Donald Sterling’s attempt to rehabilitate his image during an exclusive CNN interview on Monday took a venomous turn when the disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner slammed basketball legend Magic Johnson, who was mentioned in Sterling’s recorded racist rant that led to his expulsion from the NBA.
Sterling blamed Johnson for delaying his apology and questioned the former NBA star’s contributions to the Black community and status as a role model.
“Here is a man who -I don’t know if I should say this–he acts so holy,” Sterling said. “I mean, he made love to every girl in every city and he has AIDS. And when he had those AIDS, I went to my synagogue and I prayed for him. I hoped he would be well.”
Viewers were taken aback by Sterling’s comments during his opportunity to explain himself and gain support. Rather, he seemed to only add to the discord.
“What has he done, can you tell me?” Sterling asked CNN interviewer Anderson Cooper. “Big Magic Johnson, what has he done? He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business? Did he help anybody in South LA.?”
Cooper interjected: “Well, I think he has HIV. He doesn’t actually have full-blown AIDS, but…”
“Well, what kind of a guy goes to every city, he has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV and — is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background,” Sterling continued. “But what does he do for the Black people? Doesn’t do anything.”
Cooper was quick to point out that Johnson has opened a number of businesses and charitable organizations around Los Angeles.
Sterling also accused Johnson of scheming to buy the Clippers by advising him to stay quiet as Sterling’s racist recordings made the rounds across the media. He said they spoke twice after TMZ released audio recordings of Sterling imploring his girlfriend to not post pictures on social media of herself with Black people and to not bring Black people to Clippers games.
“He lulled me into waiting a week, do you know what I mean? He says, ‘Don’t do anything.’” Sterling said. “‘Don’t do anything. I know the girl. Don’t do anything. I will help you.’ I’m waiting and I’m waiting and I’m waiting.
“I think he wanted me just to do nothing, so he could buy the team,” Sterling added.
Sterling insisted that he doesn’t believe he’s hated in the NBA, and even accused Cooper of being more racist than he is. When Cooper questioned Sterling about basketball great Elgin Baylor’s claims that Sterling had a “plantation mentality” when he ran the Clippers, Sterling deflected.
“I’m not a racist,” Sterling said. “I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I’m here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I have hurt. And I have hurt so many people, so many innocent people.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was not happy with Sterling’s latest comments. Silver issued a statement that read: “I just read a transcript of Donald Sterling’s interview with Anderson Cooper and while Magic Johnson doesn’t need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologize to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack. The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was equally miffed. “Obviously I know who Magic is,” Rivers said. “I’ll stand by Magic every day of the year because I’ve known him for a long time. Having said that, I don’t know what’s going on out there. I tried not to get involved in that part of it right now. Whatever it is, that doesn’t sound like much of an apology to me.”
Johnson would not address Sterling, preferring to focus of the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Dodgers, which he is a minority owner, and the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.
Johnson will, however, be a guest on CNN Tuesday.