Charles Barkley is beloved by many sports fans for his tendency to be authentic. But in terms of being outspoken or controversial, Barkley thinks he receives that label because of his race.
Barkley joined The Pivot Podcast this week, hosted by Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder. And during the interview, Barkley was asked if his opinions tread along the lines of being controversial.
“It has something to do with race, to be honest with you,” Barkley answered. “Because I hear that all the time and I’m like ‘wait, I don’t think I’m saying things I don’t hear other people say.’ But I think they throw those code words, ‘outspoken, opinionated’ when they’re talking about brothers on television, cause I think some of the white guys say the exact same things that I say, and they’re considered experts.”
“Why do you call me controversial, outspoken?” Barkley continued. “I’m saying the same thing that these other guys are saying, but to me, they use those code words when they’re saying stuff like that. And that always makes me laugh because I don’t think I’m controversial. I saw somebody say exactly what I said yesterday or today, but you throw those code words at me.”
Barkley recalled being in Philadelphia early in his career and learning that many sports media members are hot take artists who look to fuel debate with disingenuous opinions. “The problem with television is we got so many guys on television who are full of sh*t,” Barkley said. Which is why he made a conscious decision to be a “straight shooter” when he landed with Turner Sports more than two decades ago.
But Barkley’s authenticity is part of what makes him controversial. When Skip Bayless offers a fabricated hot take, it’s often met with an eyeroll. When Barkley says something worthy of debate, the audience knows it’s genuine, which gives his opinion more value.
Minutes after claiming he’s not more opinionated and controversial than other sportscasters on The Pivot Podcast, Barkley questioned media coverage of police shootings in the United States. Not exactly a topic most sports talkers are willing to have a conversation about, but credit Barkley for touching on topics that are important to him.
Barkley also found a platform in TNT that doesn’t force Inside the NBA to stick to sports. Basketball is always the focal point of their show, but Barkley has and uses his TV freedom to offer opinions and comments about anything, whether it’s Joel Embiid’s performance on the court, or a social topic dominating the national conversation. (And he’ll be discussing players on and off the court in his upcoming The Great Debate with Charles Barkley documentary.)
“When I got my job, I said I always want to be authentic and truthful,” Barkley explained. “Because if I say something…nobody is going to be able to say, ‘Charles said this to get clicks or whatever.’ I’m never going to do that.”