Charles Barkley says there are no winners in the Jussie Smollett saga -- only losers -- and he feels TURRIBLE for the "real" victims of hate crimes whose stories will now be called into question.
"It's a really bad situation for everybody involved," Barkley told us in NYC ... "There's no winners. We're all losers."
Barkley has been ripping Smollett's tale about being attacked by homophobic racists for weeks -- even clowning the "Empire" actor as a liar on "Inside the NBA."
So, now that the 16 felony charges Smollett was facing for allegedly lying to police have been dropped -- we wondered if Barkley would back off Jussie.
Spoiler Alert: NO.
We asked Chuck if he thinks Jussie skated -- he replied, "That's an understatement."
Should Jussie have gone to jail?
"I don't think he shoulda went to jail, but it's unfortunate."
And, that's when Barkley told us about the "real victims" in the Smollett saga.
"Anybody who's gay who gets beat up, they're the real losers ... or black [people] who get beat up, they're the real losers."
As for Jussie, he maintains his innocence.
Police are furious -- claiming prosecutors went behind their backs and gave Smollett an unjust way out by allowing him to walk free in exchange for $10,000 and a few hours of community service.