“Charles Barkley…Mr. Irrelevant”


People who know me know that I am a sports junkie. I like all kinds of sports and this time of year when the Baseball World Series, the first half of the NFL and College Football seasons, and the tip off for the College Basketball and NBA seasons are like harmonic convergence for me. My smart phone regularly goes off with ESPN alerts (da-da-dah) to let me know what the rankings are, who is hurt, and what the latest scores are. I tend to know itty bitty esoteric information about sports because they so captivate me. So, I do know that the last man chosen in the NFL draft is known as “Mr. Irrelevant.” He’s the guy that probably will not make a team and if he does he is likely to have no impact and/or not last long in the league. He is taken because some team has to have the last draft pick.
Now, along comes what I’d call a “tempest in a teapot” when someone from the Seattle Seahawks football team “allegedly” said quarterback Russell Wilson was not “black enough.” I have a special affinity for Russell because he completed his last year of athletic eligibility at my university. He enrolled in my school as a graduate student and he led the team to the Rose Bowl. I don’t want anyone saying bad things about Russell. But, since I don’t know for sure that ANYONE said anything about Wilson’s “Black bonafides” I cannot give such rumor mongering any attention.
But then, Charles Barkley, former NBA player (Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Houston) decides to speak up. He tells the world that Black people are like ‘crabs in a barrel’ who don’t like an ‘intelligent’ Black person to succeed. Really, Charles? First off, there is not one shred of evidence that anyone said what the “opinion columnist” wrote. Second, there is no name associated with the alleged remark. Credible journalist at least tell us things like, “sources close to the team” or a “player on the condition of anonymity” stated the following. What we do know is that when teams are struggling (which the defending champion Seahawks are) tempers in locker rooms flare because people who are used to winning struggle with losing. They point fingers. The assess blame. So all kinds of crazy things could be said. But, later, Seattle linebacker Richard Sherman said, “Nobody actually said what was being reported!” But, none of that kept Charles Barkley, Mr. Irrelevant from opening his mouth. Worst, I cannot figure out for the life of me why the mainstream sports media gives Charles Barkley a platform on which to pontificate on the state of Black America. This is the same Charles Barkley who once spit on a fan, declared he was not a role model (that became a major ad campaign), broke a man’s nose in a fight, threw another man through a plate glass window, is a compulsive gambler, and was arrested on a DUI in Arizona in 2008. Why is he allowed to speak on ANYTHING beyond basketball?

More importantly, why does mainstream media seek his opinion on things like this? Is it because he is likely to say something that puts Black people down and demonstrate once again to White audiences that Blacks need to be “managed” and “muzzled?” Does Barkley’s seeming buffoonery and Uncle Tom like pronouncements address some affirmation that there are “good N-words” and “bad N-Words” and the task of the larger society is to align itself with the “good” ones as a way to assuage guilt and claim to be acting in the interests of the society as they do everything they can to keep the “bad” ones down?

In my field there are those “edu-tainers” who travel the country and fill the airways with comments about how Black parents (especially Black mothers) are terrible and don’t know how to raise their children and how Black children need to pull up their pants and stop listening to hip hop. They tell us that our children will not be shot in the streets if they don’t wear hoodies and “look” threatening. And, they rake in tens of thousands of dollars spouting this nonsense because this is what the mainstream wants to hear.

Statements like Barkley’s tell the society that meritocracy is real and whatever complaints Black people have are because of their own shortcomings and failure to work hard enough to succeed. When we give the Charles Barkley’s of the world a platform that suggests he speaks for all of us we diminish our own credibility. As far as I’m concerned Mr. Barkley is Mr. Irrelevant!

Stay Black & Smart


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