Charles Barkley has never been one to hold his tongue. The outspoken pro basketball Hall of Famer has sounded off on issues of race, politics and socioeconomic inequality in the past, all while serving as a basketball commentator for TNT.
So when, two weeks ago, Donald Trump dismissed comments he made in a 2005 recording about groping women without their consent as merely “locker room talk,” sports fans were expecting Sir Charles, as he is known, to weigh in.
But even as dozens of other pro athletes roundly denounced Trump’s characterization and said they had never heard anything like what Trump said in their locker rooms, Barkley stayed quiet.
This Tuesday, he made his opinion known, and it was decidedly against the vocal consensus.
“"I'm against any form of sexual assault or sexual harassment," Barkley said in an interview with CNN. "But in the locker room, I've heard things and I've said things myself that I would not want to be repeated publicly.
"For people to act like they haven't heard stuff in the locker room, I think is disingenuous.”
Barkley did not reveal what any of those conversations were about, but he is not the first athlete to pass up the opportunity to bash Trump. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ignored a press conference question last week about whether he had ever heard language similar to Trump in a locker room.
While studies have shown that bullying and harassment have increased this election cycle, incidents of hazing and sexual harassment have been an issue in locker rooms for several years now, as documented by a recent ESPN investigation.
Within the sports world, opinion on the election generally is already bitterly divided. While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has racked up endorsements from many high-profile athletes, including LeBron James, Alex Rodriguez, Abby Wambach and Magic Johnson, according to the Washington Post, Trump has a base of support in professional locker rooms, according to a survey from Bleacher Report.
At least one NFL coach has banned any election talk, and Bleacher Report documents several cases of locker rooms split over political opinion.
The survey, which took place before the recording of Trump was released, asked 43 players, 22 of them black, 21 white, who they supported for president. Just two black players backed Trump, while all 21 white players did.
Those racial divides, according to Barkley, are deeply entrenched, but he does not believe either party will be beneficial to the black community.
“Black people have been voting Democratic their whole life, and they're still poor,” Barkley said in 2015. “And the Republicans don't do anything for poor people either.”
Barkley said Tuesday he has also voted solely for Democrats throughout his life, but Clinton’s candidacy has him considering abstaining.
“I've always voted Democratic my entire life but I'm having a hard time pulling the trigger for (Hillary Clinton),” Barkley told CNN. “She might be a wonderful person, I don't know, but there's so many negatives about her.
“Right now I haven't made a decision if I'm going to vote or not. But if I vote, I'm gonna vote Democratic but it's ... just something about her that makes me uncomfortable. Clearly I can't vote for the other guy.”