A few months ago, amongst the very early Saudi golf league discussions and defections, Charles Barkley said that he gets it — “If somebody gave me $200 million, I’d kill a relative,” he told Pat McAfee. “Even one I like.”
He’s been jumping in to defend the golfers leaving the PGA for Greg Norman’s new league since the beginning, and now, the former NBA star and TV mouth might be jumping his own ship from TNT’s Inside the NBA to join the Saudi league as a commentator.
Per Barkley himself, nothing’s been officially signed yet, but he had dinner with Saudi golf CEO Norman this week, and plans to play in the upcoming pro-am at Bedminster next week. But he told the New York Post that his sponsors, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Capital One, are already calling him, worried that he’s going to take the broadcasting position.
With the threat of losing sponsors and having to leave TNT and with it, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Shaq, the Saudi Public Investment Fund will have to make this offer financially worth his while. Lucky for him, and for them, if there’s one thing that the league will do, it’s shell out ridiculous amounts of money.
Most of Barkley’s career has, of course, been about basketball, whether playing or broadcasting, but he’s an avid golfer who has been both a participant and an analyst in the annual celebrity tournament, “The Match.”
His take on the Saudi government’s history of human rights abuses and the Jamal Khashoggi killing? “If you are in pro sports, you are taking some type of money from not a great cause.”
That may well be true, but explicitly taking money from a government fund with such a history may be where some draw the line — or draw the line until the right number of zeroes goes on that check, I guess. He added that “blood money” and “sportswashing” were “made up words.” Well, not so sure about that — does he think that the Saudi Arabian government just loves golf so much that they wanted to pour out billions into a league just for kicks? This is one of the most blatant examples of sportswashing of all time.
Barkley’s not the only big name heading to Norman’s side — NBC’s David Feherty, a huge personality in the golf world, was reported earlier this week to be leaving to become an analyst for the new league. Honestly, a Barkley-Feherty combo could end up being what gives the Saudi league a draw and sets it apart. While they don’t technically need profits, they do need viewers, and those two could actually attract people to tune in to the exhibition-style tournaments. This might be their answer to the “who will watch” question that we asked earlier this week.