Basketball Hall of Famer and Inside the NBA host Charles Barkley issued an apology Wednesday after Axios reporter Alexi McCammond Tweeted that Barkley threatened her during an off-the-record conversation, later adding that Barkley said he was making a joke.
“I don’t hit women but if I did I would hit you,” is what McCammond Tweeted that Barkley said to her on Tuesday.
McCammond also Tweeted that when she objected, Barkley told her she couldn’t take a joke.
In his post-playing days, Barkley has made a career on walking the line of what is acceptable humor in his NBA analysis, and this statement isn’t too far off from his many controversial jokes. And it probably won’t change many people’s opinions of him, especially those that have experienced this version of Barkley for decades.
According to McCammond’s Tweets, Barkley made the comment to McCammond after she called him out for claiming to support Deval Patrick — a new candidate in the presidential race — and then saying he loves Pete Buttigieg once someone from Buttigieg’s campaign joined the conversation.
Nobody is denying that what Barkley said is wrong — but McCammond’s decision to violate journalistic ethics by Tweeting something said off-the-record is wrong, too.
What was McCammond trying to do by Tweeting Barkley’s off the record quote? And was it worth it? Was she more entitled to do so considering the comment was about her?
These are all valid questions that have arisen about the situation.
With the toxicity of cancel culture and social media today, any accusatory Tweet such as McCammond’s has the potential to backfire — she was faced both supporters and backlash, and negative comments were fired at her and Barkley alike.
Comedy is undeniably hard in this day in age, as every joke likely offends someone, and this was the case here for Barkley and McCammond. Jokes about abuse and violence are not funny or acceptable, but looking at the context of the situation, it doesn’t seem like McCammond was in real danger.
McCammond had to know that her Tweet would blow up, and the whole scenario feels like an attempt to expose Barkley for making a horrific joke, which isn’t entirely out of the ordinary for Barkley’s character.
But, especially in an age with so much distrust in the media, McCammond’s decision has the potential to contribute to a trend limits the credibility of other journalists. Barkely will still have a platform — he will recover from this, and his followers probably weren’t phased by this statement given his propensity to walk humor’s fine line.
The only time journalists should truly contemplate breaking the confidentiality of an off-the-record conversation is if someone’s life is in danger, and this wasn’t the case here. If McCammond felt truly threatened by Barkley’s comment she could have gone to the authorities or someone who could do something about it — not Twitter. Off the record means off the record.
Again, what Barkley said is wrong — there’s no denying that — and he should not have made such a violent joke in the first place. But for a variety of reasons, McCammond shouldn’t have Tweeted it, either.