Roundtable: Steroids, Duke Assault, Dems on Terrorism

Topics: a new investigation of steroid use among pro baseball players; members of Duke University's lacrosse team deny a role in a sex assault; and a new Democratic approach to defense and terrorism. Guests: N.Y.U. education professor Pedro Noguera; Walter Fields, CEO and publisher of NorthStarNetwork.com; and Yvonne Bynoe, author of the book Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture.

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ED GORDON, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Ed Gordon. On today's roundtable: Democrats pledge to eliminate bin Laden, and baseball takes on its biggest star. Joining us today to discuss these topics and more, from our New York bureau Pedro Noguera, professor of education at New York University. Also there, Walter Fields, CEO and Publisher of NorthStarNetwork.com, and he's also an economist. And with us, Yvonne Bynoe, author of the book Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip-Hop Culture. She joins us from our headquarters in Washington, D.C.

All right, folks, let's talk a little bit about something that's been in the news over the course of the last couple of days and very disturbing. In Durham, North Carolina, at Duke University, the lacrosse team has been suspended based on allegations that they, some of the members there may have raped an exotic dancer who was brought in at a party that the team was throwing. We should note that this dancer is African-American and a student at North Carolina Central University, an African-American college there.

Walter Fields, first and foremost, let's talk about what the school has done, and then we'll get into the racial implications. The interesting point here is the president has in fact suspended the games of this lacrosse team until the investigation is done. One has to wonder, you have to applaud him for that, but one has to wonder if this was a Duke Basketball team, that kind of money-generating athletic program, would he have done the same?

Mr. WALTER FIELDS (CEO and Publisher, NorthStarNetwork.com): Oh, probably not. I mean, I think when you look at Duke basketball, they're a huge revenue maker for the university. I think the lacrosse team's an easier mark. But I think the university's got a real problem on their hands with this incident, and what I find fascinating about this, it really involves not just race but class and gender, too. The fact that this is a young lady, the alleged victim, who's attending a historically black college. I'm assuming she's working her way through college, you know, as an exotic dancer. She's entertaining predominantly white men who attend one of the most elite universities in the country, where tuition's $42,000 per year. I mean, if that's not a contrast in terms of equity issues in America, what is? And I think Duke's trying to get their hands around this, and I do applaud the university president, because I do think he acted swiftly, and he's made it clear that whoever is implicated in this, there will be a price to be paid. But I think this is one that everyone should be paying a lot of attention to.

GORDON: Pedro Noguera, it also brings up an interesting point, and you work with college kids all the time. These kinds of parties, these kind of, for lack of a better term, I mean, truly just drunken stupors that we find college kids in today at this parties happen more frequently than we'd like to, and the story of this young lady, working her way through school as an exotic dancer, as a stripper, etcetera, happens more often than we want to open our eyes to as well.

Professor PEDRO NOGUERA (Steinhart School of Education, New York University): I think that is a very important point, Ed, which is that the environment many of these athletic teams -- football, basketball and now we see lacrosse as well -- and the kind of atmosphere you see in many of the frat houses where there's a lot of uncontrolled drinking, lends itself to this kind of behavior where women are attacked and assaulted. And while the racial element of this makes it much more explosive, I think we all know that there are many cases where the races are reversed, and it really does speak, I think, instead to a larger issue of the irresponsible climate than many of these universities allow to be -- they tolerate and which then leads to this kind of criminal activity.

GORDON: And Yvonne, the idea that here's a young lady, and we don't know a whole lot more than has been released, but possibly working her way, as Walter suggested, through college. This is not a work program she's doing. I mean, you know, this a job on the side that more and more I see, unfortunately, young African-American women taking to make money.

Ms. YVONNE BYNOE (Author): So how would you like me to respond to that, Ed?

GORDON: I'm just saying, does that say anything about where we are today? I mean, I remember in the good old days, if you did do that, you certainly were quiet about it. You know, I've had young ladies at Superbowls and the like hand out business cards. I'm saying, does it say anything about our society?

Ms. BYNOE: Well, I think and as a general comment, the culture in America has coarsened across the board. Pornography, stripping and the like is more acceptable. You can turn on a music video and see actual strippers who have now, you know, been hired to be part of legitimate video, if you want to term it that way. You know, we have very open discussions about pornography, women who like pornography. Women who want to be part of it. So I think the whole stigma with being involved with adult entertainment has lessened, and I think to a certain extent, and not just black women, I think there are women in general who are looking at this as a viable option. It may not be their number one choice, but in terms of being able to make money and have a somewhat flexible schedule, I think some people are looking at that as a viable job option.

GORDON: All right, we'll move our attention, and we'll continue to keep watch of the investigation there at Durham and on the campus of Duke University as tensions rise. And Walter, you suggested it's true not only between the colleges down there but Durham, a predominantly black, a lot of farming there, a poor African-American community surrounded by one of the richest universities in the country. It is a strange juxtaposition of the two.

