NBA Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley says that the new trend of sports going “woke” puts the focus on the wrong thing.
Barkley is concerned that the real issues that many black Americans feel need to be addressed–police reform, prison reform, etc.– are being ignored as everyone focuses on what NBA-approved slogan is being worn on the jersey of players.
The NBA has provided a list of 29 approved social justice messages that can be worn on jerseys.
The list of the suggested social messages that were agreed upon by the NBPA and the NBA and then made available to players via email, per the source, are: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.
This “pre-approved” list negotiated between the Player’s Association and the NBA has been criticized because the players aren’t precisely expressing their opinions–these are the opinions that they are permitted to express.
Senator Josh Hawley(R-MO) criticized this recently noting that there were no pro-Hong Kong, nor pro-America slogans permitted on the jerseys. Sen. Hawley was given the “Woj bomb” of Woj bombs by ESPN’s NBA insider, Adrian Wojnarowski.
Barkley’s criticism is different–the increased politics in sports is “turning into a circus” and “missing the point.” The sports media are focusing on who is wearing what slogan, who isn’t, which anthem is being played, and who is and isn’t kneeling.
He also says that although police reform is needed, he seemingly disagrees with the defund and/or abolish the police movement saying, “we need good cops out there policing the bad cops.”
When asked if sports should be an oasis from politics where we can all come together, Barkley says, “I really don’t know the answer to that. Because, obviously, we are in a divided country and sports used to be a place where fans could go and get away from reality. Now it’s such a mixture. I think it’s gonna be fascinating watching what happens with the fans.”
He also says that fans don’t want to watch “a bunch of rich people” talking about inequality all the time in the midst of a pandemic and the economic downturn where people have lost jobs and are struggling financially.
He’s not wrong.
Sports used to be about the game. Players are free to express their views on social issues, and sports reporters can choose to amplify that if they like. But remember, a lot of these media folks pushing the social justice message are the same people that were all up in arms when a certain Christian NFLer was “Tebowing.” To Barkley’s credit, back in 2011, he said to just “let the guy play” rather than focusing on the media hype around him.
Barkley has been consistent, at least, on focusing on the game. If only other sports reporters were the same way.