Charles Barkley supports athlete activism, appreciates widespread support protests have gained

In 1993, Charles Barkley famously declared that he was not a role model, but in today’s social environment, that is not a stance athletes can realistically take. As the nation continues to grapple with the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, figures from virtually every sport have taken an active role in the protests that have followed. 

And Barkley, in an interview with 247Sports’ Evan Daniels as part of his Social Distance series, applauded them for that. He now believes that athletes should use their platforms to inspire social change. 

“I really have appreciated the support from just people. I’m not even gonna just say the white community because that’s not even a way to phrase anything. But if you weren’t appalled with that video then there’s something wrong with you as a person. We as players have a great platform. You know, it’s interesting, especially being black, you go back to the movie Do the Right Thing with Spike Lee, and he was talking about the racists. He said ‘well, how can Michael Jordan be your favorite black basketball player if you don’t like black people? How can Michael Jackson be your favorite entertainer if you don’t like black people?’ And he said ‘they’re different.’ So I’m not gonna get on your interview and act like I know what everyday poor black people go through. That’s disingenuous on my part, but we in the sports world have an obligation to do is, No. 1, keep trying to make a difference, but also anytime something like this happens, keep trying to bring awareness to it.”

To Barkley, what happened to Floyd goes beyond race. It was a matter of human decency. 

“The racial stuff always matters, unfortunately, it always matters. But this to me is just about being a human being. If I was walking down the street and I saw a person with, I’m an animal lover, and if I was walking down the street and I saw a guy with his foot on a dog’s neck for extended period of time, for any time really, I would just whoop the hell out of that guy. That’s the simplest way that I can put it. That video is terrifying, it’s frustrating, and I think the thing that’s really resonating with people is that I think this is the first time we’ve seen it in action. Normally when you see someone killed at the hands of the cops, you hear about it after the fact, but this was really painful to watch. A grown man breathing, begging for his life, calling for his mom, and spectators are sitting there saying ‘hey the guy can’t breathe,’ I think that’s really the most powerful and disappointing part of it.”

Athlete activism has become a major trend over the past several years, and with players like Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon coming into their own, it is unlikely to stop any time soon. Many stars from Barkley’s generation passed on their chance to do the same, but at the very least, they can make up for the lost time by showing their support for modern athletes as he does here. 

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