I don’t always agree with Charles Barkley, but every so often he speaks the truth.
Recently, the basketball legend told sports reporter Mike Wise that he is “sick and tired” of hearing about how professional sports teams are not ready to embrace gay players.
Barkley’s comments come on the heels of the news that Rick Welts, CEO of Barkley’s former basketball team, the Phoenix Suns, is gay.
Despite the fuss the sports media is making about Welts’ revelation and if it means gay players will also be able to be public with their sexuality, Barkley says gay professional athletes are no big deal—he’s played with many before.
“I really like ESPN,” Barkley told Mike Wise. “They do a great job. But like once every two or three months, they bring all these people on there, and they tell me how me and my team are going to respond to a gay guy.
“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.”
Professional athletics has been working overtime to change the stigma that it isn’t accepting of gay and lesbian individuals. Last month, after Lakers star Kobe Bryant uttered a gay slur at an official, he was quickly fined $100,000. Bryant said the incident was a “teachable moment” and he and the Lakers partnered with gay-rights organizations on several PSAs. Recently Sean Avery, a player with the New York Rangers, endorsed the “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality Campaign,” and Grant Hill and Jared Dudley lent their star power to a PSA that aims to end the use of the term “gay” as an insult in sports.
Despite the progress and Barkley’s assertion that it’s no big deal, we have yet to see many openly gay athletes take center stage. For Barkley, the lack of openly gay players isn’t due to close-mindedness of athletes, but rather the prejudices of society as a whole.
“First of all, society discriminates against gay people,” Barkley said. “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.”
Although Barkley says that many players are gossiped about, it’s par for the course. At the end of the day, Barkley argues athletic skills and talent out weigh sexuality, and like so many of us, he could care less what other people do.
What do you think? Are sports fans ready for an openly gay superstar? Sound off!