A female political reporter has received an apology from Charles Barkley, the Turner Sports commentator and N.B.A. Hall of Famer, after she publicly accused him of making a threatening comment to her.
Barkley was in the same Atlanta-area bar as Alexi McCammond, a reporter for Axios covering the 2020 presidential election, and a number of campaign aides on Tuesday night. A debate between Democratic presidential candidates will be held in Atlanta on Wednesday night.
According to a tweet from McCammond, Barkley told her, “I don’t hit women but if I did I would hit you” after she mentioned that one of his remarks seemed contradictory. She wrote that when she objected to his comment, Barkley said that she “couldn’t take a joke.”
Barkley apologized on Wednesday morning. “My comment was inappropriate and unacceptable,” he said in a statement Turner Sports released on his behalf. “It was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all. There’s no excuse for it and I apologize.”
McCammond, in her posts on Twitter, said that Barkley had spoken at the bar about how much he loved Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts who recently entered the presidential race. After an official from the campaign of Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate and mayor of South Bend, Ind., approached, Barkley said how much he loved Buttigieg, according to McCammond. When McCammond reminded him of what he’d said earlier about Patrick, Barkley made the threatening comment, she said.
An Axios spokeswoman declined to comment, but after Barkley apologized McCammond tweeted: “The comments Charles Barkley made to me are not acceptable. Threats of violence are not a joke, & no person deserves to be hit or threatened like that. Silence only allows the culture of misogyny to fester.”
Barkley has a history of making threatening and demeaning comments to and about women then apologizing and saying he was joking.
In 1990, after an overtime victory while he played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Barkley told reporters: “This is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.” He later apologized.
On “Inside the NBA,” the Turner Sports show on TNT where Barkley is an Emmy Award-winning analyst, he has often made demeaning comments about women. One long-running bit on the show is about his opinion that women from San Antonio are overweight and ugly. “Inside the NBA” took advantage of the controversy his comments stoked by interviewing women in San Antonio and asking what they thought of Barkley.
He has also described the high-paced, 3-point-shooting offense the Golden State Warriors played during their championship runs as “little girly basketball” and said he’s “biased against girl basketball.” He added: “I love women’s basketball, but I don’t want it in the N.B.A.”
Throughout his playing career Barkley attracted television cameras because of the frequency with which he said or did outrageous things. He was arrested after breaking a man’s nose in a fight and arrested after throwing a man through a glass window. He once tried spitting on a heckling fan but instead hit an 8-year-old girl. In 1993 Nike parlayed Barkley’s reputation into one of its most famous commercials, in which Barkley declared, “I am not a role model.”
Barkley has been a panelist on “Inside the NBA” since 2000. It is widely considered the best studio show in sports, in large part because of Barkley’s willingness to say almost anything. He is one of the few retired stars who shows no qualms about criticizing current players, and the show frequently tackles knotty basketball and cultural issues that other sports shows seek to avoid.
He is expected to appear on the regular Thursday night “Inside the NBA” telecast. In 2015, Barkley signed a new contract with Turner Sports that was said to run for eight to 10 years.