Matt Barnes Discusses Racism, Stephen Jackson, More with B/R's Taylor Rooks

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2020

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 23:  Former Golden State Warriors forward Matt Barnes attives at Water For Life Charity Softball Game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 23, 2018 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images)
Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

Former NBA forward Matt Barnes said Tuesday he realized growing up Black in America was different at an early age when he moved to a school in Sacramento with mostly white students.

Barnes discussed racism in the United States and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement during a conversation with Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks.

"I moved to Sacramento at nine, eight or nine, and I went from predominantly Mexican and Black to all-white schools," he said. "So in third grade, being new at this school, I found out very early on that I was Black, and it was because the kids wouldn't let me play anything.

"Couldn't play basketball with them. Wouldn't let me play kickball with them. Wouldn't let me throw the football with them. And instead of, you know, poor me, hugging [and] consoled when I went home, you know, my dad said, 'If they call you [the N word], fight 'em.'"

(Warning: This video is an uncensored conversation about experiences with racism and includes racial slurs.)

His comments come amid worldwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, while in Minneapolis Police custody in May.

Floyd was a longtime friend of Stephen Jackson, who co-hosts Showtime's All the Smoke podcast with Barnes.

"Jack is going to be one of the main people that people think about as far as turning this movement," Barnes said.

Barnes said one reason he believes their podcast has found success is because Black athletes "don't trust" traditional media and they provide a different avenue for letting their voices be heard.

"There's no hidden agendas. We're not looking for clickbait," he said. "We genuinely wanna have a conversation with you and humanize you and show the world the other side of you."

The 40-year-old UCLA product also noted some current NBA players have reached out to him about whether to play when the 2019-20 season resumes in July. He isn't giving them a definitive answer but urged them to become "united in that movement" to make their voices heard.

"I think we're at a point where, like I said, our voice has never been stronger," Barnes told Rooks. "Although I don't want them to sit, I would understand if they sat out a game or did something to really let everyone know that this is not OK, we're unified and we need to be heard."

Barnes retired from the NBA after winning a championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2017. He's worked at ESPN as a basketball analyst in addition to his podcast with Jackson.

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