Willie Richardson / April 10, 2021

‘I Am Not a Role Model’

Charles Barkley’s thoughts on politics should make everyone stop and think.

In the early 1990s, Nike still held a chokehold in the shoe industry with teenage males, but it had seen its numbers drop as Reebok was making a lot of noise. Nike was feeling the pressure and wanted to shake things up. Enter Charles Barkley. Leave it to Sir Charles to bring Nike the idea to challenge the status quo of American professional athletes. In a commercial he emphatically claimed:

“I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

He may not need to be raising your kids, but politicians from both sides should model his perspective on politics and race in America. Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is known for his outspoken opinions, whether it’s about basketball or politics. During the NCAA Final Four broadcast on CBS, he fired off on American politicians, accusing legislators on both sides of the aisle of trying to “make the whites and blacks not like each other” so they can stay in power.

His comments came after a pregame feature about Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 appearance in Indianapolis — the site of this year’s Final Four — in which he informed the crowd that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. When asked for his reaction, Barkley placed much of the blame for racial tensions in the United States at the feet of politicians.

“I think most white people and black people are great people. I really believe that in my heart,” Barkley said. “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.”

Barkley, an 11-time NBA All-Star who retired in 2000 after 16 seasons in the league, has occasionally dropped hints about running for political office — most notably governor of Alabama.

“We’re so stupid following our politicians, whether they are Republicans or Democrats,” Barkley continued. “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.’”

Politicians get paid for representing the best interests of their constituents, but they act like there isn’t a model to go by. Just because they are elected officials doesn’t mean they don’t need checks and balances. Barkley has a rare racial perspective, but the cancel culture has yet to come knocking at his door. I wonder what’s his secret?

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