I Like Charles Barkley, But He’s Wrong on Ferguson

But that's why he's become conservative pundits' go-to guy on race relations.

TV personalities Kenny Smith (left) and Charles Barkley watch action from their set during the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium.

TV personalities Kenny Smith (left) and Charles Barkley watch action from their set during the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium.

What are CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Drudge Report, and every conservative radio talk show going to do now that Charles Barkley will no longer be a regular guest on the Mike Missanelli Show?

For the last two weeks, these news organizations have fed like piranha to a gyro spindle on Barkley’s opinions about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, thanks to a bet I made with Charles. The bet was that Barkley would come on my show the day after every 76ers loss and we would donate $200 per loss to his favorite charity. Charles was sure the Sixers were close to a win — he is very supportive of the Tanking Mission the local professional basketball team is on. I, however, felt that the losing streak could stretch out to as many as 30 games in a row, which would have meant a cool six-grand to charity.

We got two sessions in with Barkley before the Sixers stopped their losing streak at 17 games — the all-time record for losses at the start of an NBA season is held by the New Jersey Nets at 19 — but those two sessions yielded a mother lode of material, for which Barkley was either excoriated as a traitor to the black race or embraced by white America as one black dude who “gets it.”

Clearly, when Charles Barkley speaks, the entire world listens, and reacts.

To summarize, Sir Charles didn’t express outrage at the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the confrontational shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He said the grand jury was righteous in its weighing of the evidence, and defended police officers as deterrents to even worse things that can happen in the ’hood. When black folks countered by calling Barkley an Uncle Tom, they weren’t talking about a favorite relative who carves the turkey at Thanksgiving.

I like Charles Barkley a great deal, but I don’t agree with all of his views, and I don’t in the case of Ferguson. If Charles doesn’t understand black America’s frustration with law enforcement and the judicial system, then he’s been spending too much time with Ernie Johnson. Here are some statistics to ponder. Police shootings by race (age 16-19): whites , 1.47 per million; blacks, 31.17 per million. There was fundamental unfairness in the legal proceedings in Ferguson on many levels. And the news of another non-indictment of a police officer for using a chokehold that killed a black criminal suspect has further inflamed racial tension.

Barkley was a mensch on Thursday, though. He came on the show for a grand finale to add some postscript to the racial conversation when I asked him about the open letter that Kenny Smith — his on-air partner for NBA pre-game telecasts on TNT — wrote directly to Charles and published on the world wide blogosphere. Charles embraced Kenny’s letter, saying that not all people are going to agree on everything.

Smith wrote this to Barkley: “What I find consistently interesting is how writers and media members view your insights in politics and now race relations, with the same reverence as your insights in sports. … The body of work that our Black Civil Rights leaders put in by planning, executing and activating does not justify you being in the conversation.”


And then more: “The question must be asked: Why is there so much distrust in the police and the legal system from the African-American community? … [A]s African-Americans, we still know and still feel that there are laws and jurisdictions that severely penalize the poor and, most importantly, African-Americans greater than any other group.”

It sickens me that some white, conservative pundits use Barkley as some sort of moat to actually having to think forwardly on race relations. To that end, people told me that the other day I was being ripped by Mark Levin for me providing the other side of the argument to Barkley, the Kenny Smith side.

“I’m sick of these liberal white guys, particularly in sports talk radio, who think they know something,” Levin said.

Honestly, my first thought to that was this: Who the eff is Mark Levin? When I found out he was yet another conservative radio talk show host, I gave it a shrug and some perspective. Hey Levin, whoever you are, you don’t fool me. You might relish a role as a Pied Piper to some insecure Tea Party conservatives. But my sense is you don’t believe half of your own BS and are laughing all the way to that Savings and Loan high on a hill, where your “followers” can’t see you.

Mike Missanelli is on 97.5 FM The Fanatic every week day from 2 to 6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMiss975.