Sports Media Watch visited Turner’s NBA studios on Monday and had a chance to speak with TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley. In part one of the Q&A, the topics of conversation include Barkey’s future endeavors, whether politics has a role in sports, the NBA’s image issues and coverage of Tiger Woods‘ personal life.
SMW: This is your tenth year at TNT. It’s been a long time.
Charles: It has been a long time. I’m surprised I’m still here.
SMW: I know you’ve been talking about wanting to be a GM.
Charles: I’m gonna be a GM. I don’t talk about it, I’m going to be. I’m going to wait on a good job. I’m not going to take a s****y job.
SMW: So I guess that takes quite a few teams off the list.
Charles: I know. But you don’t take another job unless you’ve got a better job. You don’t just get a job to get a job.
SMW: So how many years do you think you’re going to stay here at TNT?
Charles: Well, if I got a great job offer right now, I’d leave tomorrow.
SMW: So if the Lakers came out and said that [GM] Mitch Kupchak is retiring …
Charles: Trust me, they’re not going to give me the Lakers job. First of all, Mitch Kupchak’s not gonna retire until Kobe Bryant retires. Or get fired.
SMW: So you’re saying that you would leave just right away.
Charles: Yeah. I want the challenge of running my own team.
SMW: Ever thought of going into coaching?
Charles: No, I don’t want to coach. That’s like a real job.
SMW: What about being the Governor of Alabama?
Charles: Politics are too corrupt for me right now. These guys have all sold their soul to a particular party. They’re not trying to worry about the regular people.
SMW: I know you were critical of [Senator] John McCain and his challenger for the immigration situation in Arizona.
Charles: Yeah. I’m a black man. I’m against any form of discrimination. Any form. I think gay people should be allowed to get married. I’m against any form of discrimination.
SMW: You guys talked about politics on the show before the Los Suns game, and there were a couple of right wing blogs that were critical of you for bringing politics into that.
Charles: Man, I don’t worry about the right wing blogs. I don’t give a s*** about the left wing blogs either. I just, my opinion, be honest on television. But I don’t sit around – first of all, I don’t read blogs. I read my own mind. You say things and people agree or they disagree, but I don’t worry about the right wing.
SMW: So do you think there’s any legitimate criticism about bringing politics into sports?
Charles: Politics has always been in sports. What about Muhammad Ali? What about the Olympic boycotts? What about them meeting with the steroid abusers? Come on, man. They want to say what they want to say. I don’t let them get that luxury with me. They don’t get to tell me what I get to talk about. They talk about what they want to talk about, so I’m going to talk about what I want to talk about.
SMW: Speaking of that, you’re able to say things that no other analyst can say –
Charles: No, everyone can say what they want to. They’re just afraid. They’re worried about losing their job. They’re just offended because I’m black, number one. Because they don’t criticize the other reporters. … I just talk about basketball and do my job. That’s just a myth they use. I don’t say anything anyone else doesn’t say.
SMW: Well, actually, I’m not even just talking about politics. Just a couple of weeks ago, Chris Paul comes in, and you told him to his face that he’s wasn’t the number one best point guard in the NBA.
Charles: What was I supposed to say? Just because he’s here, tell him he’s the best point guard? You tell people what they want to hear when you’re with them? You know, it’s called honesty. TV is very important. You’re supposed to be honest. You really don’t think – you really think I should’ve told Chris Paul he was the best point guard because we had him on the show?
SMW: Honestly, I don’t have a problem with you saying it. I’m just saying I don’t think a lot of other people would have done it. I can’t imagine [ESPN analyst] Jalen Rose saying that to Chris Paul.
Charles: I was answering a particular question.
SMW: That’s true, Chris Paul did ask you that question.
Charles: But I’m going to be honest. Man, it’s important to be honest when you’re on television. I take it very seriously. I’m not like Glenn Beck or Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and those guys. I take my job very seriously. I don’t think I’m right all the time, but I’m going to say what I feel and try to be honest.
You need to quit reading the right wing blogs, too. You figure this out, you watch politics, you see – they don’t give a s*** about these people. They’re going to do their right wing thing, the left wing is going to do their left-wing – the only people who lose are the people. You just try to be honest and straightforward. First of all, the Democrats and the Republicans both are full of s***. They’ve all sold their souls to special interest groups.
