Hall of Famer and former Sixers great Charles Barkley has apologized for making an ill-timed joke about domestic abuse directed at a political reporter Tuesday night in Atlanta.

During a discussion about his fondness for former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who entered the Democratic primary last week, Axios reporter Alexi McCammond said Barkley told her, “I don’t hit women, but if I did I would hit you.”

Writing about the incident on Twitter late Tuesday, McCammond said that when she objected to Barkley’s comments, he told her she “couldn’t take a joke.”

“My comment was inappropriate and unacceptable. It was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all. There’s no excuse for it and I apologize," Barkley said, through a Turner Sports spokesperson.

The context of Barkley’s comments remain unclear. McCammond wrote that the conversation was off-the-record, and said his remark came after Barkley praised Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind. She also shared a picture of Barkley in what appears to be a restaurant, but offered no further details about where the conversation took place.

McCammond, who through an Axios spokesperson declined to comment, responded to Barkley’s apology by calling his remarks “not acceptable.”

“Threats of violence are not a joke, & no person deserves to be hit or threatened like that,” McCammond wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “Silence only allows the culture of misogyny to fester. And those kinds of comments don’t merit off-the-record protections.”

This isn’t the first time Barkley has publicly joked about domestic abuse. In 1990, following a close win over the New Jersey Nets, Barkley joked to reporters, “This is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her."

As Philadelphia Inquirer writer Bob Ford wrote at the time, Barkley was advised by a reporter he might want to reconsider that particular quote. “Naw, print it. Piss off those women’s groups,” Barkley responded, ultimately apologizing for the comments.

Charles Barkley publicly joked about sexual assault in 1990.
Philadelphia Inquirer archives
Charles Barkley publicly joked about sexual assault in 1990.

Of course, controversial comments aren’t anything new for Barkley, whose Nike ad campaign was centered around him not being a role model.

“I am paid to wreak havoc on a basketball court,” Barkley said in a 1993 Nike commercial. "Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.

“It’s not about me or my feelings — tho I’m grateful for the many friends who have reached out,” McCammond wrote. “But it’s about refusing to allow this culture to perpetuate because of silence on these issues. It’s easier and less awkward to be silent, but that helps NO ONE but the perpetrator.”