NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is unhappy with how sports leagues and players have turned racial justice issues into a ‘circus’ by focusing more on who is kneeling and what message is written on the back of the player’s jersey than the game itself.
He is worried that social justice statements are only becoming a distraction from the real issues the country is facing and is hindering real change. He said that he feels like the national spotlight on athletes covers the wrong side of social issues.
“What’s happening now is we’re turning into a circus,” Barkley told CNBC. “Instead of talking about racial equality, racial justice, and economic justice, we spend all our time worrying about who’s kneeling and not kneeling. We need police reform. We need prison reform. My concern is turning this into a circus, instead of trying to do some good stuff.”
He also expressed his concern about the impact this has on the fans. He believes that the United States is a divided country, and sports is the only platform that allows fans to come together and escape from reality for a bit, especially for those who are struggling. He said that the last thing the fans want to do is to turn on their television and see a bunch of rich people talking about irrelevant stuff all the time.
Social Justice Messages on Jerseys
To give their players a platform to advocate for equality, the NBA allowed players to write simple messages on the back of their jerseys instead of their names. Oklahoma City Thunders guard Chris Paul has decided to put “EQUALITY”, while Portland Trail Blazer Damian Lillard is displaying “How Many More.” Many more options such as “Freedom,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Justice,” “Anti-Racist,” and “Black Lives Matter” will appear on the back of the athletes’ jerseys.
Players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis have decided to wear their name on the back of the jersey, rather than one of the NBA-approved social justice messages. They explained that there were not gratified with the available options on the list of approved messages.
Coronavirus in the NBA
Barkley also addressed the coronavirus pandemic. Millions have been affected by the coronavirus, and NBA players are all coming together in Florida, where 15,000 new coronavirus cases were reported today. Florida has become one of the biggest hot spots in the world.
He believes that some players getting sick during the bubble system is inevitable. However, he does not think that the season should be canceled because of the economic loss that the league, as well as players, will face if the season is derailed.
Players such as Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Durant, and Nikola Jokic have tested positive for the coronavirus to date. Although they are all cleared now, it is unpredictable on how things will go, and it will be difficult to prevent future positive coronavirus tests within the league.