Outspoken commentator and NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley spoke out about race relations in America during a Saturday night broadcast before a nationally-televised broadcast of the Final Four game between Gonzaga and UCLA, and his comments were not in line with what many sports commentators and professional athletes have been saying lately.
Saturday was the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and during the course of the broadcast, a clip of Robert F. Kennedy’s famous speech announcing the assassination was played. Reacting to the moving speech, Barkley said, “Man, I think most white people and black people are great people.”
“I really believe that in my heart,” Barkley continued. “But I think our system is set up where our politicians, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other, so they can keep their grasp of money and power. They divide and conquer.
“I truly believe in my heart most white people and black people are awesome people. But we are so stupid, following our politicians, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, and their only job is, ‘Hey, let’s make these people not like each other. We don’t live in their neighborhoods. We all got money. Let’s make the whites and blacks not like each other, let’s make rich people and poor people not like each other, let’s scramble the middle class.’ I truly believe that in my heart.”
Barkley, an Alabama native, has toyed with the idea of a political career in the past. In 2008, he seriously considered running for governor of his home state of Alabama as a Democrat. Since then, every electoral cycle, he has faced rumors that he will seriously enter the political fray. Last year, in two separate interviews, he attempted to put those rumors to rest for good as he unloaded on both political parties, and saved special scorn for Democrats.
“I think both of these political parties are crap,” Barkley told ESPN reporter Zach Lowe in a podcast last year. “They do nothing for actual people. The Democrats and Republicans are both full of crap. You see now with this pandemic. They aren’t doing anything for these people.”
Later, in an interview with University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, Barkley said, “I’ve been a Democrat all my life. I just realized now they have done an awful job of taking care of poor people. They make the same boasts every four years, come to the black community and (say) they’re going to make things better. But they don’t really make things better. I’m still a Democrat, but I don’t fall for stupidity.”