TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley on Thursday night suggested professional athletes should get "preferential treatment" in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
The Basketball Hall of Famer said NBA, NFL and hockey players should jump the line due to their relatively heftier tax bills compared to the rest of the population.
"We need 300 million shots," Barkley said. "Giving a thousand to some NBA players, NFL players, hockey players ... As much taxes as these players pay -- let me repeat that -- as much taxes as these players pay, they deserve some preferential treatment," Barkley said on Inside the NBA.
Co-host Kenny Smith challenged Barkley's assertion.
"For life and death?" Smith asked.
"Yes," Barkley responded.
"We can't go there," Smith said.
Barkley's claim came amid a series of coronavirus outbreaks affecting NBA teams, which has lead to postponement of several games in recent days.
The debate over the role of pro sports and athletes in relation to virus testing and treatment has been an issue since essentially the outset of the quarantine in the US.
The NBA turned heads in March when it was revealed how the two teams involved in the league's first outbreak -- the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz -- had successfully commandeered a large percentage of the state of Oklahoma's daily testing kits, when they were scarce.
Meanwhile a debate has gone on for months over whether professional athletes qualify as essential workers, given that they have reported for duty in the midst of a pandemic, with many of them contracting the virus through work.
But Barkley appears to be arguing something different here, something along the lines of what a recent New York Times article described as attempts by the wealthy and well-connected to jump vaccine lines.
The 57-year-old Sixers and Suns legend has dipped his toes in political and social commentary throughout his career. He has at times struck populist-sounding notes in advocating for poor people while criticizing both the Democratic and Republican party establishments.