Matt Barnes Details Racism He Experienced in High School Ahead of 'Blackballed'

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2020

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: Brian Windhorst interviews Retired NBA Player Matt Barnes before Game One of the 2019 Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors at the ORACLE Arena on May 14, 2019 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Former NBA player Matt Barnes has dealt with racism throughout his life, including a horrific event in high school.

The 40-year-old recently recalled the situation in an interview with Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated:

"Me being someone who grew up bi-racial, being half Italian and black, I faced racism at a very early age. It boiled over in high school, to the point where someone was calling my sister a n----r. We happened to fight right after that, and a day-and-a-half later, the KKK vandalized my whole school. They burned down a bathroom and it made national news. I learned at an early age, even though I was very proud to be mixed, I was looked at as a black man.


"N----r was painted all over my school. Swastikas were all over my school. There was a mannequin that had my football jersey on that said, 'Die n----r.' It was real, and it was a wake-up call that said, 'Don't ever get too comfortable. You're still always going to be looked at as a black man.'"

Barnes graduated from Del Campo High School in 1998 as a noted basketball and football star. He was already heading to UCLA on a scholarship and was a short time away from beginning his 14-year NBA career.

The notoriety didn't prevent the racist attacks, which included someone spraying "Matt Barnes Die" on his high school walls, as he previously explained to Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated.

ThSacramento County Sheriff's Office called it a felony hate crime that also could have been considered felony arson after the bathrooms were lit on fire.

Opposing fans also waved bananas at him during games. 

Barnes is now contributing to the documentary Blackballed, which discusses the ousting of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after Sterling was caught making racist comments on tape. Barnes was a member of the team during that 2013-14 season and called it "arguably...the biggest NBA scandal in the history of the game."

The Clippers considered missing a playoff game out a protest, but Sterling was banned from the league by commissioner Adam Silver.

Though this was a unique experience, Barnes noted things still haven't changed.

"Throughout this pandemic, one thing that has stood out to me is that there is still a lot of hate in this country," he said. "I've personally lived through a lot of racism, and that's why I have such a strong opinion and view on it. No one is born racist. People are taught to hate, and it’s unfortunate, but the cycle continues to repeat itself."