The NBA fined Clippers forward Matt Barnes $25,000 Thursday following his ejection from L.A.'s 111-103 victory over Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. Officially, Barnes was dinged for "failing to leave the court in a timely manner ... and using inappropriate language on his Twitter account."
TNT commentator Charles Barkley defended Barnes' right to use the language on Thursday while also acknowledging that it was a mistake for Barnes to air his feelings in a public manner.
"Matt Barnes, there's no apology needed," Barkley told fellow TNT commentators Ernie Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal. "I'm a black man. I use the N-word. I'm going to continue to use the N-word with my black friends, with my white friends, they are my friends. ... Hey, Ernie, in a locker room and with my friends, we use racial slurs. I understand he should not have made it public."
Barnes apologized for the remarks Thursday, which he had quickly deleted from his account.
"My poor choice of words [and] timing do not reflect who or what I am about," Barnes wrote. "I could have took the easy way out and said, ‘My twitter was hacked.’ But that’s not what I’m about. I [accept] full responsibility for all my inappropriate action last night [and] I am truly sorry!”
Barkley, a Hall of Fame forward who retired in 2000, continued on the topic for roughly five minutes, asserting that Barnes' language with his teammates should not be subject to the judgment or standards set by "White America" or others who are not a part of the specific locker room environment.
"Listen, what I do with my black friends is not up to White America to dictate to me what is appropriate and inappropriate," Barkley said. "White people, white reporters, Number one, they don't have the courage to go in the locker room, that's why they're reporters. What we say in the locker room, it should always stay in the locker room. The language we use, sometimes it's homophobic, sometimes it's sexist, a lot of times it's racist. We do that when we're joking with our teammates. It's nothing personal. This national debate that's going on right now, it makes me uncomfortable that regular people try to act like they have the courage to play pro sports. They don't have that. ... White America [doesn't] get to dictate how me and Shaq talk to each other."
ESPNLA.com reported Wednesday that Clippers coach Doc Rivers took exception to Barnes' use of the racial slur.
"I think he's very emotional and down that he got thrown out," Rivers said. "I get that part, but the choice of words, obviously that's not a word I'm a fan of in all venues."
While Barkley and O'Neal were both adamant that it was their right to use the N-word, Barkley said that the use of the word was a topic raised by his former teammates and white friends, and that some African-Americans have no tolerance for the word.
"As I tell my white friends, who I love like brothers, whether it's Joe Kleine, Mike Gminski, Dan Majerle," Barkley recounted. "They've asked me, 'When is it appropriate?' I said, 'If you use it around the wrong brother, the next thing you're going to hear is a clock upside your damn head.' "
In Barkley's opinion, the media focus on Barnes' use of the N-word distracted from Barnes' original point, which is that he shouldn't need to be the Clippers' enforcer. Barnes was ejected for shoving Serge Ibaka in the chest with both hands after the Thunder forward became entangled with All-Star forward Blake Griffin. Those two players were previously involved in an incident last season, when Ibaka hit Griffin with a low blow. Barkley said, essentially, that it's time for Griffin to do his own dirty work.
"Blake Griffin, I like you, you seem like a nice kid, I've never even met you," Barkley said. "You're a very good player but people are starting to talk. And you know the people. Other guys are starting to knock the hell out of you all the time. You ain't got to hurt anybody, people who fight all the time, they're punks. You've got to draw a line in the sand. I joke [a]bout it. The toughest guy on your team can't be 5-foot-3, that'd be Chris Paul. ... Blake Griffin I like you a lot, you've got to stop these guys from hitting on you. Shaquille O'Neal is a perfect example, He started knocking the hell out of people because we had this rule, you have to hit him, you have to hit him hard. At some point, Shaq drew a line in the sand." Video via YouTube user sky2847