Charles Barkley has some­thing to say about race

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Brian Ma­honey

Charles Barkley calls it friendly fire.

When he talks about racial is­sues, it isn’t only whites he risks an­ger­ing. Some of the big­gest com­plaints come from fel­low blacks, who fig­ure he’s too rich, too suc­cess­ful to pos­si­bly un­der­stand their strug­gles.

“Like, those peo­ple say he’s not black any­more, he shouldn’t speak on black is­sues,” Barkley said. “I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m al­ways go­ing to be black,’ but that’s a dou­bleedged sword I’m will­ing to deal with.”

So not only will he keep talk­ing, he wants to lead the con­ver­sa­tion.

The bas­ket­ball Hall of Famer and TNT an­a­lyst will de­but “The Race Card” on the net­work in 2017, a show that won’t just be about black and white, be­cause Barkley be­lieves Amer­ica’s prob­lems are more about rich ver­sus poor.

“I just want to do a pos­i­tive di­a­logue be­cause I’m sick of ar­gu­ing over race all the time,” Barkley said. “Like, I’m very aware that racism does ex­ist, it al­ways has and prob­a­bly al­ways will, but the me­dia does a re­ally poor job. There’s more good than bad, but the bad pops off the news­pa­per and on tele­vi­sion. And like I said, the truth is some­where in the mid­dle.” On one hand, he seems an un­likely choice to be look­ing for it. In a Nike com­mer­cial dur­ing his play­ing ca­reer, he said him­self he’s no role model , and he still doesn’t like the term now. And wear­ing a Ralph Lau­ren sweater and match­ing brown slacks dur­ing a lunch at a Man­hat­tan restau­rant Tues­day be­fore slip­ping into a tuxedo for the in­duc­tion of TNT’s “In­side the NBA” stu­dio show in the Broad­cast­ing Hall of Fame, he does pro­ject the im­age of a com­fort­able life. But born in Alabama in 1963, the year Ku Klux Klan mem­bers killed four girls in a Birm­ing­ham church bomb­ing, he sees the same strug­gles now as dur­ing his youth. Like many of to­day’s ath­letes, he’s dis­cour­aged by the killings of blacks by white po­lice and the protests, some­times vi­o­lent, that have fol­lowed.

Quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick of the San Fran­cisco 49ers has been kneel­ing in protest dur­ing the na­tional an­them, and many NBA play­ers have stood with arms locked dur­ing the pre­sea­son. Barkley re­spects their ac­tions but would like to see more. “It goes back to the Kaeper­nick thing,” he said. “I said, you do what you want to do, you’re a grown man. But I chal­lenge all these guys, what are you ac­tu­ally do­ing in the black com­mu­nity to help our peo­ple?” For Barkley, that’s in­cluded do­nat­ing mil­lions to his high school and col­leges in Alabama. But he can’t blame to­day’s ath­letes who grap­ple with their in­volve­ment, a dis­cus­sion he had with a pro­fes­sor for the show. “He says, ‘First of all, it’s un­fair for all you guys to have to solve the ills of all the black com­mu­nity. It’s un­fair, you guys aren’t ac­tivists be­cause you all haven’t lived what those guys have been through,”’ Barkley said. “And he says, ‘I re­ally think it’s cool that you all are try­ing, but to try to com­pare to­day’s black ath­letes to Jim Brown, Bill Rus­sell, (Muhammed) Ali and those guys, we’re do­ing them a dis­ser­vice be­cause those guys like lived.’


Barkley calls it friendly fire, the crit­i­cism a rich black gets for talk­ing about race from fel­low blacks who be­lieve he can’t un­der­stand their strug­gles. But the bas­ket­ball Hall of Famer and TNT an­a­lyst says he can han­dle it, and hopes he can cre­ate con­ver­sa­tion that makes a dif­fer­ence be­yond the things he’s al­ready do­ing when his show “The Race Card” de­buts in 2017.

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