- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2019

Former NBA player Charles Barkley unleashed some harsh words against Mike Pence, telling the vice president during a pregame conversation on TNT that he ought to “shut the hell up” and let the China money roll.

It’s never a good look when an American citizen sides with a Communist country over America’s government.

But this is the message Barkley was sending: NBA money is more important than America’s principles.

Barkley was responding to Pence’s condemnation of the NBA for its wishy-washy way of dealing with Daryl Morey — the Rockets owner who tweeted his support for Hong Kong protesters — and Morey’s Chinese critics, who wanted him fired or punished. Ultimately, the NBA put its foot down and told China that Morey would not be punished. But it took a while.

And it only came after much public pressure.

Pence, reacting to the matter, said this: “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”

That’s just the truth.

The NBA could certainly have handled the situation in a way that didn’t make it appear as if it were bending knee to Communist investors.

Now here comes Barkley, tossing fuel on the fire — and in so doing, appearing himself to side with Communists over Americans.

“First of all, Vice President Pence needs to shut the hell up,” Barkley said, as The Hill reported. “All American companies are doing business in China.”

Well, not all — but many.

And even so: Not many are in the news right now for appearing to cave to China interests.

Barkley does raise a good point, though. He asks, “I don’t understand why these holier-than-thou politicians — if they’re so worried about China, then why don’t they stop all transactions with China?”

Maybe more should.

Maybe America ought to reconsider its market dealings with China — a country that curbs its own citizens’ freedoms while imprisoning those who simply want to worship their god of choice. A country that chills with its ever-present surveillance systems.

Maybe America ought to get back to the “Made In America” manufacturing game and stop worrying about cheap goods to buy from China.

But in the meantime, maybe it’s Barkley who ought to stifle a bit. After all, if Barkley were a Chinese citizen, he wouldn’t get away with telling his government leaders to “shut the hell up.” It’s only his American freedom that gives him the ability to say that. And Barkley would do well to treat that privilege as the very precious gift it is.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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