Not known for pulling any punches, former NBA star Charles Barkley unloaded on ESPN for race-baiting leading up to Super Bowl 50.
On "The Dan Patrick Show" on NBC Sports Wednesday, Barkley, a basketball analyst for TNT, condemned ESPN for the way it was "framing the narrative" of the upcoming showdown between Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers.
The "fools" over at the four-letter network, said Barkley, are deliberately selling the game as a "black versus white, good versus evil" contest.
"ESPN has already started their crap about black versus white, good versus evil—and I know a lot of those fools over there got radio talk shows," said Barkley.
"It really annoys the hell out of me," he continued. "We really just can’t appreciate the greatness of Peyton [Manning]. And, clearly, Cam is on the track to become one of the greatest players ever. You can already see them framing this narrative 'black versus white, good versus evil.'"
"The best way to make talk radio good is to make it racial," Barkley said later, knocking the pundits for inserting race into issues where it wasn't really a factor.
Before blasting ESPN, Barkley commented on the racially charged nontroversy drummed up by the media: the supposed racism-fueled animosity toward (the widely popular) Newton over his elaborate celebrations. Barkley suggested that while there is a "racial component" to negative perceptions of Newton, the "race card" is being overplayed.
"I hate bringing up the race card because there’s more important race stuff, but race does have something to do with it," he said, adding, "There is a racial component, but I hate talking about that because we, as black people, we got way more important things where race is a factor than something silly like sports."
Barkley also said that Newton's celebrations would annoy him as a player, saying, "[A]s much as I love Cam Newton, if I played against him, I would put a hit on him, no question."
When asked this week about not getting enough love from fans, Newton cited his race as a factor. "I'm an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to," he said, according to the Charlotte Observer.