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Dear Charles Barkley,

Every once in a while a story comes along that some of us just don’t want to cover for various reasons.

Every once in a while a story comes along that some of us just don’t want to cover for various reasons. It may be that the story has been sensationalized to a great extent or that the subject matter has saturated the airwaves to a disgusting extent; this hold true in regards to the case of Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson not being “black” enough.

Yes, it’s a non-story to be sure. Such a non-story in the grand scheme of the NFL that some of us didn’t want to cover it because the world seems just a bit stupider for even acknowledging such inconsequential things. However, as with all matters of stupidity, it is allowed to linger simply because people want to bestow their two cents on the issue, dragging out the length of time that it’s considered newsworthy. 

Recently, NFL reporters waxed and waned regarding the “blackness” of QB Russell Wilson. Not his racial makeup from a genetic or phenotypical standpoint, but from a place of superficiality and stereotypical ideas of what it is to be Black, ideas that would certainly draw fire for being racist if uttered by a your average white person.

It is to that end that people like former NBA star Charles Barkley are seemingly called upon to express their opinions whenever a “black” subject becomes hot in the news cycle. The opinions and commentary emanated by the chosen media talking heads become so obnoxiously irreverent as to cause even more angst than the initial phenomenon. In the end, there are no answers; only more questions regarding what it is to be Black, which are mostly fielded by people who aren’t Black, coupled with the outrageous claims of one of society-at-large’s favorite Black spokesman of the moment.  


Just when the scenario couldn’t get any worse, Barkley trudges through the muck to stand in the middle of it all. To be fair, Barkley did not seek out the spotlight vent his opinion. White journalists who would normally be too afraid to speak openly on matters of race on their own accord look to find a prominent Black proxy through which their ideas can manifest and Ol’ Chuck has been the willing pawn time and time again.  


Barkley was invited to discuss the Russell Wilson situation on "Afternoons with Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis" on WIP 94 in Philly.  As you may have guessed, Gargano and Ellis are white.

“There are a lot of black people who are unintelligent, who don’t have success––it’s best to knock a successful black person down ’cause they’re intelligent, they speak well, they do well in school, and they’re successful.”

To be certain, said spokesperson doesn’t have any credentials upon which to legitimize his statements other than just being Black. He’s a former basketball player who has always been hilariously outspoken and will open his mouth to speak on anything he’s asked to speak on. What makes him relevant to the media is not only his NBA pedigree, but the fact that he is part of an Emmy Award-winning team of commentators at TNT’s "Inside the NBA", a show that just returned to the airwaves for the start of the NBA season. That makes his comments even more relevant from a news perspective. He would reiterate his viewpoint on later on the show.


“The question was asked. I talked about it in my last book. One of the problems in our black community is us, not white folks, other black folks. It just happened to come up because the Russell Wilson thing just broke. It’s not something I hadn’t said before. I don’t know why people took it national last week. You don’t have to be a thug or unintelligent. You’re supposed to do great academically. You’re supposed to speak correctly. You don’t have to have street cred. I tell people, ‘We’re the only group where if you have a criminal record it makes you more black.’ It’s ridiculous.”

What’s ridiculous is the manner in which Barkley categorized an entire group of people based upon the infantile viewpoints of an extreme minority in our midst. The pursuit of street cred through criminality is practiced by an extreme minority, even in the hood. Of course you don't have to be a thug to be successful. Duh! The ability to obtain food, clothing and shelter lawfully are the earmarks of a successful individual in any culture. Even in the most depressed, crime-ridden Black communities, one would be hard pressed to find a logical adult who would celebrate these individuals over an intelligent, law-abiding member of society. So, why would Barkley paint this situation as a uniformly Black issue when those who do celebrate criminals while "holding back" intelligent Blacks are themselves unintelligent more often than not thus lacking any credibility to speak on anything? Why paint us all with a brush that is meant for a few?


Lack of knowledge of self is the likely culprit.

Whenever someone places an entire group of people into one category, whatever words they utter after that point should immediately be stricken and their thesis should become null and void in the process.

This isn’t the first time an African American NFL quarterback has suffered through a locker room mutiny that would be displayed in the media as a “cool” Black player versus a “White-acting” Black player. There was the row between former Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb and WR Terrell Owens and the “corny” label discussion that erupted arond Washington's Robert Griffin III. Bleacher Report NFL Writer Mike Freeman alluded to what he says is an unfortunate tradition within the African American community that punishes and ostracizes those who speak and behave intelligently.

Freeman says, according to unnamed sources within the Seattle Seahawk’s locker room, that former Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin had increased animus toward his quarterback and it was more for his demeanor than his on-the-field play. As was the case with McNabb in Philly and RGIII in Washington, these anonymous sources always seem to pop up when teams are struggling.

