacks wanted Vick released. (It's also true that an overwhelming percentage of African-Americans want him to keep playing.)

But the poll also showed that African-Americans make up only about 35 percent of the Falcons' total fan base. So for Vick to have almost half of the fans supporting him, it meant that he had healthy support from whites. And he did.

In this instance, it wasn't race that did in Michael Vick. It was Vick himself.

Finally, there's the agony and ecstasy of waiting for baseball star Barry Bonds, also black, to surpass Hank Aaron as Major League Baseball's all-time home-run king.

As it happens, I was there that night in Atlanta in 1974, when Hank passed Babe Ruth to claim the home-run title for himself. I know Hank for both his public and personal behavior. His brother-in-law served with me in the Georgia Legislature. Over the years, I've had the privilege of being exposed to the great Hank Aaron, and I've heard intimate stories about him.

As Bonds chases Aaron, the nation isn't down on him because he's black, although that's been suggested many times. Instead, Bonds suffers because of his perceived cocky and rude attitude, and because many believe he has boosted his home-run prowess by using illegal steroids.

Contrast that with Aaron. Here's a man I recall standing behind me with his lovely wife as we all waited for our cars to be brought to us at a function at the house of a mutual friend. Hank stood patiently, never expecting special treatment and not accompanied by an entourage.

Unlike Bonds or Vick, Hank Aaron has earned superstar treatment for his exemplary performance on and off the field. Ironically, he experienced more true racial discrimination than either of the other two men.

So race is like life itself: Each case must be considered on its own terms.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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