Following Donald Trump’s election as president, some figures in sports media have pulled back their political rhetoric after heated calls from fans to simply “stick to sports.”
Not Charles Barkley.
The Inside the NBA host and NBA Hall of Famer is known for his willingness to express an opinion on any issue.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise that the former Auburn basketball star, who once flirted with the idea of running for governor in Alabama, returned to his home state Monday night to deliver an impassioned plea to voters, urging them not to cast their ballots for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
“At some point, we got to stop looking like idiots to the nation,” Barkley told a crowd of about 550 at a rally for Democratic candidate Doug Jones, Moore’s opponent.
Moore is accused of sexual misconduct that includes initiating a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old. Many fellow Republicans, including Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), have stopped supporting him.
“It’s unbelievable that this guy is still in the race when people in your own party say they won’t vote for you or support you,” Barkley said. “That’s a dead giveaway.”
The former Sixer also used the rally, where Orange is the New Black actress Uzo Aduba also appeared, to mock Trump for supporting Moore but refusing to travel to Alabama. He also criticized former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, who has campaigned for Moore several times, calling Bannon a “white nationalist separatist.”
This isn’t the first time Barkley has weighed in on politics. During the 2008 election, Barkley made a video endorsing then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and he endorsed Republican presidential candidate John Kasich during the 2016 election.
He’s also been a outspoken critic of Trump’s travel ban, telling Late Show host Stephen Colbert back in April that “it’s so disrespectful to lump a whole entire religious group into a box, thinking they’re all terrorists and things like that.”
It’s worth noting that TNT appears to have less-stringent rules regarding its sports hosts and analysts talking politics than ESPN. While Barkley and his co-hosts often discuss politics on Inside the NBA, ESPN says its analysts should “refrain from overt partisanship or endorsement of particular candidates, politicians or political parties.”
Alabama’s special election, which is being held Tuesday, will decide who occupies the Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A Democrat hasn’t won a Senate election in Alabama, which Trump won in 2016 by 28 points, since 1992. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told the Associated Press that turnout could be as high as 25 percent of registered voters.