Charles Barkley infamously stated athletes aren’t role models during a Nike commercial more than three decades ago. Staying on brand, Barkley has no issue with Phil Mickelson’s decision to join LIV Golf.
Barkley joined the Golf Channel this week and, after a chummy interview with a few softball questions, the basketball Hall-of-Famer was eventually asked to weigh on Mickelson’s decision. Mickelson will compete in this week’s U.S. Open, but more attention continues to be paid to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series.
Barkley was asked about his friendship with Mickelson, and whether he thought the golfer’s decision to join the LIV Golf International Series was influenced by his gambling habits.
“Phil is a great friend of mine,” Barkley admitted. “I got the same gambling bug. I’m a gambling idiot too, so I can’t criticize anybody’s gambling habits. I love to gamble, I’m going to keep gambling, but it can get crazy at times.”
Barkley eventually stated that he wouldn’t speculate on how gambling may have influenced Mickelson’s decision to accept what is reportedly $200 million to join LIV. But Barkley did say that he thought some of the criticism being thrown at Mickelson has gone too far.
“The thing that bothers me the most, I think some of the criticism is, man, it’s really gotten personal,” the former NBA star continued. “I think you can disagree with him playing, but, man, some of these personal attacks.”
“I hate to see these personal attacks because, hey, we’ve all got to live our own life and make our own decisions. And when you’ve got these two golfing things, they got to find a way, let’s be real, they got to find a way to work together,” Barkley continued. “Because I don’t know how long this LIV thing is going to be around, but, at some point, they gonna have to work together. Because man, this negativity around golf right now – that old saying that any type of publicity is good. No that’s not good…One of my favorite phrases is ‘We agree to disagree,’ because I don’t want these guys bad-mouthing Phil, Dustin [Johnson], you know? I don’t want them doing that because it’s just not good for the game overall.”
The public criticism is less about Mickelson’s gambling or even his decision to join a league outside the PGA Tour, and more about where the money is coming from to fund LIV Golf. By joining LIV, Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and every other golfer in the Series made a business decision to ignore Saudi Arabia’s human rights concerns.
Barkley didn’t comment on the Saudi aspect of the LIV Golf International Series, but to be fair, he wasn’t asked about it either. The one question directed at Barkley about Mickelson was more about gambling than it was the repercussions of doing business with a league being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.