What’s so funny about a man hitting a woman? It’s not my kind of humor, but apparently, if you’re Charles Barkley, that sort of a material is a smooth cackle. On Tuesday, Axios reporter Alexi McCammond took to Twitter to share that the NBA legend and sportscaster told her, “I don’t hit women, but if I did, I would hit you.” When McCammond objected to a quip from a man much less one of Barkley’s stature and girth about hitting her, he informed her that she “couldn’t take a joke.”
What sparked Barkley’s ire? Well, based on his recent assertion that the NBA should ignore “jackasses” and “idiots” criticizing their initial decision to mute criticism of China’s human rights record, one assumes he doesn’t enjoy being challenged. Or maybe it depends on who is challenging him.
According to McCammond, “it was all because he came in talking about how he loves Deval Patrick and once someone from Pete‘s [Buttigieg] campaign came around he said he loved Pete and I reminded him he previously said he was a Deval fan.”
It did not take long for Barkley by way of his employer, Turner Sports, to offer an apology: “My comment was inappropriate and unacceptable. It was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all. There’s no excuse for it and I apologize.”
The apology hit all of the right notes, but McCammond did not acquiesce, rightly noting the severity of intimate partner violence in America. Sadly, it did not take long for the small-minded and/or misogynistic to somehow fault her. Under the original tweet describing Barkley’s remarks, there are far too many decrying McCammond for not being able to take a joke and for “playing victim.”
Some have since gone on to uncover inappropriate remarks McCammond herself made on Twitter. It appears that several years ago, McCammond used to make a lot of racist jokes about Asians on the platform. After being called on it, McCammond tweeted on Wednesday: “Today I was reminded of some past insensitive tweets, and I am deeply sorry to anyone I offended. I have since deleted those tweets as they do not reflect my views or who I am today.”
I know we live in a media climate that dictates we must always look at issues in terms of “both sides do it,” but I refuse to be that big of a dummy. I implore others to join the movement. Two things can be true: Charles Barkley can be dead wrong for joking about hitting a woman and Alexi McCammond can be equally as wrong for trafficking in racism under the guise of humor.
With that out of the way, we can turn our focus back to Barkley. I’m glad the sensible people at Turner Sports got Barkley to apologize, but that doesn’t blind anyone to this latest “joke” being part of a bigger pattern.
In 1990, Barkley, then a star forward for the 76ers, was quoted saying after winning over the underdog New Jersey Nets that “this is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.”
When asked by the reporter if he wanted to reconsider that statement, he said, “Nah, print it.”
He was “joking” then, too. A year later, he was fined $10,000 for spitting on a fan — an eight-year-old girl. Are you laughing yet?
For those ready to reply with “Why are you bringing up someone’s mistakes from the MC Hammer era?” it doesn’t get any better.
Reason being nearly three decades later, Barkley is still joking about “sexual harassment” and slamming the Warriors’ style of playing as “little girly basketball.” Then there are those comments he made about the women of San Antonio. I actually Charles Barkley can be funny at times. I once described him as “that Black uncle you find amusing but limit conversations with at family gatherings to select topics such as sports, Gap Band songs and brown liquor.” But, like many certain types of Black men, his racial and gender politics offer little to laugh about.
Charles Barkley is 56-years-old. Old enough to know better. Old enough to do better.
I don’t know what happens in Barkley’s private life, but he has a very long history of sexism. Enough for me to conclude that while Barkley might not have really wanted to hit her, he surely wanted to instill that violent imagery into her mind. And men who employ aggression in this manner are responsible for normalizing gender violence. Now more than ever is that dangerous because of the impact it has on impressionable minds.
Just this week, I visited an area high school in order to offer a lecture on a form of masculinity just like the one Barkley and his ilk espouse. One that has rigid binaries that never deviate. One rooted in what many might describe as “traditional,” but are in actuality, merely repressive and archaic. What I told the students, but specifically, those young boys, is that life shouldn’t be lived in binaries, but even if you elect to, part of being a real man is not simply being comfortable in your own skin, but allowing people space to safely be whoever they are. And be the kind of man who can respect a woman’s agency and be kind to all.
Barkley is literally the kind of man I fear so many boys might become. Barkley will continue to enjoy his platform for the foreseeable future, but if he can’t evolve, maybe he shouldn’t for much longer.