NBA Hall of Famer and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley is defending athletes who choose to stand for the national anthem. Barkley and fellow NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal do not see eye-to-eye on whether players choose to kneel for the anthem. Both are outspoken about what they believe so the two went toe-to-toe on the subject Thursday.
Even though every player took a knee for the first game of the 2019-2020 season between New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, Barkley says a player should not be “vilified” if they stand.
Charles Barkley on anthem kneeling "If people don't kneel they're not a bad person" pic.twitter.com/qeZfjHTUZ4 
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) July 30, 2020 
Charles Barkley And Shaquille O’Neal Have Different Opinions On Anthem Kneeling
While appearing on “The Inside Guys” on TNT, Shaquille O’Neal applauded the players and coaches who took a knee during the national anthem before the first NBA game of the season.
“When you have you platform, I think it is very important that you speak up, it’s very important that you speak your mind but when you talk about change, you also have to talk about protocol,” said O’Neal, according to The Blaze .
“So we use our voice to bring awareness,” he continued. “Now we have to go vote, we have to vote our mayors in, our mayors are to appoint new chiefs of police. We have to vote senators and politicians. It doesn’t just stop with sending our a tweet or yelling all the time.”
Charles Barkley Fires Back
Barkley, however, was not having any of it.
“The thing is, listen, that’s gonna mean different things to different people,” Barkley replied. “I’m glad these guys are all unified, but 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 because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified,” he concluded.
Here Comes The Backlash
Unfortunately, Barkley has been met with some serious backlash on social media. Many users had a visceral reaction to his comments defending a player’s right to stand for the national anthem.
Charles Barkley, we are worried about the people who ARE kneeling being vilified. pic.twitter.com/SkEmeaKGQe 
— BallerAlert (@balleralert) July 30, 2020 
Charles Barkley does not speak for black people – he speaks for his white golf buddies who he doesn't want to disappoint. He's more worried about white men view him than how black women do. He spent years tap dancing on TV and now he's a black leader – says who? pic.twitter.com/mDWbHmeBvp 
— Bass_Reeves (@BassReeves10) July 30, 2020 
Charles Barkley need to shut the fuck up… honestly
— Jason Maples (@JJMaples55_MST) July 30, 2020 
Others, however, agreed with Charles Barkley. One such person was former NBA player and ESPN host Jay Williams, who tweeted:
I firmly stand by what Charles Barkley just said.. if you choose not to kneel for the national anthem, you are NOT a bad person and you should NOT get vilified.
— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) July 30, 2020 
It’s about time another sports legend stood up for the anthem besides Drew Brees . Especially since the NFL quarterback later walked it back.
In the end, it’s just sad that we live in a time when simply saying that it’s okay not to kneel during the national anthem is such a controversial statement.