Charles Barkley told CNBC's Power Lunch on Friday that the sports world is not focusing on issues of racial and economic justice, but more on who is kneeling or not or what message of social justice is on the backs of NBA players' jerseys.
"We need police reform, we need prison reform," he said. "My concern is to make a circus out of it instead of trying to do some good things."
Barkley is in Edgewood Tahoe, Nevada this week, playing at the American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament. The sports legend spoke to CNBC about basketball, race relations, and social justice.
The NBA announced last week that players in Orlando may wear social justice messages on the back of their jerseys. Sentences consist of everything from "Black Lives Matter" to "Equality" to "How many more?"
The messages are optional, but the vast majority of players are expected to participate.
Barkley said fans now need a break from reality with millions of people suffering from coronavirus and others suffering from job losses.
"The last thing they want to do is turn on the TV and hear arguments all the time. It will be very interesting to see how the public reacts," he said.
Coronavirus cases continued to increase in Florida when NBA teams arrived in Orlando this week. The state health agency said the number of cases rose by 11,433 (just under a single daily high) to a total of 244,151. Barkley said he was hopeful and optimistic about the NBA's restart plan, which will see 22 teams compete against each other in the Orlando bubble.
"I think you would have to be stupid to believe that we could do without the positive tests for the whole three months, but I think we are all flying in the dark now and I don't think anyone knows what will happen."
Barkley said the decision to cancel the season would have huge economic ramifications for players and could cost them $ 2 billion in the next few years.
"That's a lot of money for these players … and they can bring it back to their community. I think that's the main reason to play," he said.
The eleven-time NBA All-Star also burdened the return to school in the fall.
"You would have to be a fool to believe that your children are safe at school now," he said. However, he fears that keeping children at home could widen the gap between rich and poor.
"Many children who are at home do not have access to the Internet. This makes the gap between rich and poor even wider. This is a critical time in our country," he added.
"I just hope that we get some adults who know what they're doing and stop screwing up and dividing our country," he said.