Charles Barkley Apologizes for Saying He Would Hit Female Reporter, Claims It Was an 'Attempted Joke That Wasn't Funny'

Charles Barkley has apologized for saying he would hit a female reporter after she took to Twitter to say he told her: "I don't hit women, but if I did I would hit you."

Axios reporter Alexi McCammond revealed that she had broken an "agreement" that the former NBA star's comments were off the record because "this is not OK."

McCammond, who covers the 2020 presidential campaign for Axios, wrote on Twitter late on Tuesday night: "Just FYI Charles Barkley told me tonight "I don't hit women but if I did I would hit you," and then when I objected to that he told me I "couldn't take a joke.""

The reporter, who is in Atlanta to cover the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday night, added: "There are almost no times I will break an OTR "agreement" but this is not OK."

In a statement to Newsweek on Wednesday, Barkley said: "My comment was inappropriate and unacceptable. It was an attempted joke that wasn't funny at all. There's no excuse for it and I apologize."

McCammond explained that the response from Barkley, who is an analyst on TNT's Inside the NBA, came after she had called him out on comments he made about former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who are both running for president.

"It was all because he came in talking about how he loves Deval Patrick and once someone from Pete's campaign came around he said he loved Pete and I reminded him he previously said he was a Deval fan," McCammond said. She later posted a picture of Barkley surrounded by people, adding: "Here's a pic (albeit dark and blurry) if you need more."

McCammond also retweeted others who noted Barkley has made problematic comments about women in the past.

Sopan Deb, who writes about the NBA and culture for The New York Times, said Barkley has "a little bit of a history of this kind of stuff." He wrote on Twitter: "In 1997, Barkley said on female referees, "I just hope they don't have women officials. It's the principle of the thing. I wouldn't want a man doing a W.N.B.A. game."

Deb added: "Barkley used to call the Warriors style of play "little girly basketball" and we all certainly remember the comments about women from San Antonio." He was referring to Barkley's repeated jabs about the size of San Antonio women on Inside the NBA.

Carron J. Phillips, a senior columnist for The Shadow League, noted in a tweet that Barkley told "a room full of people" in 2017 that black women shouldn't report sexual harassment or assault in the workplace until they're in positions of power.

Timothy Burke noted that the "first serious conversations about domestic abuse in sports" were sparked by a comment Barkley made almost 30 years ago when he was playing for the Philadelphia 96ers. In 1990, Barkley was forced to apologize after he said: "This is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife."

Burke also noted that a year later, Barkley had spat on a young girl at a game.

McCammond's tweets quickly went viral and attracted comments of support and condemnation of Barkley. But some also defended Barkley and criticized her for sharing comments that were off the record.

"Breaking: Charles Barkley made a joke- off the record, by the way. Women, if you want to be treated the same as men, you need to understand how they talk to each other," television personality Carol Roth tweeted. "You don't have to find it funny, but it's no cause for outrage."

But McCammond explained her decision to report his comments, saying that "everyone should be held accountable."

"I hate being part of a story so here's a reminder that this is so much bigger than me: nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the US. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence," she wrote adding a link to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's website.

"It's not about me or my feelings — tho I'm grateful for the many friends who have reached out. But it's about refusing to allow this culture to perpetuate because of silence on these issues. It's easier and less awkward to be silent, but that helps NO ONE but the perpetrator."

"I encourage you to consider how you'd respond if a friend said something similar to what Barkley said tonight. And then challenge yourself to ask the same of yourself if a stranger (or "celebrity") said that. I hope the answers are the same. Everyone should be held accountable."

Newsweek has contacted a representative for Barkley, TNT and McCammond for comment.

Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley attends the 2019 NBA Awards at Barker Hangar on June 24, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. Rich Fury/Getty Images
Charles Barkley Apologizes for Saying He Would Hit Female Reporter, Claims It Was an 'Attempted Joke That Wasn't Funny' | U.S.