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NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley picks a fight with DC: 'They are lying to real people'

Eric Chemi

On the eve of the college basketball spectacle known as March Madness, CNBC sat down with announcer Charles Barkley and discussed the NCAA, politics and everything in between.

True to form, the basketball Hall of Famer didn't mince his words.

Barkley, who will be part of the broadcast team airing on CBS (CBS) and Turner (TWX), had a good reason for how March Madness can really make a difference in everyday life.

"I love sports because it takes me away from reality and I tell people, no matter how bad your life is, if you are having problems at home, you are having problems at work, that's the beauty of sports."

When applying that principle to the current environment, the NBA great was his usual outspoken self: "If it wasn't for sports we would have to isolate ourselves in just reality and right now reality sucks."

In the interview Tuesday, Barkley spoke of the political situation in Washington and the aftermath of President Donald Trump's election. He also didn't spare either side of the aisle. Currently, both major parties are sparring over just about everything, including health-care reform and Russia's accused meddling in the U.S. elections.

"What bothers me the most are the Republicans and the Democrats, they act like little kids," Barkley said. "They are lying to real people out here trying to get through life. ... It's both parties: They disagree on every single issue and it [angers] me ... because their job is to work for us."

He took offense at their usual approach of showing up "on TV yelling and screaming they are fighting each other" rather than what he expects from them. "They are supposed to take care of people and they are not doing that."

Barkley didn't stop there. He denounced Trump's proposed travel ban as "stupid" and "ridiculous" and lashed out at the way the U.S. is treating immigrants. After suffering several decisive legal rebukes last month, Trump's revised plan restricts travel from six majority-Muslim countries linked to terrorism and imposes new levels of vetting on refugees.

That is "probably bugging me the most right now," Barkley said, especially the treatment against people "who have been here many years."

He also railed against the nation's divide between rich and poor. "My perspective is never gonna change on that. ... We've got to do a much better job to take care of poor people, because you cannot put all the poor people in bad neighborhoods send them to bad schools and say good luck in life. That's just not right."

Barkley, 54, has undertaken his own efforts to make it better, discussed donations he's made to three schools: Morehouse, Clark Atlanta University, and Alabama A&M. "I wanted to help historically black colleges," said Barkley, who is from Alabama.

Asked whether he would run for office himself, he said no. His reason was characteristically blunt: "Because I don't have time to go to work and argue with fools every day," said the former member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets.