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Charles Barkley apologizes for telling reporter, ‘I don’t hit women, but if I did, I would hit you’

Charles Barkley (shown during a 2017 rally in Alabama) apologized for comments to a reporter. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Charles Barkley apologized in a statement Wednesday morning for telling an Axios reporter, “I don’t hit women, but if I did, I would hit you.”

Alexi McCammond, who is covering the 2020 presidential race for the site, tweeted that after she objected to the remark, Barkley “told me I ‘couldn’t take a joke.’" According to McCammond, she chose to publish his remark, which she tweeted at 11:46 p.m. Eastern, because “this is not okay.”

Barkley called his comment “inappropriate and unacceptable” in a statement issued Wednesday by Turner Sports.

“It was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all,” he said in the statement. “There’s no excuse for it and I apologize.”

After the apology, McCammond wrote on Twitter that “threats of violence are not a joke, & no person deserves to be hit or threatened like that. Silence only allows the culture of misogyny to fester. And those kinds of comments don’t merit off-the-record protections.”

McCammond, who is in Atlanta to cover Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, said Barkley’s remark came after he expressed affection for both former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who both are seeking the Democratic nomination.

“I reminded him he previously said he was a Deval fan,” McCammond tweeted.

That comment, she wrote, prompted Barkley to say, “I don’t hit women but if I did, I would hit you.”

McCammond went on to explain why she decided to break what she suggested had been an off-the-record agreement.

“I hate being part of a story, so here’s a reminder that this is so much bigger than me: nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. [One] in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence against women,” she tweeted, citing statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Barkley’s agent and McCammond have not responded to requests for comment.

The National Association of Black Journalists in a statement described Barkley’s initial comment as “highly offensive and unacceptable” and called on “not only Barkley but everyone to refrain from using insulting language and actions that are threats of physical or mental abuse — no matter how they are presented.”

The story quickly spread on social media, with some supporting McCammond and others seeking more information before condemning the popular and outspoken Barkley. Others noted that Barkley, known for his quick quips, has drawn criticism for previous controversial actions and comments, from the political to the personal.

As a star for the Philadelphia 76ers, Barkley apologized in 1990 for saying after a victory that “this is a game that, if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.” Asked by a reporter whether he wanted to rethink that comment, he replied, “Nah. Print it.”

Journalist Carron J. Phillips recalled that “Barkley once told a room full of people at a National Association of Black Journalists panel in 2017 in New Orleans that Black women shouldn’t report sexual harassment/assault until they’re in power positions at the workplace.”

In 1997, Barkley expressed his displeasure with the idea of female referees, saying, “It’s the principle of the thing” and “I wouldn’t want a man doing a WNBA game.”

In a 1993 Nike commercial, he said, “I am not a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on a basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids."

After McCammond’s tweets became news, she wrote, “I encourage you to consider how you’d respond if a friend said something similar to what Barkley said tonight. And then challenge yourself to ask the same of yourself if a stranger (or “celebrity”) said that. I hope the answers are the same. Everyone should be held accountable.

“It’s not about me or my feelings — tho I’m grateful for the many friends who have reached out. But it’s about refusing to allow this culture to perpetuate because of silence on these issues. It’s easier and less awkward to be silent, but that helps NO ONE but the perpetrator.”

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