Former NBA great and current basketball studio analyst Charles Barkley will embark on a mission to explore racial division in America in The Race Card, a new television series greenlit by TNT on Sunday.
According to a network press release, the America that Barkley knows “has lost its way, becoming mired in partisan politics, social divides and entrenched corporate interests.” Barkley will examine “the root of the problem” in the new six-episode limited series, set to premiere in the first half of 2017.
“We as Americans never discuss the issue of race in this country and how it impacts everything in our lives until something bad happens,” the 53-year-old NBA Hall of Famer said in a statement. “I see this project as a way to talk about race, class and cultural differences and challenge everyone’s status quo.”
According to TNT, Barkley will look to “bust up the echo chamber mentality that so often has people retreating to corners of the like-minded, where views are reinforced and ideas are distorted into angry, unexamined groupthink conclusions.”
Emmy-winner Dan Partland (Intervention) will serve as executive producer on the series alongside Barkley, Lee Gaither and Marc Perman. Turner’s Studio T will produce.
In recent years, Barkley has helped turn TNT’s Inside the NBA into one of the most critically-acclaimed sports analysis shows on television.
Barkley has spoken out on some of the country’s most divisive racial issues in recent years.
In 2014, the former NBA great called those rioting in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown “scumbags,” and said the media often played up racial division in America.
“I can’t believe anything I hear on television anymore, and that’s why I don’t like talking about race issues with the media anymore because they love this stuff and lead people to jump to conclusions. The media shouldn’t do that. They never do that when black people kill each other,” he said in December of that year.
In an interview with ESPN’s Dan Le Batard last month after the police-involved shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Barkley reiterated the “need” for police in the black community and called on the community to “do better.”
“We don’t have near the outrage we do when a white cop kills somebody,” Barkley said then. “I’ve been black my whole life. Most black people I know killed are killed by other black people, and I’ve never understood why there’s not this moral outrage the way we treat each other as black people.”
The Race Card premieres in early 2017.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum