Charles Barkley’s potential defection to the rebel LIV golf tour could have major ripple effects in both golf and the NBA, with the Phoenix Suns champion’s decision likely to influence the tour’s television deal – and see him potentially lost to the NBA.
The 49-year old former All Star and current analyst on TNT has met with LIV CEO and Aussie golf icon Greg Norman about joining the broadcast team.
Charles Barkley watches his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the American Century Celebrity Championship golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course
At present, LIV golf does not have an official broadcast partner although the tour has secured NBC’s David Feherty ahead of a broadcast deal being struck.
Next cab off the rank could be Barkley, who is hugely popular for his NBA analysis, and has met with Norman at the Italian restaurant Pricci in Atlanta.
Barkley has also committed to playing in the Pro-Am portion of the LIV event next week at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey.
He currently makes $10 million per year and has three years left on his contract with Turner Sports [owners of TNT].
‘In a perfect scenario, I would love to do both,’ Barkley told The New York Post.
‘I don’t know how Turner’s sponsors are going to feel about it. I know there is going to be some blowback.’
Norman has met with Barkley in a bid to get the former NBA star on-board as a broadcaster for the LIV golf tour
There is also the public perception involved with joining the LIV Tour, given it is financially backed by the Saudi Arabian government.
There have been numerous allegations of human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia, including politically motivated killings, torture, and forced disappearances.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, was also murdered by members of the royal family and the Saudi government.
‘I told [Norman],’ Barkley said. ‘Listen, they are making up words, like ‘blood money’ and ‘sports washing.’ I said, ‘We have all taken ‘blood money’ and we all have ‘sports washed’ something so I don’t like those words, to be honest with you.’
‘If you are in pro sports, you are taking some type of money from not a great cause.’
Barkley pointed to global sportwear brand Nike as an example of how the LIV tour was a victim of ‘selective outrage’.
The global footwear and apparel company sponsors a large number of current and former athletes and Barkley has had a long association with the famous shoewear brand.
In 1993, Barkley filmed the infamous ‘I Am Not a Role Model’ Nike commercial in the same year he won the NBA MVP award with the Phoenix Suns.
‘I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids,’ he said in the advertisement.
Barkley is a popular and influential analyst on TNT and has three years left on his contract
Media reports, human rights groups and U.S. government members accused Nike and other brands in 2019 of possibly contributing to the human rights violations of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
‘I’m a Nike guy, also, so I’m not going to do that thing where I pick and choose what I’m outraged about, where my money comes from,’ Barkley said.
‘I just don’t think that is fair. I think that makes you a hypocrite.
‘And let’s be fair, all these golf tours have played in Saudi Arabia and China. That was my point.’
American sportscaster Dan Patrick said Barkley’s decision could have major ripple effects across both sports.
‘In my opinion, he is the most valuable voice in sports media,’ he said.
Barkley laughs at a foul call with Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan at the United Center in Chicago, 1996. The Bulls won 93-82.
‘You throw in all of those commercials, because he may lose those endorsements, these players who joined the LIV tour lost endorsements.
‘Charles knows that he may lose those endorsements.
‘If Charles Barkley were to leave TNT and join the LIV tour, that’s a big deal. That’s not growing the game, now you’re taking away from the NBA with this.’