In addition to his prowess on the basketball court, NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley has always been known for speaking his mind.
To that point, it should come as no surprise to fans of Sir Charles — I count myself among them — that the “Round Mound of Rebound” found himself in a bit of controversy on Thursday, over sharing his thoughts about professional athletes who refuse to kneel in “Black Lives Matter” protest prior to the start of NFL or NBA games.
On Thursday’s edition of TNT’s “The Inside Guys,” Barkley reacted to fellow Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal’s assertion that black athletes should help “bring awareness” to the BLM movement. Said Shaq:
“When you have you platform, I think it is very important that you speak up, it’s very important that you speak your mind but when you talk about change, you also have to talk about protocol.
So we use our voice to bring awareness. Now we have to go vote, we have to vote our mayors in, our mayors are to appoint new chiefs of police. We have to vote senators and politicians. It doesn’t just stop with sending our a tweet or yelling all the time.”
Barkley disagreed — albeit diplomatically so.
“The thing is, listen, that’s gonna mean different things to different people. I’m glad these guys are all unified, but if people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person.
I want to make that perfectly clear, I’m glad they had unity, but if we have a guy who doesn’t want to kneel because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified.”
Diplomatic, or not, Twitter detractors went after Barkley like, as he might say, a chicken on a June bug. “BallerAlert” was only worried about players who kneel being vilified.
This guy used a dancing routine to trash Barkley.
Charles Barkley does not speak for black people — he speaks for his white golf buddies who he doesn’t want to disappoint. He’s more worried about white men view him than how black women do. He spent years tap dancing on TV and now he’s a black leader — says who?
As did this guy.
“Antoinette” was more diplomatic with Charles — kind of.
There are plenty tweets critical of Barkley in thread; unfortunately, many of them are NSFW, so I chose to leave them out.
To be sure, there are also plenty of comments in support of Barkley.
During the segment on “social justice,” “The Inside Guys” showed video of various NBA locker rooms at Disney World, where the NBA season restart began on Thursday, which included a look at the various “social justice” statements that players are allowed to substitute for their names on their jerseys during the first four games of the restart.
As I wrote earlier today, Lebron James was among the players on Thursday who not only embraced kneeling in protest, he said in a post-game interview he hoped “We made Kaep proud” (when we kneeled) — a reference to former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started this whole thing nearly four years ago.
As for Barkley, he’s right, of course.
In America, we not only have a First Amendment right to peacefully protest, we also have the right to choose not to do so.
In today’s hypersensitive post-George-Floyd America, refusing to speak out in support of “Black Lives Matter” can land black people in hot water in some quarters — even if your name is Charles Barkley.
Thing is? Barkley couldn’t care less — which is a large part of why you gotta admire him. Or not. He couldn’t care less about that, either.