Former NBA player and current “TNT“commentator Charles Barkley has never encountered an issue that he was afraid to weigh in on. So it was not a big surprise that he aired his views on the issue of gays in the NBA in the wake of Phoenix Suns Team President Rick Welts coming out earlier this week. “ESPN.com” has reported that the former NBA All-Star was a guest on a Washington radio station “WJFK” and told the hosts he is certain that he had gay teammates in his career. The former player also stated that there are a lot more gay players in the Association than the general public is aware of.
Barkley told his hosts “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.”
He also stated that he never felt threatened that a fellow player would try to hit on him. He said “A guy is never going to put himself in that situation in a professional locker room. It never crossed my mind, and I never felt any different about the guy.”
Having covered the NBA, MLB and the NFL for 11 years as Sports Director for Metro Networks in Cleveland, I can attest that there were rumors about certain players possibly being gay in locker rooms in all three sports. However in my experience I have never witnessed a player being ostracized by his teammates for that reason.
Barkley stated that he believes that our society has a natural anti-gay bias and that gay people in general do not get treated fairly. He told the hosts “First of all, society discriminates against gay people. They always try to make it like jocks discriminate against gay people. I’ve been a big proponent of gay marriage for a long time, because as a black person, I can’t be in for any form of discrimination at all.”
Game two of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat will be broadcast on “TNT” on Wednesday night. Most likely Barkley’s comments will be a major topic of conversation during the broadcast.