After dining with LIV CEO Greg Norman Wednesday, Charles Barkley sounded like a man who would be willing to join the Saudi-backed tour as a broadcaster.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Post, Barkley said he believes there is “selective outrage” in critics going after LIV Golf and feels it would be hypocritical not to consider being a part of the new tour if the money is right.
As further proof that he is serious about LIV, he will play in the Pro-Am portion of the LIV event next week at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey.
After dining with Norman at the Italian restaurant Pricci in Atlanta, Barkley next expects the Aussie golfer to make him an offer to be a commentator. Barkley, one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, has led TNT’s “Inside the NBA” as it has become an iconic sports studio show.
Barkley is under contract with Turner for three more years and $30 million, according to sources.
“In a perfect scenario, I would love to do both,” Barkley told The Post. “I don’t know how Turner’s sponsors are going to feel about it. I know there is going to be some blowback.”
Barkley said he and Norman talked about the Saudi-led group that is behind LIV Golf. The Saudi Arabian government has been accused of killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as other human rights violations.
“I told [Norman],” Barkley said. “’Listen, they are making up words, like ‘blood money’ and ‘sports washing.’ I said, ‘We have all taken ‘blood money’ and we all have ‘sports washed’ something so I don’t like those words, to be honest with you.’
“If you are in pro sports, you are taking some type of money from not a great cause.”
When asked if the NBA’s relationship with China was an example he was pointing to, Barkley responded, “Yeah, I don’t want to practice selective outrage.”
As a follow-up, Barkley was asked if it is different if you are basically receiving a check from the Saudi government.
“Now, that’s semantics,” Barkley said. “I’m a Nike guy, also, so I’m not going to do that thing where I pick and choose what I’m outraged about, where my money comes from. I just don’t think that is fair. I think that makes you a hypocrite.
“And let’s be fair, all these golf tours have played in Saudi Arabia and China. That was my point.”
Still, how everything plays out is not solely up to Barkley. He has endorsement deals with Capital One, Subway and Dick’s Sporting Goods. When the stories came out that Barkley was meeting with LIV Golf, his sponsors contacted him.
“They checked in with me,” Barkley said. “What I told Subway, Capital One and Dick’s Sporting Goods, I said, ‘Wait a minute. I haven’t signed anything. I haven’t met with the guy. Let’s let this thing play out before you all call me all upset.’
“Between the number you just mentioned [$10 million per year] and all my commercials, for me to risk all of that, it would have to be some serious money thrown my way.”
LIV has added big-name golfers like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, while for its YouTube broadcasts it hired Arlo White and, as The Post reported earlier this week, David Feherty. Both were formerly at NBC Sports. The PGA Tour has ruled that LIV players can’t participate in their events.
LIV keeps steamrolling ahead with the Saudis’ seemingly endless money, and Norman told Barkley that a TV deal is expected.
“I think he thinks they are going to get a TV deal,” Barkley said. “I’m pretty sure they are going to get a TV deal too. Somebody is going to step forward at some point.
“I think it is kind of a smorgasbord of different things, to be honest with you. I don’t think it is one thing in particular, but I think the main thing is using my personality ”
Before taking the meeting with Norman, Barkley consulted with Michael Wilbon, Mark Cuban, Ahmad Rashad and Bryant and Greg Gumbel.
“These are guys that have mentored me throughout my career,” Barkley said. “I got all their opinions on it, and they saw no problem with me taking this meeting – and I’m glad they did.”