NBA legend Charles Barkley says he opposes calls to abolish or defund police -- because it could leave black communities more vulnerable to crime.
Discussing the polarizing Breonna Taylor case on TNT's halftime show during the Nuggets-Lakers game on Thursday night, the Hall of Famer described those demanding the outright end of policing as "fools."
Police will always exist to protect wealthy and white neighborhoods, Sir Charles explained to co-hosts Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith -- so defunding them will disproportionately affect black areas.
"I hear these fools on TV talking about 'defund the police' and things like that," Barkley said. "We need police reform and prison reform, and things like that -- but do you know who isn't going to defund the cops? White neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods. So that notion they keep saying -- I'm like wait a minute, who are black people supposed to call, 'Ghostbusters?' when we have crime in our neighborhoods?"
Diving into the specifics of the Taylor case, Barkley said it wasn't comparable to other high-profile incidents of police violence because Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot an officer amid the confusion of the raid.
"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 the no-knock warrant is something we need to get rid of across the board. But we do have to take into account that her boyfriend shot at the cops, and shot a cop."
The so-called no-knock raid to which Barkley was referring was banned in the city of Louisville, Kentucky, after the Taylor case.
Authorities have maintained the plain-clothes officers announced their presence before entering the apartment and returning fire at Walker and Taylor, but the majority of witnesses said they heard no such declaration. Several 911 calls about the incident from neighbors and Walker himself suggest they were unaware of the identity of the officers.
"We need police reform," Barkley said. "Like I said, white people -- especially rich white people -- they're always going to have cops. So we need to stop that 'defund or abolish the cops' crap."
O'Neal largely agreed with Barkley's sentiments, suggesting the incident was a case of systemic injustice more than the fault of the individual officers.
"You have to get a warrant signed and some states do allow no-knock warrants," O'Neal said. "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 basketball legends' comments turned heads on social media -- along familiar political and social lines. Right-leaning audiences celebrated the remarks as sober and clear-eyed, while others saw it as a betrayal.