Speaking on a pre-game podcast on TNT, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley defended athletes who chose not to kneel for the national anthem, asserting, “My thing is, listen. The national anthem means different things to different people. I’m glad these guys are all unified. But if people… If people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person. I want to make that perfectly clear. I’m glad they had unity, but if we have a guy who doesn’t want to kneel ’cause the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified.”
Prior to Barkley’s comments, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal lauded the players who had knelt in unity for the NBA season opener during the national anthem, saying, “That was so beautifully done, done in unity. Nice to see. Think it’s very important that you speak up. Very important that you speak your mind. So we use our voice to bring awareness. Now we have to go vote. We have to continue to fight, continue the movement. Again, I’m proud of everybody.”
Rush Limbaugh noted, “It’s gotten to that point. The people who want to stand for the national anthem in the NBA are the people who have to be defended, not the people who are kneeling in opposition to the anthem, in opposition to the country. They don’t have to be defended. But the people who don’t want to kneel, the people who want to express their appreciation and honor for the national anthem, for the country?”
After the Barkley comments, former NFL star Shannon Sharpe and sportswriter Skip Bayless discussed the issue. Sharpe argued that Barkley should have defended Colin Kaepernick when he knelt, then stated that neither those who knelt nor those who didn’t should be vilified.
Just me personally, I’m not gonna condemn anybody who doesn’t kneel. I’m not gonna vilify anyone who does not kneel. But this is just me, and maybe I’m not objective about this, so disqualify me if you will, but I am gonna roll my eyes at those who don’t kneel because I don’t think there any great reason not to kneel right now. That’s just me from my heart of hearts. But I believe in the plight and the cause of your community and I have from the start and I get emotional about it, but obviously this is a time, a crucial time, in sort of the evolution and development of this country, when we need to unite to end racism. It’s just as simple as that.
And we especially need to dedicate ourselves as white people to stopping the murdering of unarmed black men and women by white cops. That’s number one on my list. And that requires dedication from everyone. So look, I believe in God; I believe in this country, but if I had a chance during the anthem I would definitely kneel. It’s about liberty and justice for all. And right now that’s not operating in our country. So, forgive me, but when somebody says for religious — the baseball player for the Giants —he says, “I don’t kneel for anyone but God; I’ll kneel for God.” Okay, I appreciate that —
Sharpe argued: “The problem I have when people use religion is that they use religion to keep blacks and whites separated. They say God’s saying blacks and whites shouldn’t be together. They shouldn’t go to class; they shouldn’t drink at the same water fountain. They shouldn’t go to the restaurant together. They used the Bible for slavery. And so that’s the problem.”
San Francisco Giants reliever Sam Coonrod, who stood rather than kneel when players knelt for a Black Lives Matter moment, stated, “I just can’t get on board with a couple things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean towards Marxism. And … they said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can’t get on board with that.”
“I meant no ill will by it,” Coonrod added. “I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I’m a Christian. I just believe I can’t kneel before anything besides God — Jesus Christ. I chose not to kneel. I feel that if I did kneel, I would be being a hypocrite. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. Like I said, I didn’t mean any ill will toward anyone.”