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Child pays for Charles' hypocrisy

Published Oct. 2, 2005

Let me get this straight. Before resolving things with the NBA on Friday, Charles Barkley was threatening to retire because the league considered punishing him and because classmates were taunting his 9-year-old daughter, Christiana, over his participation in that human-throwing contest in Orlando last weekend?

Isn't that a little like Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who just paid Kevin Garnett more than $126-million, threatening to sell the team because player salaries are getting too high?

Sir Charles, the charmer that he is, somehow convinced the league not to discipline him and, in turn, vowed not to retire. He agreed to the league's suggestion that he take along bodyguards whenever he goes out on the town. He still faces battery and resisting arrest charges from the incident, but Barkley might just talk his way out of that, too.

But what about Christiana?

Barkley, 34, obviously wasn't thinking about her at the bar that night. Nor was she apparently in his thoughts when he got into fights in Cleveland, Chicago and Milwaukee.

No, Sunday in Orlando, as he and his drinking buddies were pelted with ice by another patron (this is Charles' side of the story and apparently he's sticking to it), he apparently could think only of one thing before hurling that patron through a plate-glass window, a thing far less important than his impressionable young child.

His pride.

"I think the guy got what he wanted. He wanted me to snap, and I did," Barkley said. "I'm never going to turn the other cheek. You turn the other cheek and they hit you on the other side.

"I think any man, if he's sitting with people and somebody throws a drink in their faces, would react the way I reacted."

Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn't.

Betcha neither would Pete Sampras or David Robinson.

Don't misunderstand. Nobody is saying Barkley and other athletes ought to get punked by any Joe Schmo who picks a fight with them. But, as Dr. King and countless others have demonstrated, there are ways to diffuse potentially volatile situations and keep your pride without going postal on someone.

For instance, why didn't Barkley simply ignore him? Or, if that was impossible, why didn't he and his friends just go someplace else? Orlando is no Chicago or New York, but anyone who has been to that Church Street Station area where Barkley was knows there are plenty of bars and night-spots nearby.

Instead, Barkley chose to be violent.

"I think (the Rockets) kind of expect that from him from time to time," former San Antonio coach Bob Hill said.

That's sad.

Still, what's even more disturbing about this whole situation is that Barkley's macho reaction is the same warped one to mild insults and slights that is so prevalent in our society, particularly among youths and in urban cities.

Step on a guy's toe or cut someone off in traffic and you're liable to get a gun pointed in your face instead of a chastising finger. Taunt someone by throwing ice at him and you're liable to get heaved through a window.

What kind of example is that setting?

Granted, Barkley has gone on record many times as saying he isn't and shouldn't be a role model for our children. That is, he has said, best left to parents and teachers.

Fine. But, like it or not, Barkley is a role model for Christiana.

Are we to believe this is how he's teaching her to resolve conflict, by telling her what he told us, that "If you bother me, I'm going to whup you"?

Let's hope not.

The matter seems resolved and each side seems to have gotten what it wanted. Barkley gets to go back to playing basketball and the NBA gets to keep one of its marquee players.

In some ways, it would have been a shame, whether you like Barkley or not, to have lost him to retirement. Sure, he's probably going to go soon, but the NBA has been richer to a small degree because of his presence. He even has tried to counsel Philadelphia's problematic star, Allen Iverson, on being more responsible for the future of the game.

His nightclub boxing career aside, Barkley is so much of what many professional athletes aren't. Witty. Worldly. Socially conscious. Thing is, he ruins all of that whenever he tries to shut up some loud mouth with his fists.

Before meeting with league officials Friday in New York, Barkley was prepared for the worst. If the league had suspended him, Barkley said in typical Barkley fashion that he would have dealt with it "like a man."

Unfortunately, he didn't deal with the Orlando incident like one _ at least not one Christiana could be proud of.