12/28/2012 06:41 pm ET Updated Feb 20, 2013

Charles Barkley Slavery Joke: Former NBA Great Goes There On TNT's 'Inside The NBA' (VIDEO)

Charles Barkley has never been a stranger to controversy, and Thursday night was no exception. During TNT's NBA halftime show, "Inside the NBA," the former basketball legend cracked a joke that caused many to take notice due to its reference to slavery.

When co-host Kenny Smith asked him to name his favorite president, Barkley gave an interesting, if not slightly awkward, answer.

"I love President Obama, but Abe Lincoln is my new favorite president," Barkley said. "You know why? Because if it weren't for him, we'd be calling Ernie 'boss.'"

Barkley was referring to co-host Ernie Johnson, the only white anchor on the panel, which also includes Smith and Shaquille O'Neal. The joke elicited laughter from both Smith and Shaq, while Johnson tried to change the subject, only to have the Big Aristotle revert back to calling him "boss."

While some on Twitter found the joke amusing, others thought it to be in poor taste:

The joke brings up the question of whether sports shows are an appropriate venue to discuss sensitive and complicated issues such as race in the first place.

The question was posed by HuffPost blogger B.J. Garrison last week in a post responding to the Rob Parker-RGIII controversy.

"Why is a discussion of racial identity necessary on a sports talk show?" Garrison asked. "What does any of this have to do with ... football?"

However, in reference to Barkely's remarks, SportsGrid's Glenn Davis notes that "not everyone could have pulled off such a joke."

"Yeah, most shows wouldn’t dare go there at all: but this [one's] willingness to do just that is what’s always separated [the show] from its peers," he wrote.

Business Insider's Cork Gaines seems to agree.

"The reason why the show is so good is because they are not afraid to push the limits of what should or should not be said on television. And because of that, you are often left wondering if they just went too far," he wrote.

Do you think Barkley's joke was funny or offensive? Let us know in the comments.

(h/t Deadspin)



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