March 22, 1998 in Sports

Barkley Attacks ‘Racist’ Clinton Meeting On Sports ‘Black Professional Athletes Aren’t Black America,’ He Says

Houston Chronicle
 

President Clinton’s proposed town-hall meeting, to be held in Houston on April 14, was criticized by the Rockets’ Charles Barkley for its focus on race and sports.

Aides said the president would use the town-hall meeting to “examine the role of sports as an analogy to expanding access and opportunity in society,” and will feature a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session.

Charles Barkley was one who took exception to the focus on sports.

“I find (the subject matter) racist in its own right,” Barkley said. “That black people can’t do anything but sports? Why don’t you have summits on why blacks are doctors, lawyers, engineers and things like that?

“I think that’s one of the problems we have in the black community, that because of the racism in America, black kids think they can only be successful through athletics, and that’s wrong. They can be whatever they want to be, not just athletes.”

The event will be televised on ESPN, which will put together a panel that is supposed to include a sports commissioner, a sports media representative, an academic, a professional athlete, a team owner, a representative of the NCAA and a current coach or manager.

Barkley said he has no interest in being on such a panel.

“No,” he said. “They’re not trying to solve problems. They just want good PR. I’m into solving problems. I’m not into PR.

“For him (Clinton) to have a summit on how minorities can excel in sports, I find that kind of hypocritical. There is such a minute number of minorities (who make it) in sports. Black professional athletes aren’t black America. That’s the big myth there.

“We have to find a way to make black people more successful in other avenues. Sports are not indicative of the black community. Of course, if you can get 20 points and 10 rebounds you’re going to be successful. But what about the rest of the world?

“The people who run America are so out of touch from the real problems people really need to work on. They should have a summit on public education, drug abuse, homelessness and things like that. Those things are more significant.”

Even though he didn’t agree with the idea of a town-hall meeting, the Rockets’ Eddie Johnson could see why some could see sports as an appropriate subject matter.

“Sports is driving society, so obviously it’s going to have attention. But I don’t agree at all with having a town meeting about that situation,” Johnson said.


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