Charles Barkley: I had gay teammates

Updated: May 18, 2011, 3:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is certain he played with gay teammates on two or three teams during his basketball career -- and says it didn't bother him a bit.

"I didn't think it ... they were gay," Barkley told 106.7 The Fan in Washington.

Barkley It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say: 'Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.' First of all, quit telling me what I think. I'd rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can't play.

-- Charles Barkley

Barkley dismissed commentary suggesting male athletes are homophobic and the locker rooms of major men's professional sports are still not ready for an openly gay teammate. He said he never felt threatened or hit-on in the locker room and was never bothered by the presence of gay teammates.

"First of all, every player has played with gay guys," Barkley told 106.7 The Fan, adding that any player who says he hasn't is "a stone-freakin' idiot."

"It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say: 'Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.' First of all, quit telling me what I think. I'd rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can't play," Barkley said.

Barkley said he never worried about awkward situations involving gay teammates, because "[It] doesn't work like that."

"A guy is never going to put himself in that situation in a professional locker room," Barkley told the station. "It never crossed my mind, and I never felt any different about the guy."

Barkley was asked about the subject following a pair of basketball figures making their sexual orientation public over the weekend: Phoenix Suns executive Rick Welts and former Villanova starter Will Sheridan, who said he came out to and was accepted by his teammates during his college career.

Barkley, who played for the Suns and lives in the Phoenix area, said he wished Welts the best following his coming out.

"First of all, society discriminates against gay people," Barkley said. "They always try to make it like jocks discriminate against gay people. I've been a big proponent of gay marriage for a long time, because as a black person, I can't be in for any form of discrimination at all."

ALSO SEE