If you thought Charles Barkley was just going to come on “Saturday Night Live” and continue acting like a caricature of himself without making any grand statements, then boy did the first few minutes of this week’s show prove you wrong.
Never known for holding back, Barkley hosted the sketch show for the fourth time on Saturday and opened up with his take on activist athletes — particularly focusing on Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s demand that LeBron James just “shut up and dribble.”
“A lot of professional athletes are worried that speaking out might hurt their career,” Barkley began. “Well, here’s something that contradicts all of that: me. I’ve been saying whatever the hell I want for 30 years and I’m doing great.”
And off he went.
Invoking the legacies of Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, Barkley tried to erase the stigma of athletes as spoiled millionaires. His tone may have been a bit jovial, but that doesn’t mean his words don’t carry weight. Athletes have just as much a right to comment on political and social issues as anyone does. To try diminishing that right is as counterproductive as it is insulting.
Ingraham made her comments about James two weeks ago and she is still getting roasted for them. Instead of athletes quieting down, it’s given those who choose to speak out an even larger stage to talk about current events and national topics.
Barkley may just have been poking fun at a ridiculous comment from Ingraham, but everything he said was layered in truth. And since the idea of athletes being silent entertainers keeps coming up again and again, it was a perfect time to remind people that athletes are more than the games they play.
“We can do a lot more than dribble,” Barkley deadpanned. “So LeBron, keep on dribbling and don’t ever shut up. And maybe one day you can host ‘SNL’ for a fourth time just like me.”
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