Memo to Charles Barkley: Shut Up On Zimmerman Verdict

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Sometimes—OK, a lot of times—you want to tell Charles Barkley to just shut up. This is one of those times.

It is often refreshing when the former NBA star waxes humorously about basketball or personalities or even politics. The mouth-all-mighty finds no topic he does not have an opinion on to spew.

In some ways, it is admirable that he is not afraid to speak his truth, however silly it might be at times.

But saying, as he did on CNBC’s Closing Bell Thursday, that the George Zimmerman verdict of acquittal of killing Trayvon Martin was proper, makes one cringe.

Of course, Barkley is entitled to his opinion. But the very fans who admire his audacity—black men—take this position as a personal affront.

This was a case where Barkley would have been wiser to take a middle-of-the-road approach. Black America is incensed, heart-broken, disenchanted and even disbelieving that a man responsible for the death of a teenager who was minding his business, bothering no one, talking to a friend on the phone  was found not guilty on Saturday night of his death.

After days of tears, expressions of anger and vows to be more active in addressing injustice and racial bias, no one wanted or needed to hear Barkley say, “I agree with the verdict.”

It gives the impression that he is a privileged black man in white America, unaware and inexperienced in the racial harassment black men encounter daily just for being black.

For sure, life is different for Barkley; he’s a mammoth figure and personality, a recognizable millionaire who surely receives preferential treatment most everywhere he goes. But one of the worst things he can do—or say—is project that he is disconnected from the community from which he comes. He’s from Leeds, Alabama, for crying out loud.

If he just had to comment on the verdict, it would have been more sophisticated for him to take a different approach. To the cynic, it sounds like he is more interested in coddling to the right wing that historically has expressed through words, actions and legislation its disregard for blacks.

“I’m sorry that young kid got killed,” Barkley said, “but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him.”


He went on to say that “racial profiling” took place, but spit out the same gibberish the defense laid out, that “something happened that changed the dynamic that night.”

Barkley added: “Trayvon Martin, God rest his soul, he did flip the switch and start beating the hell out of Mr. Zimmerman.”

Barkley, like those who support the verdict, seemed to disregard that the changed dynamic came when Zimmerman followed Martin, who even ran in an attempt to elude the borderline stalker. Barkley, of all people, should understand Martin’s right to defend himself when confronted.

After all, this is the same Barkley who blatantly elbowed a puny player from Angola during the 1996 Olympics because Barkley said the player had elbowed him.

This is the same Barkley who threw a heckling fan through a window in a Milwaukee bar during an altercation, the same Barkley who consistently fought when confronted in non-life-threatening situations.

And now, when a man follows and approaches a kid in the dark, Barkley holds it against the teen that he defended himself? Weak.

His view is “probably not a popular opinion among most people,” he conceded, but “looking at the evidence,” Barkley said he concurred with the jury of six white women.


Barkley being Barkley, he continued his outspoken nonsense by attacking the media covering the case, saying it does not have a “pure heart” on race.

“Racism is wrong in any shape or form,” Barkley said. You think?

“A lot of black people are racist too,” he went on to say. “I think sometimes when people talk about racism, they say only white people are racist, but I think black people are too. I don’t think the media has clean hands.”

Here’s an idea, Chuck: Stick to talking basketball.

But Barkley being Barkley, he just cannot shut his pie hole. Of the pundits, he mused: “Every white person and black person who is racist (used) the platform to vent their ignorance. That’s the thing that bothered me the most. I watched this trial closely. I watched these people on television talking about it. A lot of these people have a hidden agenda. They want to have their racist views, whether they are white or black. . . Their biases come out.”

Barkley’s bias is toward shock value. And what was he doing on CNBC anyway? Basketball season is a ways away.

For sure, Barkley’s right to express his opinion is equal to anyone’s. But five days after the verdict, it would have been nice if he had offered ways to come together in peace or how to deal with Florida’s sick laws that would allow an aggressor to stalk a kid, shoot him through the heart and walk out of court a free man.

Better yet, it would have been better if Barkley had just kept his mouth shut.

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