Pro-basketball analyst Charles Barkley, whose career on and off the court has been marked by controversy, came down on the side of the Ferguson grand jury in their decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.
Barkley has often gone against the grain on race issues, finding himself on the opposite side from today’s black civil rights leaders on issues like education, crime, and the black family.
He supported the jury decision in the George Zimmerman case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, raising the hackles of just about every black leader in America.
About Ferguson, the voluble Barkely pulled no punches — as usual.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
During an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia on Tuesday, the day after the Ferguson decision was announced, host Mike Missanelli asked Barkley about it and why “black America” doesn’t trust the ruling.
His response surprised some listeners.
The true story came out from the grand jury testimony,” Barkley said, adding that he was made aware of “key forensic evidence, and several black witnesses that supported Officer Darren Wilson’s story…” He continued, “I can’t believe anything I hear on television anymore. And, that’s why I don’t like talking about race issues with the media anymore, because they (the media) love this stuff, and lead people to jump to conclusions. The media shouldn’t do that. They never do that when black people kill each other. ”
He also called those who rioted after the decision was announced “scumbags,” and said “There is no excuse for people to be out there burning down people’s businesses, burning down police cars.”
And in a marked departure from other prominent black leaders who have questioned tactics used by officers and, in some cases, accused officers of racial profiling and outright racism, Barkley supported police officers, especially those who work in black neighborhoods.
“[W]e have to be really careful with the cops, because if it wasn’t for the cops we would be living in the Wild, Wild West in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We can’t pick out certain incidentals that don’t go our way and act like the cops are all bad…. Do you know how bad some of these neighborhoods would be if it wasn’t for the cops?”
His comments are in sharp contrast with those made by other black leaders on the Ferguson case. Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson have both criticized the Ferguson decision and racial profiling by police. President Obama is scheduled to hold meetings with civil rights groups Monday on law enforcement and how to rebuild trust in black communities.
Barkley identified himself as a Republican for a time and has made it clear he’d like to run for Alabama governor some day. But he has also made clear that if he runs, it will be as an independent. In 2007, in a magazine interview, he said he was a Republican “until they lost their minds”:
The word conservative means discriminatory practically. It’s a form of political discrimination. What do the Republicans run on? Against gay marriage and for a war that makes no sense. A war that was based on faulty intelligence. That’s all they ever talk about. That and immigration. Another discriminatory argument for political gain.
And conservatives, who frequently cheer Barkley on as he takes on the black establishment, would do well to recall some of the NBA Hall of Famer’s previous statements about conservatives.
Every time I hear the word “conservative,” it makes me sick to my stomach, because they’re really just fake Christians, as I call them. That’s all they are. … I think they want to be judge and jury. Like, I’m for gay marriage. It’s none of my business if gay people want to get married. I’m pro-choice. And I think these Christians, first of all, they’re not supposed to judge other people. But they’re the most hypocritical judge of people we have in the country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like they’re Christians. They’re not forgiving at all.
To be sure, Barkley doesn’t like the Democrats any better, although he thinks “the Republicans are full of it. The Democrats are a little less full of it.”
Barkley’s independent mind and big mouth have gotten him into trouble with all sides of the political divide. His promised run for Alabama governor never materialized this year, and it isn’t likely he will run for that office any time soon.
But how does Senator Barkley sound? Alabama’s Republican Senator Richard Shelby will be 82 years old in 2016 and his retirement may leave an opening for the nationally known TV basketball analyst. But if he chooses to walk through that door, controversy is sure to follow.
One thing is certain: if Barkley runs, it won’t be a boring campaign.