NBA hall-of-famer Charles Barkley laid into politicians of all stripes – Democrats and Republicans alike – for promoting racial division in the country, saying they are trying to “make whites and blacks not like each other.”

Barkley, a former star forward with the Philadelphia 76ers, was speaking during CBS Sports’ broadcast of the Final Four on Saturday.

Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan talking during a January 28, 1996 game.
Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan talking during a January 28, 1996 game.
BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images

He was responding to a pre-game segment about Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s alerting a crowd in Indianapolis – site of this year’s games – in 1968 that the Rev. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis. 

Robert F. Kennedy, shown in this April 4, 1968 file photo, as he speaks to an Indianapolis crowd telling them of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy, shown in this April 4, 1968 file photo, as he speaks to an Indianapolis crowd telling them of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
AP Photo/Leroy Patton, Indianapolis News, file

Barkley, never one to shy away from controversial statements, said politicians “divide and conquer” the population for their own ends.

“Man, I think most white people and ​b​lack people are great people. I really believe that in my heart, but I think our system is set up where our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power. They divide and conquer​,” Barkely, who retired from the NBA in 2000 said. 

Robert F. Kennedy seen with Martin Luther King Jr. on June 22, 1963.
Robert F. Kennedy seen with Martin Luther King Jr. on June 22, 1963.
AP Photo/Bob Schutz, File

“​I truly believe in my heart most white people and ​b​lack people are awesome people, but we’re so stupid following our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, and their only job is, ‘Hey, let’s make these people not like each other. We don’t live in their neighborhoods, we all got ​the ​money, let’s make the whites and ​b​lacks not like each other, let’s make rich people and poor people not like each other, let’s scramble the middle class.’ I truly believe that in my heart​,” he continued. ​

His comments come at a time of racial tension in the country and amid the continuing trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd last May. 

Ethel Kennedy shakes hands with Martin Luther King III after she and her husband Robert F. Kennedy, center, visited his mother Coretta Scott King at her Atlanta home, April 8, 1968.
Ethel Kennedy shakes hands with Martin Luther King III after she and her husband Robert F. Kennedy, center, visited his mother Coretta Scott King at her Atlanta home, April 8, 1968.
AP

Chauvin’s trial on second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter began last week and testimony continues Monday. 

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