As the nation — and Vegas oddsmakers — debate over who will win the upcoming Super Bowl, Charles Barkley is already sick of the racial bias surrounding the big game.
“ESPN has already started their crap about black versus white, good versus evil,” the former NBA star and current Turner sports analyst said when he called into the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday.
Super Bowl 50, on Feb. 7, is a standoff between two quarterbacks of different generations and different races — 39-year-old white Broncos veteran Peyton Manning and 26-year-old African-American Cam Newton, who leads the Carolina Panthers.
“It really annoys the hell out of me. We just can’t appreciate the greatness of Peyton. And clearly, Cam is on the track to become one of the greatest players ever,” Barkley told host Dan Patrick, who is a former ESPN anchor. “You can already see them framing a narrative.”
Barkley also complained about the two-week gap between the AFC and NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl, which gives media even more time to create bogus story lines.
“They are both great players, both good players, but a lot of these fools on ESPN have radio shows — and the best way to make talk radio good is make it racial. You bring in every fool in the world when you bring up race. You can’t have an honest conversation on race.”
At the beginning of the 2015 NFL season, there were only eight African-American starting quarterbacks among the 32 teams, with Newton being the most prominent — partly due to his over-the-top touchdown celebrations that make him a polarizing figure in the league.
“There is a long history, a lot black quarterbacks have been ruined because they’re not allowed to play quarterback,” Barkley said. “It’s not just that … he is very exuberant, going back to Auburn. He is just great, and some people resent that exuberance.
“I hate to bring up the race card, but there is a certain racial component, I hate talking about that as we as black people have way more important things where race is a factor than something silly as sports,” he continued, when asked why people hate the Panthers so much.
Needless to say, Barkley wants fellow Auburn alum Newton to win the Super Bowl — but he’s going to bet on the Broncos. “This might be destiny,” he said, referring to what could be Manning’s final game of his historic career. The former Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers player predicted that if Manning wins, he will retire: “It could work out perfectly.”
Super Bowl 50 kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 7 from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.