Charles Barkley might not want to be your kids' role model, but he could be a role model for NBA players. And not just because he supports the league's new dress code.
Barkley was in Los Angeles on Wednesday for an appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Years ago, Barkley said that parents, not athletes, should be role models for their kids. But he now at least acknowledges that athletes do influence kids.
"Young black kids dress like NBA players," he said. "Unfortunately, they don't get paid like NBA players. So when they go out in the real world, what they wear is held against them.
"See, these players make $10 million to $15 million a year, so nobody cares how they dress. But regular black kids go out into the real world and how they dress is held against them.
"If a well-dressed white kid and a black kid wearing a do-rag and throwback jersey came to me in a job interview, I'd hire the white kid," he said. "That's reality. That's the No. 1 reason I support the dress code.
"From the NBA perspective, they've got a product to sell. They've got to make it as attractive as possible to fans, viewers and corporate sponsors.
"Dr. J [Julius Erving] told me years ago that we, the players, are the caretakers of the game. I think too many players today have lost sight of that."
Barkley, a TNT network basketball analyst, concedes there are racial overtones to the new dress code but points out there is a dress code in every business in the country. "It's dictated by the boss," he said.
Barkley says young men who are making $10 million a year or more for playing basketball should use their fame and wealth to do some good for society.
After the Leno taping, Barkley said, "I wish we would have had time to talk about Katrina."
Barkley explained that he was so moved by the hurricane tragedy and its victims that he visited shelters in Atlanta, Houston and Birmingham, Ala., to see what he might be able to do.
"In talking with these people I learned what they needed most was a place to live," he said.
Barkley provided $1 million to pay for houses where Katrina victims can live free for a year.
"I didn't want to just make a donation to the Red Cross," he said. "I wanted to make sure the money would go where it could do the most good."
He has been directly involved in the project. He is in the process of buying five homes in Atlanta, with plans to buy more in other areas.
"Where the Red Cross has helped is in determining what families get these homes," Barkley said. "That's the hard part, picking who gets what."
Such charity is not a first for Barkley. He has given more than $3 million to schools -- $1 million to his alma mater, Auburn, $1 million to his high school in Leeds, Ala., and $1 million to other schools in his hometown.
"I've been blessed with a skill, but I don't think God gave me the ability to play basketball just to win a championship -- although winning a championship would have been cool," he said. "I think I got this gift so that I could do some good for society and help people. And not just black people. Poor people. That is what is really important."
He hears that Marcus Camby of the Denver Nuggets wants a stipend to buy clothes to adhere to the dress code, and Barkley cringes.
"Guys like that have lost perspective," he said. "What's he make, $8 million a year? It's like when Latrell Sprewell said he needed more than $14 million a year so that he could feed his family. Give me a break."