The Super Bowl Champions are currently dealing with a season in which their own lofty expectations have largely gone unmet, a teammate who was beloved within the locker room has been traded (Percy Harvin), and there are additional rumors circulating around whether or not fiery RB Marshawn Lynch is behaving himself because of the departure of Harvin, who was one of his best friends on the squad. To his credit, Wilson has said that he “doesn’t even know what that is” when asked by reporters and that the locker room dynamic is as sound as it ever was. CB Richard Sherman is on record as saying the team is solidly behind their quarterback and the entire scenario is made up. SS Earl Thomas believed the rumors were an insult to the Black race.



Immediately following the Bleacher Reporter article in which Freeman brought these rumors to light came the parade of individuals who appeared to be skydiving off of satellites with wild assumptions they say are based in the rich lure of people of African descent who are native to North America. A lure that dates back 400 years according to the historical record. A rich cultural tapestry of leaders, soldiers, athletes, educators, entertainers, inventors, and great theocratic minds from all major religious denominations has been funneled through the ether of life, death and birth to this very point in time. A place that finds us, according to Barkley, at a point where African Americans punish the intelligent among us and celebrate criminality in mass. The most prominent Black people in politics, law, education and entertainment are celebrated and praised. And when they are criticized it's not because of their intelligence.


Also, both Freeman and Barkley say that Blacks in America were the only people who engaged in such things. I have a major problem with individuals who make every problem a matter of Black and White and though Barkley would swear to the contrary, he is one of the main purveyors of such excreta.

It is a verifiable fact that members of every ethnic group in the country have been judged by members of their own group according to their distance from or likeness to the White Anglo Saxon Protestant forefathers of the United States from a genetic, economic and a philosophical mindset. That analysis of dichotomy existed and still exists in each group.

Asians who are looked upon as having lost their culture or traditional identity are called Bananas by other Asians, yellow on the outside but white on the inside. Similarly, Native Americans who are viewed as having lost their “soul” are called Apples. Across the world, the word "coconut" or "oreo" is used as a racial slur used by Blacks, Hispanics, Filipinos and Arabs to describe other dark-skinned people who they believe are trying to be white.  So how this type of thing suddenly became yet another dark contusion on the face of Black America is beyond this writer. Especially considering the easily found history of ethnic slurs that speak to the contrary. It’s not a dirty little Black secret. It’s a phenomenon that is as old as the concept of racial differences as these differences are highlighted in a majority vs. minority demographic viewpoint.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that rap music is currently the most popular form of music among the young in the United States and also concede that tales of criminal exploits and violence are a very common theme in many of the more popular songs. It is only in the emulation of the criminal personas of these famous rappers that we find youths who celebrate criminality through imitation on some level. And, though the numbers are impossible to tally, there are certainly those hardcore individuals who celebrate criminality simply because they like crime. But to make this a Black thing is just plain wrong on so many levels.


It has long been an American phenomenon to celebrate criminals and gangland activity. This mindset can be found in the popularity of mob films and detective dramas from the very earliest days of Hollywood. The celebration of criminality at the expense of intelligence is an American problem with a myriad of causes, yet Black cultural malaise is not one of them. The success of such television shows as "Breaking Bad", "Boardwalk Empire" and "Sons of Anarchy", shows in which the bad guys are the protagonists, highlight America’s love for the bad guy is not confined to black folks.

In addition, America also has a long history of pushing the overly intelligent to the edges of mainstream society. The term "nerd" dates back to 1951 and it certainly was not first coined by a Black person.

Even in such a nonsensical film as Revenge of the Nerds (1984) we find a group of protagonists who are ostracized because of their intelligence. Yes, the world’s collective IQ is considerably lesser for that travesty having been made, but the themes therein are indicative of an American subset that has always been anti- “smart” either in theory, practice or both. Who created the “jocks versus nerds” storyline? Who created the “Girls love bad boys” way of thinking? Whoever it was, they certainly weren’t Black.

The fact that Charles Barkley didn’t know any of this is disheartening, but not unforgivable. The cult of personality that is the American media would have found some other Black loudmouth to utter that foolishness if Barkley didn’t. However, for a journalist like Mike Freeman to inject this type of stupidity into a story about race, a story that was already stupid enough, is maddening and seems very contrived for the purpose of controversy. 


If Barkley and Freeman had said that this was an American secret it would have been more palatable and would have been far truer than to simply throw this on the pile of other “Black” problems. Sometimes I wish that the press world would stop asking unintelligent people questions, and that outlets such as the Bleacher Report would cease allowing unsubstantiated sensationalism to permeate its site.


While that will probably never happen, The Shadow League will be an objective voice to the contrary whenever stupidity is tabbed as being a Black problem.

Ricardo A Hazell has served as Senior Contributor with The Shadow League since coming to the company in 2013. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the South China Sea Post, the Root and many other publications. At TSL he is charged with exploring re black cultural angles of where they intersect with the mainstream.