GORDON: All right, we'll take a look at the baseball and steroid investigation. Major League Baseball has announced that they will investigate the alleged steroid use of Barry Bonds and others. This based on an explosive book that has given way to whether or not Mr. Bonds comes out of the shadows, if you will. The book is called Game of Shadows.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell has been hired to head the investigation here. Pedro Noguera, I'm curious. It's interesting now that this book has come out and baseball is taking this huge leap forward. Many people say it's not about finding out about steroid use in baseball; it's about going after Barry Bonds.

Prof. NOGUERA: And I think the whole, all of Major League Baseball is implicated in this use. The fact is that when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were in their homerun derby, we were celebrating that baseball was -- the numbers of people turning out for games had gone up, and it was pretty clear that both of them, even at the time, were using steroids. There are many baseball players today and for several years who've been using amphetamines. Are amphetamines part of this investigation? I would think they're also performance-enhancing drugs. Once you start to dig beneath the surface, you realize they have a much, much bigger problem on their hands than Barry Bonds, and where it stops, I think, is the bigger question. Because if you're going to charge his records, then there are many baseball players out there who are suspect.

GORDON: Yvonne, here's the interesting point in my book, and it's the idea of the hypocrisy that baseball is standing on this perch looking down and saying we're going to clean up the game, shame on you. But this was not a secret, not Barry Bonds' use. I'm not condemning Barry Bonds. We don't know. But the use of performance-enhancing drugs was no secret by any means, even before Jose Conseco's book, to baseball players, managers and people who surround baseball. There is a bit of hypocrisy here, don't you think?

Ms. BYNOE: I would certainly agree with that, and I think that what was just said is certainly true. There are a host of people who when they were winning and everything was hunky-dory, no one could care less whether or not they were using performance-enhancing drugs or not. It just really was not a discussion. More importantly, I find it interesting that we're going to dig back to 2002, or rather, prior to 2003 when we start having conversations about drug testing. So the point, whether or not these books came out, in some respects is somewhat irrelevant because you're not going to be able to prove anything, and if you could, they weren't subject to the current testing. So it sounds like a smokescreen to me. Certainly if you want to have some dialog about taking drugs out of professional sports, that's certainly one conversation.

But you need to be honest about that, take some procedures and set up some policies that are proactive rather than going back in time and wanting to castigate people who were not even subject to the current protocol.

GORDON: Walter Fields, here's the interesting point as relates to Barry Bonds. There are a lot of cynics who suggest that the only reason that they're going after Barry Bonds is that the baseball purists who love the game historically, and we're talking about, quote "the white purists," don't want to see yet another black man topple the magical mark that Hank Aaron has already pushed aside and that is the legend of Babe Ruth.

Mr. FIELDS: Well, you know, it's interesting. People hated Hank Aaron because he broke Babe Ruth's record. They're hating Barry Bonds because he may break Hank's record, and I think Barry has become a convenient poster child around this issue. But I think we really have to speak to what this is really all about.

The pressure to win and drive revenue in professional sports across the board is really driving athletes to make some poor decisions. Barry Bonds is already an incredible baseball player, whether or not he used performance-enhancing drugs or not. And what I find fascinating is that someone as gifted as a Barry Bonds or a Mark McGuire or a Sammy Sosa would put themselves in this position, and it's because of the pressure that they're under. These guys were already incredible ball players. They didn't need to be juiced up. Barry Bonds was already smacking about 36, 40 homeruns a year.

So I think we've really gotta look at what's happening in professional sports because it's the business aspect that is driving a lot of people. They've got to hit five more next year. They've got to drive in 50 or more RBIs. And the human body can only take you so far, naturally.

So I think if Major League Baseball is really going to be honest about this, let's talk about how the business aspect to drive revenue and to win are forcing some of these professional athletes into a very uncomfortable position.

GORDON: All right, here's the interesting point, too, Yvonne. George Mitchell seems to be the go-to guy for anything that needs to be negotiated.

Ms. BYNOE: Oh, you're definitely right about that. But I think, as everyone knows in Washington, it's basically a very short Rolodex. And I think in that regard you have a couple of people who we keep seeing over and over in different capacities, and I think regardless of whether or not he's qualified for the job, I just think that we, a lot of people just never go beyond that short list. And again, that's why we see him resurfacing again.

GORDON: Well, from the Middle East to the baseball diamond, if you need it taken care of, you better call George Mitchell, I guess.

All right, let's take a look at the Democrats, who are suggesting that they are going to, quote "eliminate Osama bin Laden." In a position paper released this week, and they've been releasing these periodically, their suggestion is that they're going to promise to eliminate Osama bin Laden and insure a responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.

Pedro, this is not unexpected, but how realistic is it? This is no different than George Bush's bullhorn speech right after 9/11, is it?

