Barkley: Sports are turning into a divisive "circus" and fans might not come back

“I think we’re missing the point,” Charles Barkley told CNBC yesterday about the role of sports — and the fans — in the current unrest. Without a doubt, the NBA Hall of Famer said, we need police reform, but that should mean “good cops out there policing the bad cops. … My concern is turning this into a circus instead of trying to do some good stuff.”


If professional sports leagues think they’ll get there by shoving the argument into fans’ faces constantly, Barkley thinks they might just talk themselves out of a job. “They [the fans] don’t want to see a bunch of rich people talking about stuff all the time,” Barkley said. “These people have lost their jobs, they’re struggling financially, they’re not going to get their jobs back. And the last thing they want to do is turn on the television and hear arguments about stuff all the time.”

True. They can log onto Twitter for that, and it’s much more efficient at it:

“I think we’re missing the point,” the former 76ers, Suns and Rockets star told CNBC. “We need police reform, we need prison reform. … My concern is turning this into a circus instead of trying to do some good stuff.”

The media contributes to the “circus” by focusing on kneeling and messages on buses and jerseys, he added.

What the country really needs, he said, is “good cops out there policing the bad cops.”

He pointed out that while the U.S. is a divided country, “sports used to be a place where fans could go get away from reality.”

Barkley may be the only major sports figure in America who does get the point. I’m not a “shut up and dribble” guy. Activist athletes are nothing new, and no better or worse than activist actors, activist authors, or even activist call-center directors. All that used to stop at the game itself, though; even the kneeling was pregame. Now, however, the NBA will turn its players into walking billboards for lectures at fans, for whom sports would otherwise be a wonderful escape from their own mounting personal and financial woes. The NFL probably isn’t far behind that curve either — if it’s not the jerseys, it will be a constant stream of social-justice PSAs in the breaks.


The jersey slogan idea is particularly absurd, though. Who thought that was a good idea, and what exactly will it accomplish? What happens when I Am A Man fouls Say Her Name? Will that be sexist? I can’t wait to see the brawl between Sí Se Puede and Group Economics. All this accomplishes is cheap virtue-signaling for millionaire athletes while transforming sports into didactics. This is precisely what Barkley means about the “circus.”

On top of all that, heap on the hypocrisy. At the same time that the professional sports leagues want to climb on their high horses to lecture fans about social justice, their athletes continue to spew anti-Semitism without a peep from their colleagues. The Packers’ Preston Smith is just the latest to promote the rabid anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan:

Drew Brees got an avalanche of criticism from NFL and NBA athletes just for defending his decision to stand during the national anthem. Those same outraged athletes that accused Brees of bigotry have been either silent about anti-Semitism or have actually defended it in public. And let’s not forget about the NBA’s shameful attacks on their own personnel for daring to criticize China’s violations of human rights.


Barkley’s right to wonder, “It’s going to be very interesting to see how the public reacts.” I suspect that most of them won’t bother to react at all, and that these athletes are talking the golden goose to death.

By the way, Barkley has another excellent point to make in this interview about schools. He’s skeptical about the wisdom of reopening, but Barkley points out that this might be an issue on which true social justice activists should want to push for reopening:

“You’d have to be a fool to think your kids will be safe in school right now,” he said. Yet, he worries that keeping kids at home could also deepen the divide between the rich and the poor.

“A lot of kids who are at home don’t have access to the internet. That really makes the gap between the rich and poor even more so. This is a critical time in our country,” he added.

“I just hope we get some adults who know what they are doing and stop screwing around and dividing our country,” he said.

True. And not just in politics, either.

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