Tony Snell

Charles Barkley Advocates For Tony Snell As NBA Contract Deadline Passes, Leaving Retirement Benefits Uncertain

Snell’s situation has reignited the conversation around the American healthcare system, which in many cases is only accessible through an employer-offered healthcare package.

Tony Snell still needs to sign with an NBA team to accrue a tenth year of service in the National Basketball Association, which would entitle him to a better healthcare plan that would allow him to add his family instead of his current plan, which allows for only himself. According to Yahoo Sports, the language in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is specific, as it dictates that a player either must be signed to a team by Feb. 2 or have played in 50% of a team’s games in order to qualify for a tenth season of service. 

Snell’s situation has reignited the conversation around the American healthcare system, which in many cases is only accessible through an employer-offered healthcare package. In this case, the employer is the NBA, and though Snell has made millions of dollars in the NBA, his family is ineligible for the premium healthcare benefits of the league.

This prompted a response from Charles Barkley, the NBA on TNT co-host who has famously refused to appear in the NBA 2K video game series over their refusal to invest in a fund for retired NBA players.

Barkley called on teams in the NBA to step up to help Snell, saying: “The NBA’s been great to all of us sitting up here. And you guys are gonna be playing basketball forever making a gazillion dollars. I hope one of you guys signs Tony so his two autistic kids can get great medical care…I hope a team signs him for the rest of the season, because I don’t know a lot about autism, I ain’t gonna say that. But man, I know it’s gotta be expensive to have two young kids with that situation. I’m hoping the NBA, we always talk about what a family we are, let’s sign that kid for the rest of the season.”

Snell, who has two young children on the autism spectrum, shared in an interview on The Today Show in June 2023 that he had been recently diagnosed as also being on the spectrum, and told host Craig Melvin that the diagnosis made so much of his childhood and adult life make more sense. He and his wife also discussed what led himself and his wife, Ashley, to have Karter, to be tested. Ashley said, “By 18 months, he still wasn’t talking [and] he was doing a lot of stimming movements…[Ashley motions with her hands in front of her face] He always has to have like six or seven toys in his hands, usually one is always a basketball.”

Snell continued, “I’m like, if [Karter] is diagnosed, then I think I am too. … That gave me the courage to go get checked up.” That initial inkling led to a diagnosis, which didn’t surprise Snell. “I was not surprised because I always felt different. … It was just relief, like, oh, this why I am the way I am. It just made my whole life, everything about my life, make so much sense. It was like a clarity, like putting some 3D glasses on.”

According to The Athletic, several teams have roster spots and could sign Snell to a standard contract, which would give Snell an opportunity to qualify for the premium family health plan offered under the NBA’s CBA. However, four of those teams are currently over the luxury tax, which increases how much they would actually pay for Snell’s contract.

The Lakers, Warriors, Celtics, and Heat are all at various percent increases of the luxury tax, which decreases the likelihood they would attempt to sign Snell. The remaining teams are the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trailblazers, and Washington Wizards. Snell last played for the Pelicans in 2022. However, the trade deadline coming up so soon, on Feb. 8, complicates matters from a salary cap standpoint. Teams could have signed Snell and perhaps still had room on their rosters to complete last-minute trades to finish their rosters for the second half of the season. As it stands, Snell is still hoping for a team to pick him up and says he’d happily accept an end of bench role, he just wants a contract. 

RELATED CONTENT: Tony Snell’s Urgency: Signing With NBA Team Crucial For Benefits Supporting Sons With Autism