This past Sunday, we saw President Obama teleconference with former NBA greats Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley for the NBC special show “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” produced by ATTN: and presented by Walgreens. Along with a number of other celebrities, the men came together to discuss the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination and dispel some of the myths surrounding the virus. Viewers had a front-row seat to watch Obama take some shots of his own on live television – but at the expense of Sir Charles and his weight, that is.
Barkley appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last month and mentioned losing some pounds in advance of his daughter Christiana’s pending marriage to entrepreneur Ilya Hoffman, who is Jewish. To prep for his turn at the hora (the traditional Jewish wedding dance), Barkley told Kimmel, “Listen, I need all Jewish people on deck, brother. Because I can only get so skinny by [the wedding], man. It’s like I’m a soldier, all hands on deck.” Also, one of the underlying conditions that increases the risks of falling very ill from the coronavirus is being excessively overweight, something with which Barkley has struggled his whole life.
So Obama made sure to congratulate “The Round Mound of Rebound” on his daughter’s nuptials. But then Obama added, “You also felt like you need to get in shape because [with] the hora… when you’re lifting the chair, nobody could do that at your current weight!” OOF!
But with his always light-hearted nature, Sir Charles took the ribbing in stride. “I survived the Hora!,” he informed Obama. “No one got hurt — it was the best day of my life!”
The discussion among Barkley, Obama, and Shaq was not all jokes, though. The former president referenced how certain historical events are continuing to serve as the basis for hesitancy towards vaccination in some of the Black community. “The irony is when you know about the Tuskegee experiment,” Obama said, “what’s going on there is the government withheld treatment that was available for Black men for Syphilis. They didn’t give them medicine they needed.”
He also noted that “[a] lot of the underlying conditions, things like diabetes, folks who have preexisting conditions… there is more of that in communities of color than there is generally, which means we’re more vulnerable.”