In a pretty fantastic showing of support for his gay brothers and sisters, Charles Barkley spent some of TNT’s Martin Luther King Day tribute, during the Celtics-Magic game, advocating against discrimination. Barkley — who’s not afraid to call religious conservatives “fake Christians” for their opposition to same-sex marriage — spoke of King’s legacy in the context of LGBTs, as relayed by King’s daughter: “People try to make it about black and white. He talked about equality for every man, every woman. We have a thing going on now, people discriminating against homosexuality in this country. I love the homosexuality people. God bless the gay people. They are great people.” Back in 2008, Barkley was on CNN, talking about Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign, when he broached the subject: “Like, I’m for gay marriage. It’s none of my business if gay people want to get married. I’m pro-choice. And I think these Christians — first of all, they’re supposed to be — they’re not supposed to judge other people. But they’re the most hypocritical judge of people we have in this country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like their Christians. And they’re not forgiving at all.” The message is especially poingant when you have others co-opting King’s legacy to preach hatred. And the mouth this message comes from is not to be underestimated: Few people in the sports world are openly supportive of our community, so much so that when somebody makes a statement like Barkley did, it’s a news item. Which is ridiculous, even for a gay blog like this one that covers every pro- and anti-gay thing somebody says. The more often we see men like Barkley stating the obvious — that we are battling to secure people’s civil rights at this very moment — the more normalized this conversation will become. The more more acceptable it’ll be for people who feel the way Barkley does to say so. And the more ashamed bigots in sports will feel saying otherwise.

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