Promoting and celebrating athletes who speak out on issues of race and class in America is a long-standing tradition of the African American community. Indeed, there are those of us in the media and in the greater populous who have pressed modern athletes to become more vocal and to speak their conscience in the great tradition of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Curt Flood.
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Either purposefully or by coincidence, however, Charles Barkley's opinions have set him to the right of other tradition-minded African American idealism. And now he has his own nationally-televised cable show.
TNT announced Sunday that it has approved a series for Barkley to discuss America’s “hot-button topics” with the working title of The Race Card.
The network said via philly.com:
“NBA legend and Inside the NBA analyst Charles Barkley has had enough. The America that he knew has lost its way, becoming mired in partisan politics, social divides and entrenched corporate interests. Now he hopes to get to the root of the problem...TNT has...plans to launch in early 2017.”
TNT elaborated in a statement:
“Each week, Barkley will take on the rapidly calcifying positions around today’s hot-button topics. He will seek out the sharpest and most varied viewpoints from today’s cultural leaders and tastemakers. He will then challenge and probe those ideas, even trying them out on himself."
According to usatoday.com, "No idea presented on The Race Card will be left in the abstract. Barkley will put ideas on their feet, with real-world proof-of-concept tests that will engage people and expose the truth behind their closely held beliefs. In the end, Barkley will reach his own conclusions guided only by his own wits and common-sense wisdom.”
Barkley's right of center viewpoints are what gives his word some value to the mainstream. Barkley was vocally critical of the black community in light of the recent police violence and racially charged protests sweeping the country, saying "We as Black people, We've got to do better."
He has since come under fire repeatedly in the black press editorial rolls. While some of his concerns may appear genuine, his offerings on topics of race, class and culture say "Sponsored in part by an old white guy" when heard aloud.
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This TNT show's sole catalyst is to profit from and encourage racial discourse and spark controversy for an audience of mostly white Americans. With his foray into talk television, Barkley and Ted Turner will now have the unfettered ability to use race to entertain the masses.
Barkley has been talking serious smack since he was Philadelphia's favorite "Round Mound of Rebound" back in the 80s, but most of today's TV viewing public only know Barkley from his appearances on the TNT's wildly popular "Inside the NBA" coverage, and the occasional shock quote. Said quotes often seem geared toward admonishing, shaming or "being honest" with black Americans. Coincidentally or not, much of this type of talk goes hand in hand with talking points of conservative southerners.
As mature basketball fans, we can close our eyes and reminisce on the attributes that made Barkley such an unforgettable athlete; power, explosiveness and toughness. However, once his playing days were over it was quickly apparent that his post-playing fame would largely hinge upon his outspokenness. Count on Ol' Chuck to make you laugh.
As long as he kept his opinion to basketball most of us enjoyed his country wisdom and propensity to be bombastic and larger than life.
But, for whatever reason, Barkley's opinion was sought out on matters outside of his field of expertise starting about a decade ago. His popularity grew in part because of his personality, but his willingness to admonish blacks with white philosophical reasons also carried sway. It wasn't so much that he was at all capable or qualified to comment on matters of race and class as they pertain to the society at large, but clearly all about what he was going to say.
To be fair, there are many instances of black commentators on cable sports television networks who have philosophically set themselves apart from black sensibilities in favor of the mainstream's view of said sensibilities. That's their schtick.
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Because they are privileged talking heads on a TV screen, these types of individuals wave the flag fervently in seemingly telling black folk "what's good for them." Indeed, Charles Barkley has been an honorary white person via his athletic talents for years dating back to Auburn.
You can already guess what Barkley's show is going to look like. That's right, 1 hour of "I told you so" to Black people from a man whose only qualification to talk about race is his membership in said race. Stay tuned for lots of finger wagging as Barkley discusses race with a bunch of goofy ass celebrities.
A show whose primary purpose is to entertain white folks via racial controversy is a bad idea.