NBA all-stars Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neil discussed on Thursday the ongoing protests surrounding the decision to not charge two of the police officers involved in the Breonna Taylor case, emphasizing how the incident differed from other cases involving police misconduct or racist intent.
Talking on air before the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets game, the two said the shooting of Breonna Taylor should not be classified with other high-profile deaths of black people at the hands of police, citing the search warrant and the fact that her boyfriend opened fire on officers.
"I don't think this one was like George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery and things like that," Barkley said. "I feel sad that this young lady lost her life. I think this one was – the no-knock warrant is something we need to get rid of ... across the board. But I am worried to lump all these situations in together. And I just feel bad that the young lady lost her life. But we do have to take into account that her boyfriend shot at the cops and shot a cop. So like I say, even though I am really sorry she lost her life, I just don't think we can put this in the same situation as George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery."
Barkley also shared his opinion on the movement to defund police departments, calling it foolish.
"I hear these fools on TV talking about defund the police and things like that," said Barkley. "We need police reform and prison reform and things like that. Because you know who ain't gonna defund the cops? White neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods. So, that notion they keep saying that – I'm like wait a minute, who are black people supposed to call, Ghostbusters when we have crime in our neighborhoods? We need police reform. Like I say, white people, especially rich white people, they're always gonna have cops. So we need to stop that defund or abolish the cops crap."
O'Neil, who has a long history of supporting the police – even becoming an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshall and a reserve officer with the Port Police – defended Barkley's position.
"I have to agree with Charles, this one is sort of lumped in," O'Neal said. "You have to get a warrant signed and some states do allow no-knock warrants. And everyone was asking for murder charges. When you talk about murder, you have to show intent. A homicide occurred, and we're sorry a homicide occurred. When you have a warrant signed by the judge, you are doing your job, and I would imagine that you would fire back."
The men's comments drew swift backlash online, with Barkley's name trending on Twitter Friday morning.