Charles Barkley Defends Players Refusing to Kneel for Black Lives Matter
'If people don't kneel, they're not a bad person,' Basketball icon says
Basketball star Charles Barkley has weighed in on the debate over sports players kneeling for the Black Lives Matter movement, arguing that people have a right to refuse to submit to the leftist group.
Barkley defended players for not kneeling during an appearance on "The Inside Guys" on TNT Thursday in response to Shaquille O'Neal applauding players and coaches for "taking the knee" before the first NBA game of the season.
"When you have you platform, I think it is very important that you speak up, it's very important that you speak your mind but when you talk about change, you also have to talk about protocol," said O'Neal.
"So we use our voice to bring awareness," he continued.
"Now we have to go vote, we have to vote our mayors in, our mayors are to appoint new chiefs of police.
"We have to vote senators and politicians."
"It doesn't just stop with sending out a tweet or yelling all the time," O'Neal added.
"The thing is, listen, that's gonna mean different things to different people," Barkley responded.
"I'm glad these guys are all unified, but if people don't kneel, they're not a bad person," he added.
"I want to make that perfectly clear, I'm glad they had unity," Barkley concluded.
"But if we have a guy who doesn't want to kneel because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified."
Charles Barkley on anthem kneeling "If people don't kneel they're not a bad person" pic.twitter.com/qeZfjHTUZ4— gifdsports (@gifdsports) July 30, 2020
The NBA has had a rule going back to the early 1980s that players must stand for the national anthem.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, anticipating that players would kneel during these games at Walt Disney World, has made clear that he supported peaceful protests.
"I respect our teams' unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem," Silver told reporters Thursday.
Many players warmed up wearing "Black Lives Matter" shirts.
Thursday also marked the debut of new jerseys bearing messages that many players chose to have added, such as "Equality" and "Peace."
NBA players have used their platforms — both in the bubble and on social media — to demand equality and justice.
Coaches have also said it is incumbent on them to demand change and educate themselves and others.
The pregame actions by the Jazz and the Pelicans were just the start of what is expected to be a constant during the remainder of this season.
"It's taken a very long time to get this momentum going," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said in a video that aired pregame, a project organized by both the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. "It cannot be lost."
New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said he appreciated the accidental symmetry that came from the first games of the restarted season coming only hours after the funeral for Rep. John Lewis, the civil-rights icon who died July 17 at the age of 80.
Lewis spent most of his life championing equality and was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington — the one where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.
Gentry said he believes this movement, like the one Lewis helped spark six decades ago, will endure.
"If you talk to some of the younger generation, I think this is here to stay. I really do," Gentry said.
"I have a 20-year-old son and a 22-year-old son, and I know that they feel like this is the most opportune time for us to try to have change in this country."