Matt Barnes Opens Up About Racism, Stephen Jackson, The NBA and More In New Interview

In a new interview with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, former NBA star Matt Barnes discusses his experience growing up black in America.

“I moved to Sacramento at nine, eight or nine, and I went from predominantly Mexican and Black to all-white schools,” he shared. “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.”

He went on to explain that because he was black, he couldn’t participate in playing sports with the white people while at school.

“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.'”

As the interview continued, Barnes opened up about racism in the league, revealing that Donald Sterling, who was ousted for racist remarks about his Clippers players, wasn’t the only racist in big offices behind the scenes.

“A lot,” Barnes said when asked if there were others who shared Sterlings’ racist sentiments. “And not only in the NBA, in the NFL I know for sure. So it’s just —, and I don’t want to give names — but there’s that ‘good ol’ boy’ group of owners that were oil and real estate, guys. These guys are in their 70s, late 60s, 70s, and up and that’s just how they were raised and how they were brought up. They look at players as — I didn’t want to use the term ‘slave,’ that’s harsh — but these are my—kind of like a plantation view or mentality. Like ‘these are my guys, I pay them—like Donald Sterling said: ‘I get them cars, I get them food, I get them houses.’

Although the Sterling scandal shook up the league in 2014, as players staged a silent protest against the team owner, the recent death of George Floyd has sparked a new wave of activism.

Floyd was a long-time 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 expressed.

But when it comes to resuming the season, the co-hosts seem to have different views. Though Barnes refused to give a definite answer on whether players should return amid racial tensions, Barnes said that some players have reached out to him for his opinion on the matter.

“I think we’re at a point where, like I said, our voice has never been stronger,” Barnes shared. “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.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Barnes also went on to discuss the importance behind their podcast, suggesting that instead of interviewing black celebrity-athletes for click-bait, they humanize their guests.

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

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