The Philadelphia Inquirer
“All this noise I hear about sportswashing and blood money — I think these people are so disingenuous with their fake outrage. Everybody in sports has taken blood money.”
It’s not fake. And no, they haven’t.
But consider the source.
We’re talking about a man who once spit on an 8-year-old girl.
That sentence came Saturday morning from former 76ers star and current TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley, regarding anyone who criticizes his contemplation of joining Saudi-backed LIV Golf as an analyst. Barkley told 94-WIP host and longtime pal Howard Eskin that he dined with LIV CEO Greg Norman on Wednesday, a meeting at which Norman gauged Barkley’s interest at joining LIV.
No offer was made, Barkley said, and LIV would have to “blow me out of the water” to leave TNT and risk losing lucrative endorsement deals with the likes of Subway, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Capital One. Barkley has three years and $30 million left on his TNT deal.
Barkley will play in the pro-am Wednesday ahead of the three-day exhibition that begins Thursday at Donald Trump’s course in Bedminster, N.J. He should show up a day early.
On Tuesday, Terry Strada, the chair of 911familiesunited.org, will hold a press conference at a nearby library, according to the New York Post. Strada’s husband, Tom, was a bond broker killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Towers. The World Trade Towers stood less than 50 miles from Trump Bedminster. Tom Strada was an avid golfer, and Terry Strada told the Post that the players on the LIV Tour who diminish the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks is “like pouring razor blades in the wound.”
Barkley, who is a member of the media, can attend that press conference Tuesday. He can ask Terry Strada if her outrage is “fake.” Maybe.
Recently declassified documents more closely than ever connect the Saudi government to the 19 terrorists who hijacked and weaponized four airliners on Sept. 11, 2001. Those attacks killed 2,977 civilians, soldiers, and first responders and helped spark wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost nearly 7,000 more American lives.
Maybe after Charles attends the press conference Tuesday he could visit Ground Zero in Manhattan, swing by Shanksville, Pa., to see the 9/11 memorial there, before he hits Washington, D.C., where that memorial commemorates 184 lives lost at the Pentagon.
Maybe then he won’t think all of this outrage is so “fake.”
LGBTQ+ … minus Charles
Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in Saudi Arabia, where in 2019, five gay men were beheaded after their confessions of other crimes were coerced through torture, according to reports. The Saudis then pinned one prisoner’s body and head to a pole in a public square.
Why does this matter in this moment? Because at a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada last week, Barkley famously proclaimed his “love” for gay and transgender individuals, and said, “If anybody gives you [expletive], you tell them Charles said, ‘[expletive] you!’ “,
Charles is telling his prospective new boss to go [expletive] himself.
This, of course, is a very Charles thing to do. But it turned tragic for the last media member who tried it.
According to a U.S. intelligence report, the Saudis kidnapped, killed, and dismembered expatriate journalist Jamal Kashoggi, then exiled to the United States, at the Saudi embassy in Turkey in 2018 — an operation Salman approved.
That LIV Golf wants Barkley at all is the most damning evidence so far that the endeavor — eight events with guaranteed payouts played largely by has-beens who joined the league after receiving nine-digit bonuses — is nothing more than a gambit by the Saudi Arabian government to sanitize their sordid history of human rights abuses that continue today.
Barkley is a golf enthusiast, not a former professional golfer, and certainly not a golf expert. His performances while calling The Match exhibitions have been subpar, and those only involved four players and precious little decent golf. It’s like a rogue basketball league hiring Johnny Miller to act as Reggie Miller.
For that matter, Barkley’s not especially analytical in his day job. He offers generalizations about the game, lobs a few insults, makes a few predictions, and says crazy stuff. He’s a loose cannon. That’s his charm, and that’s his value.
Remember, this is a confessed inveterate gambler who, in 1991, spit on an 8-year-old girl while targeting a heckler (also bad); who, in 1997, snatched a 5-foot-2, 110-pound man from a policeman’s grasp and threw him through the window of a bar; and who, in 2019, told female reporter Alexi McCammond that “I don’t hit women, but if I did, I’d hit you,” and then, when she balked, told her she “couldn’t take a joke.”,
The one thing Barkley was always right about, as he proclaimed in his 1993 Nike commercial: He is not a role model. Not a good one, anyway.,
The Saudis might get Barkley, but they’ll get Barkley, censored. Barkley, muzzled. Barkley Lite.
All of which makes him Barkley, worthless.
There might be a few curious viewers at first, but nobody’s going to tune in to hear Barkley recite scripts about an activity he knows precious little about.
It didn’t work last time.
Remember Dennis Miller and “Monday Night Football”?
If the “fake outrage” comment wasn’t enough to discredit Barkley, the comparison he cited to Eskin should complete the task:
“If you’ve worked for the Cleveland Indians, you’ve taken blood money. If you’ve worked for the Washington Redskins, you’ve taken blood money.”
No. Just, no.
The Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins never murdered and dismembered any Native Americans. What’s more, Cleveland and Washington recently changed their racist names and logos to the Guardians and Commanders, respectively.
What about other specious regimes? Let’s talk about the big one.
Well, there isn’t a real comparison between the relationship of the NBA and its players and China. China’s human rights record might be worse than the Saudis’, but unless we’re going to embark on state-sanctioned embargoes with China and Saudi Arabia — simply refuse to buy their products, refuse to interact with their economies, and maybe even cut off immigration — you must recognize the difference between doing business with a bad actor and being used as a puppet to justify bad actions, past, present, and future.
That’s what sportswashing is.
Jim Thome in Cleveland and Donovan McNabb in Washington never sought to sanitize the Indians’ and Redskins’ offensive nicknames. But that’s exactly what Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau are being paid to do.
And soon, it seems, so too will Sir Charles Barkley.
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