Prof. NOGUERA: No, it's no different, and I think that kind of posturing just really weakens their position overall. I think what they really should be doing is talking in a more comprehensive way about what the foreign policy of the United States would be under a Democratic administration. How would the United States address various security matters that the Bush Administration has created a mess out of, such as Iraq and Afghanistan?

But to merely say we're going to catch Osama, what do they, they don't run the military, they don't run the intelligence forces. They have no ability to do anything differently than Bush has done in that regard. So I think it really makes them look quite silly.

GORDON: Walter?

Mr. FIELDS: Well, I think, you know, it's important that we begin to have an articulation of national security priority that moves beyond rhetoric. You know, one of the dangers that the Democratic Party has now set itself up for is the raising of expectations. You know, I think President Bush, when he first said after September 11th, we're going to go after and get those guys, the public was behind the President, across the board, because there was this notion of we know who did this, let's go get them and bring them to justice. When he failed to do that, that's when people began to really question what this President was doing and whether or not he had a plan.

Now the Democrats are coming out of the box saying, we're going to capture Osama bin Laden. I think that they have now set the bar so high that most people won't believe them off base, because they'll say, well, wait a minute, if these guys who are in office couldn't do it for five years, what are you going to do differently? And they really don't have a plan. So I think we really have to have a more common sense discussion on both sides of the aisle, so that we can try to secure our country as best possible.

GORDON: Yvonne, I admit to being, to growing more cynical as I get older, but these position papers for years I've seen, from Republicans and Democrats, and they sit and they sit and they sit. And if we were ever to go back and review them after the fact, often, you know, my number's not scientific, but I would bet, over half, clearly over half of these things are never even dealt with.

Ms. BYNOE: Well, that's true. I think, certainly, there are position papers who can outline some really clear strategies and formulate analyses that would be helpful. The point is, they have to be used. So without having seen this position paper that we're referring to, we don't know whether it's just a bunch of hot air, or whether or not there are some clear strategies that they are just deciding that they don't want to make public at this point.

I unfortunately am more inclined to believe there's more hot air. I think if they had something more concrete, we would have heard it. I think if you look at Representative Pelosi, as well as Harry Reid, it seems like the same talking points: tough and smart, strong and smart. So this is the new buzz words that they're using around. I think, as was said earlier, they need to really get on a page, galvanize around some messages and tell us what would a Democratic, what would America in a Democratic administration look like, as opposed to looking like they're just hating on Bush.

And that's what it seems like. We already know what Bush has done. If we feel it is not appropriate, we already know that. The people who are supporting him will continue to support him, but the Democrats continue to fail to tell us what will be different if they took over the leadership.

GORDON: Pedro, no real specific details in most of these position statements, though there is to be a more comprehensive study down the line. I asked Harry Reid about it and he said that should be coming close to the fall, But we did have him on this week, and you can hear from most Democrats right now this kind of gearing up to say, no, we're tough, we're tough, we're tough. But as Yvonne put it, it really does seem to be, we're tough, but look at the President and the next 15, 20 minutes of discussion is about what the President isn't doing versus what Democrats are going to do.

Prof. NOGUERA: Well, I think that it's not going to work. They're going to actually have to take a strong and clear position, for example, on the war. How long will the troops be left in Iraq? They have to answer that unequivocally, and if they're going to have any credibility at all. The Republicans, despite their mishandling of everything, are at least clear; you know where they stand, they're going to stand with the president. Where will the Democrats stand? Just muddling along is not a position, and I don't think it's going to be very effective to just point out the failure of Bush's policies.

Ms. BYNOE: But I think the problem with the Democrats, they can't get around a message. At least the Republicans, up until the most recent time, they've been able to coalesce a couple of key principles. They stay on message. The Democrats are all over the place, so if you talk to one today, look around two hours later, someone else will have a press conference saying something different. So they have to decide amongst themselves as a party, what do they stand for, what are the three points that they're going to abdicate through 2006 and 2008 election cycles, and move forward? I don't think they're, frankly, equipped to do that at this point.

GORDON: Walter, real quick, last 30 seconds.

Mr. FIELDS: Well, you know, I think the real truth of the matter is, is that our government is not prepared for this animal called terrorism. We have no clue, and I think it's revealed every day. And I think we need to fess up to the fact that this is something that we were not prepared for, we haven't dealt with efficiently, and that both political parties need to drop the partisan sniping and come up with a real plan to make this country a little bit safer. It's not going to be totally safe, but they can do a hell of a lot better if there's a bit of honesty in the debate.

All right, Walter Fields, Pedro Noguera, and Yvonne Bynoe, thank you all for joining us, appreciate it.

Mr. FIELDS: Thank you.

Ms. BYNOE: Thank you.

Prof. NOGUERA: Thank you.

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