In my previous post on Tyler Perry’s support for the Jewish people and stand against antisemitism, I bemoaned the relative lack of meaningful words from celebrities and other influential people.
I still feel this way, although it has come to my attention that basketball legends Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal also entered the fray, slamming the NBA’s decision to not suspend Kyrie Irving for promoting an antisemitic movie on Twitter.
And they didn’t hold back.
These guys have consistently spoken out against antisemitism.
Charles has been an ally for a long time.
Charles Barkley says he’d never met a Jew until he arrived in Philadelphia in 1984, a naive 21-year-old out of Leeds, Ala., who’d just been drafted by the Sixers.
Little did he know the impact the Jewish community would have on his life.
That’s why he was so eager to express his gratitude before a packed house at the Katz JCC sixth annual Sports Awards dinner Sept. 26 in Cherry Hill.
“I never heard the term ‘Jewish’ until I got here,” said Barkley, who was his usual no-holds-barred self on a variety of topics ranging from players like Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, to his job as NBA analyst on TNT, to the political climate. “They weren’t in the ‘hood.’
“When I came here in 1984, I moved into a completely Jewish place, and they were the most amazing people. It meant a lot to me. I didn’t know anything, like how to get a meal. So I want to thank you for taking a 21-year-old kid under your wing.
“You taught me a lot about life. You treated me with great respect. You helped me grow as a man. You’ve treated me fantastic over 30 years. That’s one of the reasons I feel a great sense of pride when I speak to Jewish people.”
The 53-year-old Barkley did more than address the crowd.
He signed autographs. He posed for pictures, both with kids and later for sponsors. And he agreed to contribute three signed Sixers jerseys along with a private TNT studio tour in Atlanta capped by dinner for two with Sir Charles. That raised more than $13,000 to go toward sports, fitness and wellness services for children of all ages and abilities.
And he told the crowd how much he admired some of their fundamental beliefs, which he’ll try to impress upon his “black friends.”
“I admire your respect and dignity for yourselves and family,” said Barkley, who started off by expressing his appreciation to the kitchen staff and congratulated each award winner by name. “That’s one thing I’ve said as a black person.
“We need to treat each other with more respect. Help each other become more successful. Nurture each other.”
“I’ve had an apartment, a house and now a condo, and I’ve been the only person who’s not Jewish in all three neighborhoods,” he said. “So I always laugh with my neighbors. I’m part of the family now. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to speak here tonight.”
and his daughter actually married a Jewish man, something he was excited about: