During his NBA career, Charles Barkley said professional athletes weren’t responsible for being role models. Although these comments were made over 20 years ago, it looks like the former striker hasn’t outgrown them. At least that’s the impression he gave when speaking of Phil Mickelson.
During a recent appearance on the Golf Channel, Chuck was asked about the golfer’s playing habits and his recent judgment, which was probably meant to be an understatement for mentioning Lefty’s choice to join LIV Golf. Barkley came to his friend’s defense and, during his response, explained the need for some kind of PR truce.
Given his personal ties to Mickelson, that response was understandable. But while neither Barkley nor Lefty should be a role model in this case, Chuck’s response again completely missed the point.
Charles Barkley spoke to Phil Mickelson joining LIV Golf
While Charles Barkley made a name for himself playing basketball, he’s been known to hit the ties in his spare time. Through that lens, it was no surprise to see him make an appearance on the Golf Channel ahead of the US Open.
During his interview, the striker answered a few fluffy questions before the topic of Phil Mickelson’s playing habits and recent judging came up. Sir Charles admitted he spoke to the golfer about an hour before praising his handling of Monday’s press conference.
Then, after a brief game of chance, Barkley addressed the elephant in the room: LIV Golf.
“The thing that bothers me the most, I think some of the criticism is, man, it’s really gotten personal,” the former NBA star continued. “I think you can disagree with him playing, but, man, some of these personal attacks…because let’s be honest, other than Tiger Woods, no golfer has had more of an effect on golf over the course. of the last 25 to 30 years than Phil Mickelson. Tiger is like Michael Jordan – he’s a supernova – but other guys like Karl Malone, myself, had to help the game. Patrick Ewing, we helped the game too. But Phil is the next guy after Tiger. He has worn the PGA Tour, other than Tiger Woods, for the past 30 years. And I hate to see some of the negativity directed at him. And some of it is self-inflicted. Some of them are 100% self-inflicted.
At this point, Barkley went more directly to LIV Golf.
“But I hate to see these personal attacks because, hey, we all have to live our own lives and make our own decisions. And when you have these two golf things, they have to find a way, let’s be real, they have to find a way to work together,” Chuck continued. “Because I don’t know how long this LIV thing is going to last, but, at some point, they’ll have to work together. Man, this negativity around golf right now, it’s not… that old adage that any type of publicity is good. No it’s not good. …One of my favorite lines is, “We’re okay to disagree,” because I don’t want these guys to say anything bad about Phil, Dustin [Johnson], you know? I don’t want them to do that because it’s not good for the game as a whole.
Charles Barkley missed the mark by sticking to sports
Working from a purely sporting perspective, Barkley’s logic makes sense. If you have an internal conflict within the sport, things will go wrong. If you’re a golf fan who only cares about seeing your favorite players chasing the title on Sunday, then you’re probably not concerned with all the drama at LIV Golf.
By focusing on golf itself, however, Barkley ignores the larger context. Mickelson and the others are not in the crosshairs because of a grand conspiracy. It all depends on where their LIV money is coming from. The following excerpt from Matt Slater’s recent article for The Athletic explains it all:
LIV Golf is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund the Gulf state is using to turn its enormous fossil fuel-based wealth into a more diversified economy and better image in the world. ‘foreign. These goals are outlined in Vision 2030, the strategic plan that the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman launched in 2016. MBS, as he is better known, is also the chairman of the PIF.
MBS, however, is probably best known outside his kingdom for ordering the abduction, murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi by a death squad at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. A Saudi author and journalist, Khashoggi was became a notorious dissident by the time of his death and was working for the Washington Post. MBS has always denied any involvement, but Turkish authorities and intelligence agencies around the world believe otherwise.
This partly explains why Saudi Arabia’s image might need some polishing. This and the absence of democracy, unions or a free press in Saudi Arabia; its repression of women and members of the LGBTQI community; interference in Yemen’s long civil war; and the alarming number of people it executes each year, a number made up disproportionately of the country’s Shia minority.
Matt Slater writes in The Athletic
This reality inevitably exposes Mickelson, Johnson and the other notable professionals who joined LIV Golf to legitimate scrutiny. Reports may ask questions about their judgment; the PGA Tour can ban them for working with a competitor. These are not personal attacks. They represent the cost of making a business decision.
To bring it back to Barkley and his comments, this is where the former NBA star simply misses the point. No one should be above criticism. He compared Woods and Mickelson to big names in basketball. Well, Sir Charles has had no problem criticizing Michael Jordan in the past. Why should Lefty’s status get him a free pass?
To continue in the vein of basketball, you can also draw a parallel between the NBA super teams, which Barkley has spoken out against, and join LIV Golf for money and (theoretical) prestige. While they’re admittedly not perfect analogs, it’s interesting to see how the latter receives his pass. Did Sir Charles say Kevin Durant just needed to live his own life and make his own decisions when he joined the Golden State Warriors?
Likewise, hiding behind the notion of what’s good for the game of golf feels like a straw man, especially to someone like Barkley. Behavioral standards haven’t always been his cup of tea, especially during his playing career. You could say that spitting in crowds, sparring with fans or, more recently, joking about San Antonio women fails to paint the NBA in the best possible light. In these cases, however, Barkley doesn’t bat an eyelid.
For the most part, Charles Barkley is a direct shooter who doesn’t hold back. In this case, he chose to take the metaphorical wedge out of his bag and lay down safely.
Too bad it still ended up in the rough.
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