Charles Barkley claims that he’s never spent any time thinking about Confederate statues during his entire life, and most people in the African-American community haven’t either. The black community should concentrate on more important issues, he added.
The retired NBA star and basketball commentator made these comments during an interview with Rick Karle of WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama.
Following the incident at Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters across the county have demanded that these statutes be pulled down, and the pressure continues to build on political leaders to comply.
Basketball Hall of Famer Barkley told Karle that worrying about Confederate statues is a time and energy waster, however, as is “screaming at a neo-Nazi who is gonna hate me anyway.”
Barkley underscored that he’s always ignored the existence of the statues, instead “I’m gonna keep doing great things. I’m gonna keep trying to make a difference number one in the black community — because I’m black — but also [I’m] gonna try to do good things in the world.”
Sir Charles, the former Philadelphia 76er and Phoenix Suns star who was voted one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players, is an NBA analyst for the TNT network on Inside the NBA (alongside Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, and host Ernie Johnson) and also provides NCAA March Madness commentary on CBS, along with appearances throughout the media universe where he is not shy about weighing in on all kinds of issues. Barkley is an NBA MVP, 11-time All-Star, and Olympic gold medalist who played college ball at Auburn University.
According to Charles Barkley, the current controversy is an example of misplaced priorities.
“Rick, I’m 54 years old. I’ve never thought about those statues a day in my life. I think if you asked most black people to be honest, they ain’t thought a day in their life about those stupid statues. What we as black people need to do: We need to worry about getting our education, we need to stop killing each other, we need to try to find a way to have more economic opportunity and things like that. Those things are important and significant. You know, I’m wasting time and energy screaming at a neo-Nazi, or [saying] ‘Man, you’ve got to take this statue down.”
A Marist/NPR-PBS NewsHour poll of about 1,000 adults via landline and cell phone conducted on August 14 and 15 contains some interesting findings. In the survey, 44 percent of African-Americans indicated that the the Confederate statues should remain in place as historical symbols, 40 percent responded that they should be removed because they are offensive to some people, and and 16 percent were unsure. A majority of Republicans, independents, and 52 percent of soft Democrats indicated that the statues should remain where they are.
In a Facebook post earlier this week alluding to the the aftermath of the Charlottesville protests (during which one woman was tragically killed), U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson revealed that his Virginia home was vandalized by anti-Trumpers while he and his wife was out of town, but neighbors pitched in and cleaned things up before they returned.
In the same post, he related an anecdote about how a neighbor to his Maryland farm put up a Confederate flag after the Carson family moved in several years ago.
“Interestingly, all the other neighbors immediately put up American flags shaming the other neighbor who took down the Confederate flag…We could all learn from these examples. Hatred and bigotry unfortunately still exists in our country and we must all continue to fight it, but let’s use the right tools. By the way, that neighbor who put up the Confederate flag subsequently became friendly.”
Watch the clip of Charles Barkley’s take on the Confederate statue controversy and draw your own conclusions.
[Image by Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx via AP Images]