We Love Charles Barkley…For The Most Part

Basketball, The Fam — By on July 20, 2013 at 12:00 am

charles barkley tnt

By Jamar Hudson / @jamarhudson

Unlike his boy MJ, Charles Barkley has successfully found a post-career profession that has equalled, if not surpassed, his Hall-of-Fame playing career.

He is undoubtedly the driving force behind the best studio show not just in basketball, but in all of sports. The NBA on TNT has made Thursday nights for the NBA fan the equivalent of what Monday nights are during football season — or at least as close as one can get to matching the NFL.

Part of what we love, and sometimes hate, about Barkley is his willingness to have an unfiltered opinion on everything. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Barkley refuses to shy away from controversial issues and doesn’t know the meaning of politically correct. It seems that whenever something happens in the sports arena, a Barkley analysis is needed on said radio or TV show. Why? Because we seem to care and I guess respect how Barkley feels on the issues. And to be perfectly honest, his delivery can be humorous and make light of what may be a more serious situation.

But there can be too much of a good thing. There are times, not just for Barkley, when a simple “no comment” will suffice for those in the spotlight. It may be perceived as taking the easy way out, but in that particular situation, less may be more.

The entire nation has been captivated by the Trayvon Martin trial and subsequent aquittal of George Zimmerman. Since the not guilty verdict came down late last Saturday, reaction has come from every direction and from every imaginable points of view. It has impacted the sports world as many athletes, especially African-Americans, have weighed in as they can, in some ways, indentify with Trayvon and the racial profiling that led to the tragedy of his killing.

So when Barkley was on CNBC’s Closing Bell on Thursday to speak with Maria Baritromo about the case, we expected his usual frankness. But what came out of his mouth has left many, including myself, scratching our heads.

When asked his feelings on the Trayvon Martin case, Barkley said:

“Well, I agree with the verdict… I feel sorry that young kid got killed, but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge them. Something clearly went wrong that night. Clearly something went wrong, and I feel bad for anybody who loses a kid. But if you looked at the case and you don’t make it — there was some racial profiling, no question about it. But something happened that changed the dynamic of that night. And I know, and that’s probably not a popular opinion among most people, but just looking at the evidence I agree with the verdict.”

Barkley would later go on to say:

“I don’t think the media has clean hands. And, like I said, I feel sorry that young kid got killed, but just judging by the evidence, I don’t think that guy should have went to jail for the rest of his life, because something happened bad that night obviously.”


Barkley’s agreement with the verdict is not the issue. Having had a chance to step back and take emotion of it, many believe that in light of the evidence, that was the correct decision. But when given the opportunity to weigh in on the verdict and what it means, Barkley swung and missed badly. For as mainstream as Barkley has become, for African-American in particular, he still represents “us.” And for the millions of regular black folk who don’t have the platform that he does, his perceived lack of sympathy on the issues hurts. I’d be willing to be that if this had happened to a relative or family friend in his native Alabama, a state known for its race issues, Barkley’s tone would have been completely different.

I’m sorry Charles, but your shifting the focus to the “agenda” of the media, both black and white, is an easy out. Are there agendas? Absolutely. But on that night, had the thought not entered George Zimmerman’s mind that Trayvon Martin was suspicious simply based on this appearance, the end result may have been completely different. You had an opportunity to bring light to an issue that not only led to Travyon Martin’s death, but impacts so many athletes you analyze while sitting in the Turner studios in Atlanta.

Predictably, Barkley’s words have been picked up by the media and have been taken as gospel. The teflon don of athletic and social commentary has put his stamp on yet another issue as some sort of unofficial expert with no threat of backflash. And I can’t be mad at that. I would’ve liked to see Sir Charles challenge not only the system, but himself to highlight the bigger issue of what the Trayvon Martin verdict represents.

Or simply say “no comment.”

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  • Dillon Friday says:

    I think we’re at the point where no response could be satisfactory regardless of the side we take, which is your “no comment” point. I don’t necessarily disagree with Chuck, but I do come away thinking he could’ve articulated his point of view better. In the end, a teenager died as a result of racial profiling. Forget the verdict, forget the evidence, forget the media… How do we reconcile that fact?

    • bill blauh says:

      no a teenager died because he snapped and attacked a man. when you are in a fight and there is a loaded gun involve no matter who owns its. make no mistake about it YOU ARE IN A POSITION WHERE YOU MUST WIN. the kid 1.answers a question or two 2. break into a sprint 3. tells george do whatever you’re gonna do i don’t have to answer any question and continues moving to his destination. the shooting would have never happen. hell the kid was on a cellphone. the young man coulda called 911 his self. he chose to start a fight. you wanna fight a grown man you may have to pay grown man consequences.

      • Omar says:

        You don’t know that Trayvon started the fight all you know is that he was winning. The odd thing is when I was younger our entire generation was derided because too many of us resorted to gun violence if we got into an altercation, I guess that’s Ok for some people now. By the way according to Rachel Jeantel’s testimony Trayvon was being grabbed when he said ” get off..”, if a strange man grabbing you at night isn’t a reason to fight I don’t know what is.

        Also if you are an adult and are carrying a concealed weapon you are supposed to try and avoid conflicts, doing anything else is reckless and you should be held responsible. Running up on people at night is not how you avoid conflicts, why couldn’t Zimmerman ask his questions from a distance. How was he even close enough for Trayvon to punch him, everytime I’m out at night and need to ask someone a question I do it from a respectable distance because you just don’t run up on strangers at night.

  • don says:

    I feel betrayed. It’s like a punch in the gut. He’s a sellout – straight up. This is the end of his career as a basketball analyst – you watch and see. Players gave him the benefit of the doubt before but now that goodwill is gone. Same with the dynamic in the studio – it’s not going to be the same, all the laughing and joking especially with Shaq is going to sound forced and strained. No one in black America is ever going to forgive Barkley for this. This is it for him – no more SNL hosting gigs – maybe he can get a gig on Fox. It won’t happen right away but you watch and see – 5 years from now it’s going to be “Charles Who?” He’ll never live this down. He went too far and he is going to pay with his career. Without black people in his corner, he’s nothing and he’s going to find that out the hard way.

  • J Hammond says:

    Why should he be quiet? When was the last time celebrities kept out of current events or even politics? If Barkley needs to stay out if it, so does ALL of Hollywood.

  • nicolas says:

    I only saw the CNN interview. I was surprised by his comments, as I thought that he would be on the side of many of the people who felt the verdict was not just. But, I sometimes think that he might be looking at the future in politics. Mr. Hudson, being a black man, says “he represents us”. Also says that he has a platform that we don’t have. Yet I would suggest that many people who agree with the verdict really are the ones who don’t have a platform. Why then not criticize someone like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, even Obama. They have a platform. I don’t condone what Zimmerman did, if a charge for stupidity could have been filed against Zimmerman, I would think he would be found guilty of that. I appreciated that he acknowledged that there are many blacks who are racist as well as whites, and that we often become tribal. While poor Mr. Byrds dragging death made national headlines, I would point out that the horrible death given to the Polish American Marine and the death and rape of his African-American wife did not get the same coverage, and his criticism of the media is so accurate.

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