On the heels of the news that Charles Barkley just settled his $400K debt with the Maloofs, Sports Illustrated ran a piece on him in their SI Players section this week titled "The Escape Artist," which profiles how he "continues to emerge unscathed from the kind of controversies...that would deal death blows to the images of most public figures."
While omitting the 1991 "spitting incident," the piece notes his reference to Conservatives as "fake Christians," his description of Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as "race-baiters," his telling a reporter "This is why I hate white people," the categorization of the Washington Wizards as the "dumbest team in the history of civilization," the time he put a dude through a plate glass window, and, naturally, the aforementioned gambling debt.
The closest the author gets to explaining Sir Charles' "handy Teflon coating" is simply his "wit and refreshing candor", his disarming honesty, and his unwillingness to "back away from inflammatory comments by claiming he thought they were off the record."
The piece notes, "Even though all around him broadcasters are taking career hits for saying the wrong thing -- just ask Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus and The Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman, to name a few -- Barkley continues to thrive."
Limbaugh and Imus have made careers off of their wit and candor. Yet, their paths were veered off course by their infamous one-time, on-air gaffes for which they were canned and condemned. Tilghman was splashed across cable and the internet, called upon to be fired (by, among others, Sharpton) and went on a public apology tour.
But why not Chuck?
SI calls this double standard the "...Charles standard, reserved for public figures who have the courage to say what they think, the integrity to stand behind it, the humility to freely admit their mistakes, and perhaps most importantly the sense of humor to make it all palatable to the public. At the moment, that club appears to have only one member."
His inflammatory comments, while humorous, are more or less as offensive as anyone's. And yet, his unapologetic attitude for them is seen as a positive, if not refreshing, trait.
Is Charles that disarming or is it the color of his "handy Teflon coating" that makes him different? Maybe the media is simply afraid to call out a large black man, out of fear of their own condemnation.