He is LIV Golf’s hottest new target, and with any luck, he’ll never be seen so much as holding a club.
He is, of course, Charles Barkley, owner of golf’s most-infamous swing and sports television’s least-censored voice. In recent days, Barkley has found himself at the center of the LIV rumor mill after an impromptu dinner with the Saudi-backed league’s CEO, Greg Norman. Could Barkley, who is entering the final year of his deal with TNT, be LIV’s latest high-profile broadcast addition? The answer, according to the man himself, is a firm maybe.
“It’s been very stressful. It’s been tough. I don’t know anything to be honest with you,” Barkley told the Dan Patrick Show on Monday afternoon. “I met with Greg, he asked me if I was interested and I said ‘of course, I’m here, I wouldn’t have had dinner with you if I wasn’t interested.’ I’m waiting for them to make me an offer, I guess. But it’s been very stressful on me.”
It’s a move that makes some sense for both parties. For a league still battling for notoriety, Barkley would be a shrewd addition to move the needle with both potential broadcast partners and sports-watching audiences — two groups LIV has struggled to make inroads with to date. For the former NBA MVP and current TNT NBA analyst, LIV represents an opportunity to make a boatload of money while simultaneously reducing his week-to-week schedule.
But for Barkley, the former would be the key to it all: a boatload of money.
For LIV to wrangle Barkley, the payday would have to be significant — as much as two-to-three times his current annual salary, which is believed to be around $20 million. But the payoff could be just as large, giving LIV a star with cross-sport appeal whose appearances on The Match broadcasts have made him something of a known entity among golf fans.
“Well, man, I love TNT. I love Ernie [Johnson], Kenny [Smith] and Shaq. But if those dudes [LIV] throw something crazy at me, I have to listen,” Barkley said. “I’m not going to get on here and say it’s not about the money. Of course it’s about the money.”
But just fielding the conversation could prove detrimental for Barkley. LIV’s ties to Saudi Arabia — and the nation’s porous human rights record — have made the league deeply controversial since its inception. Barkley’s potential involvement could help the league make in-roads with wary fans, or it could make fans wary of Barkley.
“I don’t deal with this selective prosecution. Everybody picks and chooses. I just think it’s funny that people are worried about civil rights in Saudi Arabia, a place 99.9 percent of people in the United Stated have never been,” Barkley said. “You don’t worry about civil rights here in the United States, but all of the sudden when people start taking money they’re like, ‘I’m worried about civil rights here in Saudi Arabia.'”
Ultimately, Chuck says, his decision won’t be motivated by his conscience, but by something far simpler: cold, hard cash.
“Most people I’ve talked to, my close confidantes, say nah man you’ve got to sit down with them and listen to what they’re offering,” Barkley said. “I know you love TNT, but they’re giving dudes $200 million, $150 million, $125 million. I’d be stupid not to listen to that conversation.”