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.
Charles Barkley, we are worried about the people who ARE kneeling being vilified. pic.twitter.com/SkEmeaKGQe
— BallerAlert (@balleralert) July 30, 2020
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?
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? pic.twitter.com/mDWbHmeBvp
— Bass_Reeves (@BassReeves10) July 30, 2020
As did this guy.
Charles Barkley pic.twitter.com/dt0q4XgzQm
— Brian Smith (@Bcove4Life) July 31, 2020
“Antoinette” was more diplomatic with Charles — kind of.
Nobody is kneeling protesting the anthem, people are kneeling against police brutality @_CharlesBarkley. One would think that you understood that fine point before speaking on it.
It’s not as though the reason for kneeling has not been explained ad nauseum
— Antoinette Wynn (@awynn0422) July 30, 2020
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.
Barkley has always been honest, and never folds for anyone. That’s another reason why people like him. Charles does not conform.
— TheLincoln (@19Lincoln87) July 31, 2020
Oh please with the BS.
Charles Barkley is 100% right.
Are you a wise person or a fool? pic.twitter.com/PoFw3W3OAM
— NYcFreddy (@alldaynightNY12) July 30, 2020
Why? They get media support, you get fired if you get caught opposing their politics, and mobs will burn your shit to the ground if you say anything about it in public. Why the hell are you worried for THEM?
Barkley and @terrycrews only ones making sense these days.
— Taldren (@Paldren) July 31, 2020
C’mon Mr. Barkley, you should know ppl cannot have their own opinions nor their own ideas…there is no freedom of expression any more. Everyone MUST comply with the woke party’s dictates. Obey the woke party or be destroyed. /sarc BTW, #AllLivesMatters #BlueLivesMatter
— Terry Maan-Keechoot (@keechoot) July 31, 2020
Charles Barkley, with the mildest and least provocative take ever, says that people who don’t kneel aren’t necessarily bad people. And the Left is angry at him for this. Even the slightest, tiniest deviation from the approved talking points is not allowed.
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) July 30, 2020
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.