On Friday's episode of TNT's "The Arena," Charles Barkley briefly deviated from the social justice narrative to question how long sports fans will stomach the media's obsession with non-stop racism and Black Lives Matter. Co-panelist Draymond Green, who plays forward for the Golden State Warriors, tried to steer Barkley back on course by insisting that people will be on the right side of history.
Show hostess Cari Champion asked both men to speak to how well the NBA players, who next week resume the season in "the bubble" at Disney World in Orlando, will maintain focus on the systemic racism mantra dominating the nation.
Barkley expressed doubts about basketball fans putting up with the never-ending Black Lives Matter focus. He said we have to think of it from a fan perspective, a lot of people have lost their jobs, the kids are probably not going back to school and people are already under stress. These people just want to turn the TV on and watch basketball. If players (and the media) are going to continue the constant drumbeat every day, it will be interesting to see how fans react.:
"They could get turned off. They could get turned off. Because, people watch sports for sports. Listen, there's a direct correlation. You go back to what was going on with Colin Kaepernick. The fans were not happy with that. And now, with such a condensed season, with the guys being on really really every day for three months. And for the public, that, like they are going to hear the stuff every single day for three months. You have to stay, I want to know how they are going to react. I really do. And for people who say the fans really are going to be all aboard for everything, I'm a wait and see."
Green (seen above in file photo) said the fans made a mistake on Kaepernick in 2016, but a lot of them have changed their view since then and there was an apology made to Kaepernick. "Will the fans be making the same mistake as they did in 2016, am I right?"
It was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who publicly apologized for his league not listening to the complaints of black players about racism, not fans apologizing to Kaepernick.
"Are they making the same mistake by ignoring it again, because they don't want to hear it or is it time to face the music and own up to the things that the guys are protesting?" Green asked.
Barkley replied that things are different now because of the pandemic and because some people will not get their jobs back. "You have to factor that in. Like I say, I don't think there's a right or wrong answer, but you have to think at some point, 'Say, man, I'm not sure I want to watch basketball every day if this is all the guys are going to talk about. I think it's a fair question.' "
Champion asked if the constant conversation theme is too heavy and fans want an escape? "Is it more of that stick to sports mentality?"
"No, it's not stick to sports," Barkley shot back. "I don't think that we should ever just stick to sports. But I'm saying with the pandemic, it changes the world forever. Forever. And these people, I think, they are like, 'can I get a break one day?' And I say, it's going to be fascinating watching. Like, first of all, I hope they watch. Because we are going to be on. But, I do think it's going to be interesting the way this plays out. You know, this notion that just because these guys are back, everyone is going to run back to the basketball court and then if these guys are going to talk about heavy stuff, every single day, I think there could be a backlash. I really do."
Green said he thinks everyone will continue watching because it feels like America is shifting to support for everyone who is "doing right." Thus there will be no negative fan impact on the game.
The week-long show concluded with Champion reading tweets from viewers who enjoyed the "educational" series with "much-needed uncomfortable conversation." She selected a pair of homosexual men, one with a young white son and another with a young black son, as her "champions." Last year, these men posted a video of the two little boys hugging each other, prompting Barkley to say racism is a learned thing.
"Love is love, and they are on the right side of history," Champion said in throwing a bone to the LGBT movement.