Editorial by John Ziegler

Sir Charles is Royally Wrong

3/17/2002 11:32:47 PM

Sir Charles is Royally Wrong

I love Charles Barkley.

In an age where political correctness has stifled public conversation like a thick smog, his brutal honesty is a breath of welcome fresh air.

However, Charles Barkley has now lost me. On the current cover of Sports Illustrated, Sir Charles appears bare-chested while breaking chains and shackles. The allusion to slavery is about subtle as ABC's intentions towards David Letterman.

The photo is over the top and hardly representative of Charles' current life where he is probably one of the most 'free" people on the planet. Literally, there is almost nothing that Charles is not allowed to do. I wish I had 1/10th of the freedom Charles enjoys.

But it is not the cover or many of Charles' other controversial statements (such as his opinion that sports are bad for black kids) that I found to be so offensive. I am outraged by a charge that Charles makes in the article that is not only wrong, but is also racially destructive.

Barkley claims that the Augusta National Golf Club (the site of The Masters golf tournament) is guilty of "blatant racism." Why? Did they remove their few black members? Have they changed the qualifications for entry so that skin color is a factor? Did they fail to mail Tiger Woods his invitation this year? Are they planning to dedicate a "Tiger Only" drinking fountain to commemorate his historic victory from last year?

Nope. Barkley's claim of racism is based on none of these non-events. Charles Barkley is claiming racism in one of the nation's premier magazines because an antiquated golf course has finally decided to lengthen its layout.

I wish I were making this up. There have been far too many false, silly, and divisive claims of racism in our culture over the past generation, but I believe this one may set a new standard for absurdity and "wolf crying."

Charles's theory is that the mean old white men of Augusta National are tired of putting a green jacket on Tiger Woods, a man who is fractionally black (he is actually far more "Asian" than "Black" and refers to himself as "Cablainasian" to express his multicultural heritage). In a desperate effort to stop this assault on white power, they have significantly toughened the course for this year's tournament. Charles says that this has been done for the sole purpose of keeping his good friend Tiger from winning.

When it comes to Charles and race you always have to be careful not to take him too seriously. After all, this is the man who famously "joked" to a reporter (as only he could get away with), "This is what I hate about white people." However, it seems that this time around the former 76er appears to be totally serious and has completely deep-sixed the truth in pursuit of an undefined agenda (he says that he wants to run for Governor of Alabama, as a Republican).

At this point, some background is in order. I am a "scratch" golfer who has played in national amateur championships. I have covered The Masters as a TV reporter (I have no love for that club, they temporarily kicked me out in a stupid credentials dispute). I am also the founder of the "world famous" satirical website, www.tigerwoodsisgod.com.

I think I have some credibility when I say that Barkley is way off base here. The most ridiculous aspect of his irresponsible rant is that the LAST golfer who will be negatively affected by the changes in the course is Tiger Woods. Tiger has a BETTER chance to win when the tournament is played under the toughest and longest conditions. Even as bad a golfer as Charles is, he should know that. While I do not doubt that a very small minority of Augusta National members would like to see Tiger's dominance curtailed, they would have to be far more idiotic than bigoted to believe that this was the way to do it.

Tiger himself is wisely not buying into Barkley's specious argument. However, others are far too willing to fall prey to temptation to roar "racism!" at every opportunity.

Local basketball writer Stephan A. Smith embarrassed himself on Lou Tilley's "CN 8 Sports Connection" show when he fell all over himself saying he, "100%, absolutely, whole heartedly" agrees with Barkley and that other African-American sportswriters have been saying the same thing. Smith should stick to basketball.

Barkley suggests that the reason he is the one speaking out for the black athlete (I had no idea that the "plight" of the black athlete was so dire that it required a spokesperson) is that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are not willing or able to fulfill that role.

"Michael could do it and Tiger could do it, but you have to be willing to be ridiculed," says Barkley. "I'm willing to be ridiculed."

Charles, consider your self ridiculed. In this case, it is exactly what you deserve.

This column appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News and the Bucks County Courier Times

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