It’s easy to sometimes dismiss Charles Barkley as just a joker. He is, after all, incredibly funny. Says goofy stuff. Can even be crude. But the one thing Barkley is above all else is real. The realest of the real. That’s why something he did recently was so important because you know it comes from his big, goofy, real heart.
Barkley did something that shouldn’t even be notable but in this world of LGBTQ and anti-trans hate, with politicians and even sports journalists attacking the transgender community in particular, what Barkley said recently isn’t just notable, it’s refreshing and vital. Barkley’s words show him not just as a commentator or funny guy, but as someone who gets it, and is a clear ally of the LGBTQ community.
Barkley was at a bar in Lake Tahoe where he was playing in a celebrity golf tournament when he bought a round of drinks for the crowd. The video of what Barkley does next has gone viral and outraged the bigots. Barkley, in his unique way, makes what is an unmistakable and powerful move of support.
“So I’m gonna buy some drinks for y’all and I’m gonna buy Bud Light,” Barkley said.
The Bud Light remark was obviously intentional. It’s a rebuke of how the right-wing has attempted to destroy the brand after Bud Light used a trans influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, for an Instagram promotion. It triggered an anti-trans backlash and boycott.
There was a mixture of cheers and boos from the crowd but Barkley kept going.
“Hey, lemme tell you something,” he says in the video. “All you rednecks or (expletive) who don’t want to drink Bud Light, (expletive) y’all. Hey, y’all can’t cancel me!”
Yes, this is pretty amazing.
Then came the best part.
“Hey, I ain’t worried about getting canceled because lemme tell you something,” Barkley said, “if y’all fire me and gimme all that money, I’m gonna be playing golf every (expletive) day. So listen, as I said last night, if you’re gay, God bless you. If you’re trans, God bless you. And if you have a problem with them (expletive) you.”
Tell ‘em, Chuck. Tell ‘em (expletive) over and (expletive) over and (expletive) over again.
This is one of Barkley’s finest moments.
What Barkley did was important because when a gigantic star of his caliber, literally too big for the hatemongers to cancel, isn’t just an ally, but a public one, an explicit one, an unabashed one, he can almost serve as a sort of protective umbrella.
Incredibly, according to the New York Post, Barkley defended the LGBTQ community on two separate nights at the same bar. His message on the other occasion was just as supportive and explicit.
“I want y’all to drink this (expletive) beer,” Barkley said.
“I got three cases of Bud Light,” he said. Then added: “If you’re gay, bless you. If you’re trans, bless you.”
“If you have a problem with that (expletive) you!”
Other athletes have spoken on behalf of the trans community. The WNBA has been one of the big leaders in that space. Former NBA star Dwyane Wade has stated publicly that he left the state of Florida for California, in part, fearing for the safety of his trans daughter, Zaya.
“But the last couple of years, the laws, the politics, you know, has really become this big conversation, right? It’s unsafe conversation, and it’s unsafe for my daughter, it’s unsafe for the young kids and the youth and adults, the elder in the trans community,” Wade said. “And so for us, as much as I love that city, as much as I’m always going to be a part of it, for the safety of my family, that’s what it was. I couldn’t move back.”
It’s true that Barkley is an extremely powerful figure. It’s also accurate that there’s still risk in him taking this stand, this way. There’s a reason why so many stars stay silent in the face of bigotry. They’re scared of getting Bud Lit and even the most powerful can be.
Barkley is showing he has guts doing this. He’s not just the goofy guy who talks basketball.
He’s something much better.
Read more at usatoday.com