Charles Barkley is no stranger to taking unpopular positions. As such, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that the NBA on TNT broadcaster opted to take an opposing view of the firestorm surrounding Miami Heat big man, Meyers Leonard.
Earlier this week, Leonard was caught on a video game livestream using a slur.
The fallout from the incident was swift.
After Leonard came out and apologized for his actions, Barkley offered his two cents on the whole situation.
“I like Meyers Leonard,” he told Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, and host Ernie Johnson. “He said something that was really stupid. He made a huge mistake.”
That said, Barkley urged forgiveness.
“We live in a society today,” he continued, “they call it the cancel culture, when everybody says something stupid or dumb, we want to end their life. I’m not a big believer in that.”
O’Neal took a harsher stance.
“In an organization like the Miami Heat, which I played for, this is something they don’t really tolerate,” he said
“They’re going to have to believe that he was really sorry.”
O’Neal didn’t stop there.
“He made a mistake,” he continued. “But we professional athletes, we have to realize that we’re held to higher standards. We’re watched 24/7. People like to quote us, misquote us, and we have to say the right thing, do the right thing, and we have to lead by example.”
Barkley then interjected by arguing that we live in a different time now.
“Stuff that we and I have said in the locker room when I played, we can’t say that stuff anymore,” he said.
Smith dismissed that notion, suggesting that Leonard would be wise to educate himself.
“You don’t have to be careful,” he noted. “You just have to educate yourself. Like, that was ridiculous. I don’t want him to be careful. I want him to realize what he’s saying or what he tried to be careful of saying is not tolerated.”
Smith also reminded everyone that this wasn’t Leonard’s first dance with controversy.
The real star of All-Star weekend. https://t.co/jAMuWDI2Vl
— Game 7 (@game7__) March 9, 2021
“And so, for me,” Smith continued, “when he comes into the locker room, what he also has to answer is the question: Is he really sensitive of people’s backgrounds and their racial profiles, because he also stood? So were you not educated on why guys were kneeling?”
Leonard was fined $50,000 by the NBA and instructed to remain away from the Heat for a week. Given that he is out with a season-ending shoulder surgery, many felt like the punishment was not strict enough.