Former basketball star Charles Barkley is defending his sport, saying in an interview on Monday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the view of the sports world as homophobic and dangerous for gay teammates is not true.
“I think they would be safe with their teammates,” Barkley said, when asked if openly gay teammates would be welcome in the NBA. “I think the public at large is more homophobic than guys in the locker room. I think we as players get a bad rap.”
“I’m against any form of discrimination—I learned that from [NBA Hall of Famer] Bill Russell,” he added, affirming his own stance on the situation. “As a black player, we always want to be inclusive. And we’ve all played with gay players. We should not be discriminating against anybody. And I think it’s an insult to gay people to think that they’re going to be looking at teammates in a sexual way. That’s an insult to all gay men.”
Barkley pointed to NFL prospect Michael Sam to prove his point, emphasizing the support that Sam received from his teammates when he came out as being gay recently.
“If you go back and look at that Michael Sam interview, he told his team over the summer. He never had an issue. And none of those players outed him on Instagram, or Twitter or any of that social crap,” he said. “I think players are going to respect each other, and we should respect each other. When you’re part of a team, there’s going to be agreements and disagreements but you should always have respect for each other.”
Watch the exchange below: