Basketball Hall of Famer and NBA analyst Charles Barkley said that athletes across the country have turned racial injustice issues into a “circus” and he believes fans could become less interested because politics would be heavily involved in sports.
In an interview with CNBC, Barkley said that players are placing more importance on kneeling and messages on their jerseys rather than taking the necessary steps to help with change.
“What’s happening now is we’re turning into a circus,” Barkley said. “Instead of talking about racial equality, racial justice, and economic justice, we spend all our time worrying about who’s kneeling and not kneeling, what things are being said on buses, what’s being said on jerseys. I think we’re missing the point."
“We need police reform, prison reform. Those are No. 1 and No. 2 things to focus on,” Barkley added. “We need the cops, good cops out there policing bad cops. … When we spend time focusing on what’s on the jersey, that’s gonna defeat purpose. My concern is this is turning into a circus instead of trying to do some good stuff.”
The always outspoken Barkley has a problem with the players sporting social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys when the NBA restarts its season at the end of the month in Orlando, Florida at the Walt Disney World Resort. Some of the messages that the players can choose from include “Black Lives Matter”, “I Can’t Breathe”, “Freedom”, and “Equality.”
“We are in a divided country,” Barkley added. “Sports used to be a place where fans could go and get away from reality. Now it’s such a mixture. It’s going to be fascinating watching what happens with the fans. Fans are at a disadvantage, they’re going through the pandemic. They don’t want to see a bunch of rich people talking about stuff all the time. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer.
“People lost jobs and the last thing they want to do is turn on the television to hear arguments about stuff all the time. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the public reacts," he added.