The NBA analyst and hero to wide-bodied, too-short post players everywhere gives a terrific interview to the Washington Post's Mike Wise on gays in sports:
Fears of feeling uncomfortable in the shower or the dressing areas, Barkley said, are unfounded in his experience.
“A guy is never going to put himself in that situation in a professional locker room,” Barkley said. “It never crossed my mind, and I never felt any different about the guy.”
Also weary of the perception that a majority of straight male athletes are intensely homophobic, Barkley said gay players pose no problem, adding, “Man, we need to outlaw guys who suck at sports.”
“I really like ESPN,” Barkley added. “They do a great job. But like once every two or three months, they bring all these people on there, and they tell me how me and my team are going to respond to a gay guy.
“First of all, every player has played with gay guys. It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say, ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.”
Barkley, unlike most athletes or celebrities who pipe up on politics, is really interesting. Basically, he's an economic liberal and social libertarian -- meaning he's strongly in favor of immigration and gay rights, and critical of social pathologies within the black community. Here's a taste of an interview he did with TNR's Isaac Chotiner in 2007:
CHARLES BARKLEY: Illegal immigration to me is the easiest thing in the world to fix.
TNR: How so?
All they have to do is penalize the people they work for. You should get penalized. It's all poor people who argue over illegal immigration. They want poor people to--I call it divide and conquer. That's all they do is divide and conquer.
The rich people are trying to divide the poor people?
Yes, they got all the money, they got all the power. Whether it's that, or they divide you racially on certain things. They divide you racially, economically, and on things like that. It just splits the vote, and the rich people still end up on top at the end of the day. They control everything.
So is that what interests you primarily--economic issues?
America is divided by economics strictly. You know, people always talk about race, and we have racial problems in this country. Of course we do. But the real issue is the rich against the poor. We've got to get poor white people and poor black people and Mexicans to realize they are all in the same boat. If you in one of those three groups and you are poor, you are going to be in a bad neighborhood, you are going to go to a bad school, and you are going to have strikes against you. You can't commit crimes in good neighborhoods. They will get your ass. Their kids go to private school, or they go to school in a good economic area. But the poor people, they are all in the same boat but they divide you based on race or stuff like that. A lot of these politicians say things like "We've got to stop all these illegal immigrants." I am like, "That is so easy to stop." They are not working for other immigrants. ...
In some quarters Barack has been criticized for not being black enough.
Well, that's because black people are fucked up. One of the reasons that black people are not going to be successful is because of other black people. We tell black kids that if they make good grades, they are acting white. If they speak well, we tell them that they are acting white. We have a lot of demons in our own closet--in our own family--that we have to address. But first of all, we want black men to be intelligent and articulate and things like that. That's not acting white. That's the way it should be. ... We become our own worst enemy with random black-on-black crime, teen pregnancy, single-parent homes. You know we cannot blaming white America for our ills. Does racism exist? Of course it does. But, at some point, I have to make sure I am educated. I don't have ten kids and no job. I am not killing other black people. At some point, you have to grow up.
The whole interview is worth checking out, as is Barkley's follow-up interview in 2008.