Cheers for Charles Barkley Bashing 'Them Bible-Thumpers'

On Wednesday, Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise championed a "very gay spring" in sports and an interview he did on the radio with former NBA star Charles Barkley, complete with the headline "Sir Charles champions a noble cause: tolerance." If "tolerance" is being taught, "Bible-thumpers" are being bashed. This is how the column ended:

"We gossiped behind each other’s back before; I’ll be the first to admit that," he [Barkley] said, before adding, "The first people who whine and complain is them Bible-thumpers, who are supposed to be non-judgmental, who rail against them. Hey, man, I don’t worry about what other people do."

In this ever open-minded May, amen to that.

"Amen" to rejecting the Bible: that’s a liberal-media mantra. Naturally, Barkley also proclaimed opposing homosexuality as a sin is just like racism:

"First of all, society discriminates against gay people," Barkley said. "They always try to make it like jocks discriminate against gay people. I’ve been a big proponent of gay marriage for a long time, because as a black person, I can’t be in for any form of discrimination at all."

The occasion for this interview is the New York Times piece announcing that Phoenix Suns president Rick Welts was coming out. Wise saw things to "amen" all over:

We are just four years removed from Tim Hardaway, in response to former player John Amaechi coming out, saying he "hates gay people," and LeBron James ignorantly adding that he could not trust a teammate who was in the closet because he believed untruthfulness in his personal life would actually hurt him on the court.

Four years later, in an enlightening way, sports has undergone a very gay spring.

First the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was hit with a $100,000 fine for uttering a gay slur at a referee, an incident Bryant later called a "teaching moment" as he and the club partnered with a gay-rights group to educate others.

Then, there was the New York Rangers’ Sean Avery’s endorsement ad for the Human Rights Campaign’s "New Yorkers for Marriage Equality Campaign," an instigator in the most testosterone-laden of sports, no less.

Over the weekend, Grant Hill and Jared Dudley, coincidentally two Phoenix Suns players, participated in an NBA public service announcement that denounced the use of the term "gay" as acceptable trash talk on the playground.

It was also revealed that former Villanova player Will Sheridan came out to teammates during his career with the Wildcats, with no ramifications whatsoever.

And now Barkley, who played as masculine as any 6-foot-4 power forward in the history of playground or pro hoops, uttering the words, "It didn’t bother me," saying he knew he had gay teammates.

"Any professional athlete who gets on TV or radio and says he never played with a gay guy is a stone-freakin’ idiot," Barkley said. "I would even say the same thing in college. Every college player, every pro player in any sport has probably played with a gay person.

Barkley’s message: Don’t worry. Deal with it.  

Barkley's interview with Wise also drew "Quote of the Day" honors at the NBC Sports blog Hardball Talk (by Craig Calcaterra, not Chris Matthews):

First of all, every player has played with gay guys. It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say, ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.

Calcaterra added:

I still maintain that the biggest issue facing a ballplayer who came out would not be their teammates — for the reason Barkley suggests — and would not be the haters, because they would be quickly shouted down for the Neanderthals they are.

No, the biggest problem would be the positive or, at the very least, curious media hype that would surround it. The player would be asked to do so many interviews and personal appearances, mostly by non-sports media, that it would create a way bigger headache than the anti-gay stuff would. By far. 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis