There was nothing funny about what Charles Barkley said. Any of it.
Barkley issued an apology through Turner Sports on Wednesday morning for his tasteless “joke” about domestic violence, and everyone was quick to move on. Barkley is almost universally beloved, in part because of his lack of filter, and it’s just easier to enjoy him for his antics.
And yet … Barkley’s exchange with Alexi McCammond, a reporter from Axios, is an example of the diminishing treatment that women — anyone from a marginalized community, for that matter – are subjected to on a daily basis, and it needs to stop.
It was disturbing enough that Barkley thought nothing of telling McCammond, “I don’t hit women but if I did I would hit you.” According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women has experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. That’s right, one in three. Among men, it’s one in nine.
Of women who are murdered, one in three is killed by an intimate partner, and the number of domestic violence-related homicides is rising after almost four decades of decline.
There is an untold psychological toll for both abuse victims and their families, as well as an economic one. Each year, according to the NCADV, domestic violence costs the U.S. economy between $5.8 billion and $12.6 billion.
So, no. Domestic violence, and the general health and safety of women, is not something that is ever funny. When women are very literally used as punching bags every day, making that abuse a punchline is simply obscene.
This isn’t the first time Barkley has “joked” about abuse toward women, either. Along with issuing an apology for Barkley, perhaps Turner Sports should consider connecting him with some domestic violence experts, so he can see just how unfunny it is.
But what was equally troubling was how dismissive Barkley was when McCammond called him on what he’d said, telling her she “couldn’t take a joke.” As if it was her fault because she was offended by his causal misogyny.
Any time – every time – women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community or religious minorities are belittled or marginalized and take exception to it, they’re told they’re wrong to be upset. That they’re taking things too seriously. That they’re making a big deal out of nothing. That they need to get over it.
But what they’re really being told is that their feelings, their viewpoints, don’t matter. That they themselves don’t matter.
When you are in a position of power or privilege – and, in this case, Barkley was – you don’t get to define what is offensive for someone who is not. Or tell them what they need to tolerate. You don’t get to demand that they set aside their feelings for yours.
No doubt some will read this and think it’s all one big overreaction, too. But words matter. So does recognizing the feelings of people who, for too long, have been told theirs don’t count.
Barkley’s “joke” was inappropriate. But dismissing McCammond’s outrage was equally offensive.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.