Why It’s Time to Stand Up to Charles Barkley’s Fat-shaming and Weight Bias

Editor’s Note: Last week, the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) was alerted by a dedicated OAC member, Abby Lentz, to a weight bias issue in the media. In 2015, the OAC spoke out against NBA analyst Charles Barkley, and he has once again targeted women in the San Antonio area for their weight and size. Mr. Barkley made disparaging remarks on a recent Inside the NBA broadcast on TNT about women affected by obesity.

As a result of these insensitive, weight-bias fueled comments, the OAC has called for TNT to suspend Charles Barkley and for the NBA to encourage Mr. Barkley to make a public apology. One dedicated OAC member, Sarah Bramblette, has spoken out publicly about how Mr. Barkley’s comments not only affect her as an individual affected by lipedema, lymphedema and the disease of obesity, but also how it furthers a growing problem in society, the problem of weight bias and stigmatization.

Read on to hear from Ms. Bramblette about why this type of behavior is damaging, unnecessary and needs to stop:

“You all know I’m joking around, but if you’re waiting on me to apologize, hell going to freeze over.”
- ­Charles Barkley, May 2014

Mr. Barkley, fat shaming is not a joke. You are not a comedian. You are a sports commentator. Your comments are not funny; they are harmful. They perpetuate stereotypes that the disease of obesity is merely “a result of eating too many churros.”

Just last week, a study was released that shed new light on the struggles faced by those trying to lose weight.

During the 2014 NBA Playoffs, Mr. Barkley made several fat shaming comments about the women of San Antonio. At that time, the Obesity Action Coalition and several other organizations called on Mr. Barkley to apologize. Not only did he never apologize, but also to this day, he continues to make the women of San Antonio the target of his fat shaming comments.

He further stated that if we didn’t like his comments, we should just change the channel. The problem is not my reaction to his comments, hearing his words do not bother me. It’s the impact and influence his comments have on the audience. Therefore, I’m asking TNT and NBA to take action to stop the fat shaming.

Trust me, I have a sense of humor. It’s the one thing that helps me deal with living with a chronic illness. I also have 38 years of experience with fat jokes. As the youngest of five kids, my older siblings prepared me well for the real world and had teased me so much that I often cracked jokes about myself before other kids had the chance to spit out the punch line. It was actually a defense method; I instantly ruined their attempt to make fun of me.

Ironically, adults would scold me for making jokes about myself because I was “putting myself down.” Yet, it was okay for adults to comment about my weight.  I know all the jokes, there is nothing that can be said that will hurt me, but I have been harmed by weight bias.

Whenever I stand up to others for their jokes or comments I’m told they are just “concerned for my health,” or that it’s “just a joke, and I need to not take everything so seriously.” The problem of course isn’t the words that are being spoken; it’s the actions that come from those words. Those thoughts perpetuate negative stereotypes that individuals affected by obesity are lazy and unmotivated.

My weight is not a joke. Being fired from my job because of weight discrimination was not funny. Having doctors ignore my medical condition and go untreated for years because of weight bias was not funny. I have suffered financial and physical harm because of others negative perception about those affected by obesity.

If Mr. Barkley were mocking a person with AIDS or Cancer, he would have been taken off the air immediately. But instead, he mocks someone because of their weight, and here we are two years later still demanding action be taken.

In contrast, when Donald Sterling was exposed for making racist comments, the NBA took swift action and removed him as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. More recently, ESPN fired Curt Schilling for controversial Facebook postings.

The OAC has called for TNT to suspend Charles Barkley and for the NBA to encourage Mr. Barkley to make a public apology. It’s time to get back to basketball, after all the show is called NBA on TNT. The hosts are supposed to discuss basketball games, not degrade women based on their appearance.

Why are the women of San Antonio the topic of conversation when the show is supposed to be about game commentary and analysis? To make the topic of conversation about a woman’s appearance and to degrade them based on their weight is completely unacceptable. Would you want someone degrading your mother, wife, sister, daughter or niece?

Fat shaming has a harmful impact on women regardless of size. Calling a woman “fat” is the quick and easy insult, not only on appearance but also on her character. TNT, the NBA and even Mr. Barkley should be above such derogatory treatment of women, especially in the sports community.

I urge everyone reading this to stand up against weight bias and to sign the OAC’s petition calling for immediate action by TNT and the NBA.

To sign the OAC’s petition that urges TNT to suspend Mr. Barkley for his stigmatizing comments toward individuals with obesity, please CLICK HERE.



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