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A great deal of current NBA players fashion themselves as socially conscious. The coronavirus-altered 2019-2020 season has players competing on NBA courts with “Black Lives Matter” painted on the sidelines and some of the league’s brightest stars are regularly vocal about social injustice and often lend their celebrity to the struggle of racial equality and the dismantling of systemic violence.
But for every young baller in today’s league that is #woke and righteous, you can usually find an “old head” or two that retired from their hooping days and embraced social conservatism. And if you are ever hard-pressed to find one, Charles Barkley is absolutely your guy.
The NBA Hall-of-Famer has never been shy about his Republican leanings, hell he once wanted to be the Republican gubernatorial candidate in his home state of Alabama. Barkley has long relished his position of being a conservative voice on Black issues, and his recent commentary on the non-indictment of the officers involved in killing Breonna Taylor is no exception.
When the topic of Taylor’s case came up on NBA on TNT, Barkley foolishly drew comparisons between what happened to Breonna Taylor and what happened with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. He essentially said that though Taylor’s case was sad, the officer’s actions were justified because of the shot fired by her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker.
“It’s just bad the young lady lost her life, but we do have to take into account that her boyfriend did shoot at the cops and shot a cop. So, like I said, even though I’m really sorry she lost her life, I don’t think we can just put this in the same situation as George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery” Barkley offered.
But not to be upstaged in his tone-deafness, Barkley received a co-sign by NBA on TNT co-host, NBA Hall-of-Famer and certified cop Shaquille O’Neal, who expressed his agreement with Barkley, further adding that the officers involved were just doing their jobs.
“You have to get a warrant signed and some states do allow no-knock warrants. Everyone was asking for murder charges. When you talk about murder, you have to show intent. A homicide occurred and we’re sorry a homicide occurred. When you have a warrant signed by the judge, you are doing your job, and I would imagine that you would fire back.” O’Neal said.
Though fierce rivals in their playing days, Barkley and O’Neal are quite often on the same team when it comes to varying degrees of right-wing propaganda. O’Neal often draws on being raised by a stepfather who was a high ranking military official to justify his ‘law and order’ ideology and Barkley…Barkley just tends to parrot anti-Black rhetoric and justifies his views by reminding everyone that he is a big, Black guy from the rural south.
Now, usually at this point I would add a few more lines about how fame, respectability politics and corporate-sponsored complicity lead the likes of Barkley and O’Neal down a rabbit hole of #BackTheBlue reasoning. But the good users of “Black Twitter” have done a masterful job of shading them. Here’s a shortlist of Tweets that read these dudes in the manner they deserve.
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be.