NEW YORK — The NBA season is about to kick off, which means we’ll get another year of the thoughts and opinions of Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, one of the stars of TNT’s NBA program. We might, however, not get much more.
Barkley and colleagues Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith spoke for about 90 minutes here at the Time Warner Center on Monday, and while they registered their thoughts on the NBA topics of the day, it was — of course — Barkley’s wider view that was most noteworthy.
First, Barkley expressed some surprise that his comments about Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his relative “blackness” — some teammates reportedly (and anonymously) said that Wilson was not “black enough” — caught attention.
“It’s a dirty secret in the black community — unless you’re a thug or got a criminal record, or you’re just a jackass, some black people think you are not black enough,” Barkley said. “It’s a dirty little secret in our community. I want black kids to know we can be strong and intelligent. We shouldn’t tell kids, if you’re doing good in school, you’re acting white. If you speak intelligently, you’re acting white. That’s bulls---. It’s one reason we as a group are struggling, black people are struggling. We don’t have great respect for each other.
“I have talked about it in my last book — one of the problems with our black community is us. Not white folks. Other black folks. It’s not something I haven’t said before. You don’t have to be a thug or unintelligent, you’re supposed to do great academically. You’re supposed to speak correctly. I tell people, we’re the only group where if you got a criminal record, it makes you more black.”
Barkley also weighed in on the NFL’s domestic-violence problem, which gained national attention with the release of a video that showed former Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City elevator. Rice had originally been suspended just two games for the incident.
“They dropped the ball on this domestic violence thing,” Barkley said. “And I am very disappointed in (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell and (union head) DeMaurice Smith. What they should have done was, it’s very simple — the first time you hit a woman, you get suspended. Now, you let the legal process play out, you get suspended. The second time you hit a woman, you are banned for life. That’s it. Period.
“I don’t understand why Goodell and Smith are having such a tough time. They should have gotten into a room and in five minutes handled this domestic violence thing. It’s a joke what these guys have not been able to accomplish. Get in room — not at the end of the season, don’t put a bulls — panel together.
"They brought in all these women — you don’t have to bring in women. A man should know you shouldn’t hit a woman. They should have done this two months ago. … It’s a joke, to be honest with you. I am sensitive to the subject because I have a daughter, but you can’t go around beating on women, man.”
Barkley also commented on his strained relationship with Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who was once among Barkley’s closest friends. Barkley criticized Jordan’s handling of the team in 2012, when Charlotte established a league record for worst winning percentage. Barkley now gives Jordan high praise, with the Hornets having signed Al Jefferson last summer and adding Marvin Williams and Lance Stephenson this year.
“It’s unfortunate we’re not friendly,” Barkley said. “But I still love him and he’s doing a good job now. Phil Jackson actually said the same thing I did, but I wonder if he is still speaking to Phil Jackson? I said that Michael had to get rid of the people around him. You can’t have your friends working for you. You have to surround yourself with good basketball people and he had not done that. I love what he did with Al Jefferson, I love what he did with Lance, I love the kid Noah Vonleh. He’s done a good job — but he had not done a good job up until then. It has obviously put a strain on our relationship, we’re not together anymore.
Barkley was asked if it is in Jordan’s personality to reach out with an olive branch. “No,” he said. “And it’s not in my personality either. I am not going to go and apologize for what I said. Remember the year they were going for the worst record in NBA history, and I said, hey, Michael has got to do a better job, get rid of the flunkies around him and hire real basketball people. He does that now. He has done a great job now that he got rid of the flunkies and hired real basketball people. But he can’t hear the good stuff.”
Finally, Barkley said his time as a broadcaster for TNT is nearing an end. He has two years on his contract, and said that the lucrative new deal the NBA signed with TNT (and ESPN) won’t affect his decision to walk away. He did mention that he might change course and stay for an even 20 years, and also expressed an interest in taking a general manager’s job.
“I love my job, I love the people I work with,” Barkley said. “My big decision is, I’ve got two years left on my deal. That’ll be 17 years. That’s a long time to do a job. I would rather leave too early than stay too long. And 17 years is a long time. I told Ernie when I took the job, I was only going to be here four years. Now 15 years later, I’m still here. I’m leaning heavily toward it, toward finishing my two years and leaving on a good note.”