SMW: I remember you were a big supporter of Obama. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Charles: I’m a big supporter of Obama. He’s done a good job. He got the economy back on the right track, he got the healthcare thing going in the right direction. But there’s a perfect example. They’ve blocked every single thing he’s tried to do. That tells you right there, they don’t care about these people. They’re just going to vote their certain way, and that’s really sad. Because the only people who lose are the people.
SMW: If I remember correctly, [Senator] Richard Shelby – he’s from your home state of Alabama – he singlehandedly worked to block … several different appointments.
Charles: They’re just going to block every opponent or deal that’s not with their group. That’s just the way it works now. That’s why I don’t want to get involved with politics. Because like I say, the only people who lose are the people.
SMW: So you wouldn’t even want to get involved if you could change it possibly?
Charles: You can’t change it. They’ve sold their soul to special interest groups. You can’t change it.
SMW: Do you still talk to Senator McCain?
Charles: I like John McCain. I used to like him a lot more. Now, he’s just doing anything to get reelected. That’s disappointing. Because I’ve got great admiration and respect for him. But now he’s just doing anything to get elected.
SMW: I’ve had some questions for you in particular about the NBA’s image. And this is a little dated, because it goes back to the Gilbert Arenas situation.
Charles: What do you mean? What’s wrong with the NBA’s image?
SMW: Well, a lot of people have a very negative opinion –
Charles: That’s only because they’re black millionaires. We haven’t committed more crime than the NFL. That’s just a double standard. They look at us as a bunch of black millionaires. They can see our faces. So anything we do, there’s going to be a double standard.
SMW: You look at Ben Roethlisberger versus Kobe Bryant.
Charles: I know. But it’s just a double standard, because they’re black millionaires. … Most of our guys are great. First of all, across the board in all sports, 90 percent of the guys are great. 90 percent of the guys are great in all sports. But because of the 24-hour news cycle, anybody out there who does anything wrong, and with the cameraphones and things – man, we’ve got a bunch of great guys. Look at these two teams right here [the Magic and Hawks]. Any of these guys got in trouble this year?
SMW: I don’t believe so. If you want to include the Rashard Lewis suspension, but …
Charles: Yeah, but I’m saying, really in trouble.
SMW: A lot of people go back and they bring up a lot of different things from over the decades. They bring up the brawl, they bring up [Latrell] Sprewell – things that haven’t even happened for ten or twelve years.
Charles: I know, but that’s just the double standard.
SMW: What do you think the league can do to counteract that?
SMW: Nothing? You think it’s a lost cause?
Charles: It is a lost cause. We’ve got a bunch of great guys, but people don’t care about that. … There’s a lot of hate when you’re successful. Being successful is like being the good looking girl in high school. Everybody f***** hates you.
SMW: Tiger Woods?
Charles: Well, look at the double standard. Tiger, everybody’s down on Tiger because he cheated on his wife. Nobody went crazy – David Letterman got on there and joked about it, and it was over with. Same thing about the Governor of South Carolina. He’s still the governor. CNN and HLN, Entertainment Tonight, it’s just bull****, the s*** that these guys have to deal with now. It didn’t have any effect on your life that Tiger cheated on his wife, did it? You didn’t kill yourself, did you?
SMW: I honestly didn’t care.
Charles: Nobody cares. They try to tell us we care, because they inundate the magazines. I mean, you ask most rational people. But the people who make money on it try to tell you its really important. It’s not really important. I mean, that’s between Tiger and his wife.
SMW: The guys on The Sports Reporters were bringing up Tiger in the same breath as Roethlisberger, who was accused of rape, and Lawrence Taylor, who’s been accused of statutory rape. I just thought it was interesting because Tiger Woods – even though what he did was probably morally wrong, or was morally wrong, it’s obviously not illegal.
Charles: That’s just the way it is now, man. It’s a tough environment out there. Everyone’s trying to make money on you, and the bigger names you get to use, it makes it even a bigger story. It’s just unfortunate, but that’s just how it is.