Charles Barkley is a polarizing figure. As cliched and tired as that sounds, there is no truer phrase to describe him. He has said many things over the years that have rained criticism and disdain rained down upon him, both in the mainstream and within the African American community.
The one-time proud Republican has switched political parties to Democrat, but his candor and forwardness have not cooled a degree. With that being said, Barkley has been the most outspoken athlete on gay rights, ever.
Quietly, he has been a voice of reason in professional sports on the inclusion and fair treatment of the LGBT community. He is on record as far back as 2007, when he was the first NBA great to counter former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway's homophobic radio diatribe.
Back in March, Governor Pat McCrory and the state legislature of North Carolina introduced, deliberated, passed and signed "HB2" into law, a bill that forces transgender individuals into bathrooms that they do not self-identify as, and stopping cities from passing laws preventing discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender citizens. A similar bill was attempted in Georgia but was vetoed by the governor.
The city of Charlotte had been tabbed as the host of the 2017 NBA All-Star game. This decision was made well in advance of the passing of this law, but with companies like PayPal and Google Ventures pulling considerable investments from the Tar Heel State, an eye of criticism is being cast upon other businesses to follow suit in protest.
In addition, Disney has said it will boycott North Carolina if the bill passed as well.
Charles Barkley has urged the NBA to move the 2017 NBA All-Star game from Charlotte due to this new law that some believe is outwardly and maliciously anti-gay. Should other sports take similar measures?
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
Bruce Springsteen cancelled a planned concert in Greensboro, North Carolina, over opposition to that state’s new law.
“Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them,” Springsteen wrote in a statement posted on his website. “It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”
Leaders in other states have even banned publicly-funded travel to North Carolina. Acclaimed movie director Rob Reiner said he won’t approve the filming of any projects in the state as well. He's encouraging others in the billion dollar movie industry to do the same.
Though people like Barkley, Springsteen, Reiner and others can bring attention to such issues, there will need to be a distinct change in the mindsets of those who elect these divisive politicians into office. Until that happens, progressive-minded businesses and entrepreneurs who are willing to sacrifice dealing with states who pass such laws are the biggest deterrent for such legislation.
“Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments,” Springsteen said. “I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters.”
NBA Statement Regarding Legislation Recently Signed Into Law In North Carolina pic.twitter.com/xwoOo9MyeR— NBA (@NBA) March 24, 2016
Although conversations on gender, sexuality and same-sex marriages are a part of the national dialectic now more than ever, these conversations are arsenic to the sensibilities of many voters in the Bible Belt.
In addition to the HB2 Law of North Carolina, the aforementioned "Religious Freedom Law" in Indiana and the failed Georgia bill of the same name, the state of Mississippi recently passed its "Religious Freedom Bill" into law on April 5th. It was passed in the same manner as the one that passed in North Carolina - with great animus and stealth.
Like the prior attempts at passing anti-gay legislation, the Mississippi Law passed as a counter to federal laws passed under the Obama Administration that provided increased protections for gay rights in America.
Is it any surprise that each state in which these bills were passed, or in which legislation was attempted, has a long and fiery love affair with organized racism? Indiana is still known to be fertile Klan country, as is Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, North Carolina and Mississippi. Coincidentally, each state has colleges that participate in major NCAA sports.
Will the SEC make an official announcement? Maybe the ACC?
The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
It is ironic that Charles Barkley, a man who has been skewered for his views on race in the past, is the single most outspoken proponent on this issue. Who else will step outside of their belief system to defend the rights of prople to live their lives unencumbered by the hangups of others?
Who will be brave enough?
"As a black person, I'm against any form of discrimination — against whites, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, however you want to phrase it," the NBA Hall of Famer and basketball analyst told CNN this week. "It's my job, with the position of power that I'm in and being able to be on television, I'm supposed to stand up for the people who can't stand up for themselves."