Everyone knew Charles Barkley would be a star if he chose to go into TV after retiring from basketball. Honest and charismatic, Barkley wasn’t just the best scorer for Team USA in the ’92 Olympics (look it up). He was the star of the show.
When it came down to it, Barkley picked TNT over NBC. Why? Turner promised he could address social issues. The fact he always speaks his mind makes Barkley entertaining, but it also makes him controversial. It’s a package deal. Speaking up about social issues was a part of the package.
Barkley’s origin explains his passion to speak up about social issues. He was supposedly the first black baby delivered in the segregated town hospital, in Leeds, Alabama. His grandfather worked there as a janitor. Growing up in Alabama, a poor black kid, Barkley understands the importance of education. There are a lot more doctors than NBA players.
“They put us in a box where we can only be sports and entertainers. White kids grow up thinking they can be doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Black kids don’t think that. My goal is to get young black kids, I never talk to them about sports. Never. I say hey, you can be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher, fireman, policeman, things like that. I never talk to them about playing sports. It’s unrealistic.”Charles Barkley, ESPN
Sir Charles never graduated from Auburn, but makes a point to explain to kids he is the exception. You may be his fan, but don’t chase his biography. Even when they make it, a lot of professional athletes end up filing for bankruptcy. That’s why Barkley’s against the one-and-done rules. He knows the probability of a player going back to school and finishing his education is low. His former friend, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, only did it because he had a broken foot and his mom made him. (MJ also had only one year to go)
Barkley’s message is an example of using one’s platform to promote independence. Everyone’s been asking what’s the plan after the protests are done. Encouraging kids of minority backgrounds to think of themselves as doctors, lawyers and engineers should be in any version of that plan.