When Charles Barkley admitted losing millions at the blackjack table, the NBA and broadcast partner TNT wanted no part of it publicly. League officials warned Barkley privately about his damaging behavior -- especially in light of the Tim Donaghy scandal -- but no official action was taken by the NBA or TNT against the large and loquacious Hall of Famer-turned-TV personality.
Given the embarrassing nature of Barkley's arrest on suspicion of drunken driving Dec. 31 in Arizona, there was no running from Barkley's latest skirmish with the law. This was the kind of lapse in judgment the NBA can't afford from its most famous airwaves ambassador. So in response to the news that Barkley will take an indefinite leave of absence from his TNT broadcast duties, I say good. It's the right move.
Call it a slap on the wrist if you like, but neither the NBA nor TNT is a court of law. Barkley, 45, had a blood-alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit, according to toxicology tests, and was in too much of a hurry to secure a romantic rendevous to bother stopping at a red light. The legal process will handle that. An intern with TNT or the NBA, for that matter, arrested under similar circumstances no doubt would have become another unemployment statistic by now. That's not the point; I think we can all accept by now that athletes and all types of celebrities are treated differently in the workplace and in society.
The point is that TNT -- presumably with Stern's blessing -- did the right thing. Not only that, they did something no one -- not a single referee, coach, opposing player, or even Stern -- has ever been able to do.
They silenced Charles Barkley. The TNT telecasts will be a lot less entertaining without him. But for the good of everyone involved, it's a silence we should welcome and applaud.