The best studio show in sports television history reminded viewers of its greatness and honesty once again on Saturday. During halftime of TNT's coverage of Game Four of the Hawks-Pacers series, Inside the NBA staffers Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith were definitive and passionate about what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should do with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who is under investigation by the league for allegedly making a series of racist remarks on an audio tape.
If Sterling's voice is found to be the one on the tape, Barkley, Johnson and Smith all called for his suspension, comments that are bold for an NBA rightsholder and a company that is very tight with NBA brass (Silver and Turner Broadcasting president David Levy, in fact, could be seen on ESPN's cameras chatting during the Raptors-Nets game.)
"This is the first test of Adam Silver," Barkley said. "He's got to suspend him right now. First of all they have to prove it is his voice on the tape but this is first big test of Adam Silver. You can't have this guy making statements like that. He has to suspend him and fine him immediately. He has to be suspended."
Barkley did not stop there.
"If someone wants to be racist, fine," Barkley said. "That's their thing. When you're in a position of power, and you can take jobs and economic opportunities from people, that's what crosses the line. We can't have an NBA owner discriminating against a league -- we're a black league. We are a black league."
Then came Smith.
"Racism is like a refuge for ignorance," Smith said. "I think there are two things we can take from it and the first is that he is taking his [Sterling] primitive thought process and saying that 'Hey, I can work with you, or you can work for me, but I can't be associated with you...I think it is more for me a teaching tool for a new generation of players. I call it new-educated wealth African Americans. It is 'How do you deal with people like this who still have this Jim Crow thought process?' He has to be suspended."
"The team can't say we are going to shutdown because our owner is a jackass," Barkley said. "That's not fair to the player."
Inside The NBA panelist Shaquille O'Neal sidestepped any opinion but did ask a pertinent question: "Should this guy continue being an owner?"
"Everyone has their thoughts," Shaq said. "When your opinions and thoughts become public knowledge, the question is, now what. Another question is: will his team shut down on him and take his remarks personally?...I think the league should take a long hard look on whether this guy should continue to be an owner or not."
"Your team is your team," Barkley said. "You are not worried about who owns it....This is habitual. He has already had the lawsuit for discrimination that he settled, so clearly he was doing something wrong... [Adam Silver] has to suspend this guy."
Smith jumped in. "Without question," he said.
Johnson agreed with his longtime colleagues: "If it's true, and it's him [on the audio], there's no place in the league for Donald Sterling in my mind."
Barkley: "I agree with you."
It was a halftime segment where TNT treated its viewers like adults and reiterated what most sports television fans already know: There is no better studio show on television.