NBA legend Barkley on league's return: 'We're turning into a circus'
NBA legend and award-winning TNT analyst Charles Barkley isn't exactly thrilled with the direction of the league heading into the Orlando restart.
“What’s happening now is we’re turning into a circus,” Barkley said during a guest appearance on CNBC, (via Gary Sheffield Jr. of Outkick). “Instead of talking about racial equality, racial justice and economic justice, we spend all our time worrying about who’s kneeling and not kneeling, what things are being said on buses, what’s being said on jerseys. I think we’re missing the point."
The NBA has decided to allow players to wear social justice messages on the back of their jerseys once 22 teams resume the season in Orlando.
“We need police reform, prison reform. Those are No. 1 and No. 2 things to focus on. We need the cops, good cops out there policing bad cops," Barkley said. "When we spend time focusing on what’s on the jersey, that’s gonna defeat purpose. My concern is this is turning into a circus instead of trying to do some good stuff.”
Barkley then questioned whether the league is promoting unity, and is failing in what he indicated he believes is the purpose of sports -- to serve as a diversion from the world's problems.
“We are in a divided country,” Barkley said. “Sports used to be a place where fans could go and get away from reality. Now it’s such a mixture. It’s going to be fascinating watching what happens with the fans. Fans are at a disadvantage, they’re going through the pandemic. They don’t want to see a bunch of rich people talking about stuff all the time. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer.
Ratings for the NBA were poor before play was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Things could be better after the league returns, though. Fans are starving for sports and won't be able to attend the games. The only way they will be able watch is via a screen.
“People lost jobs and the last thing they want to do is turn on the television to hear arguments about stuff all the time," Barkley said. "It’s going to be very interesting to see how the public reacts.”
Sheffield Jr. offered his own take on Barkley's CNBC comments.
"Sports have been hijacked by the mainstream mob to corner every American into change they deem fit," Sheffield wrote. "The media and its players have transformed the sports world that acted as a truce between right and left wingers into a place infested with useless hashtags for social media praise"
Barkley's NBA career spanned from 1984-2000 with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets. He was named NBA MVP in 1993 while with the Suns and made 11 appearances in the All-Star game.