Disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling launched into an extended tirade against Magic Johnson in an interview with CNN, saying that the Lakers legend should be "ashamed" of being HIV-positive and suggesting that he hasn't financially supported minority communities.
Making his first public statements in the 16 days since his initial racially-charged audio leaked, Sterling apologized for his comments in an interview on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360° and said that he was "asking for forgiveness."
But when the topic turned to Johnson, the 80-year-old Sterling launched into multiple, extended diatribes against one of the most popular NBA players of all time.
"What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done? He's got AIDS," Sterling told CNN. "Did he do any business? Did he help anybody in South LA?"
Sterling was just getting started.
"What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he goes and catches HIV," he said. "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. And what does he do for black people? He hasn't done anything.
"Here's a man I don't know if I should say this, he acts so holy. He made love with every girl in every city in America, and he had AIDS, and when he had those AIDS, I went to my synagogue and I prayed for him. I hoped he could live and be well. I didn't criticize him. I could have. Is he an example for children? You know, because he has money, he's able to treat himself. But Magic Johnson is irrelevant in this thing. He didn't do anything harmful to anybody and I respect him and I admire everything that he does. I'd like to help even more if he would offer me an opportunity to help. I like to help minorities."
"If I said anything wrong, I'm sorry. He's a good person. I mean, what am I going to say? Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don't think so. But I'll say it, he's great. But I don't think he's a good example for the children of Los Angeles."
Johnson tried to sidestep the attack on Monday night tweeting, "I'd rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling's interview." Johnson will formally respond to Sterling's comments on Cooper's show Tuesday night.
I'd rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling's interview.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 13, 2014
In response to Sterling's comments on Magic Johnson, NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement Monday night:
"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."
As Sterling and Cooper's discussion continued, the Clippers owner tried to draw a distinction between the Jewish community and the African-African community in how each community supports its own members.
"The Jewish people have a company and it's for people who want to borrow money for no interest," he said. "We want to give them a fishing pole. We want to help people. If they don't have money, we'll loan it to them. There is no African-American …. I'm sorry. they all want to play golf with me, everyone wants to be with me."
Sterling also said that Johnson leaked quotes from a conversation the two had had since the first tape was released by TMZ and said that Johnson "lulled" him into remaining quiet after the controversy first began.
"I'm hurt that he called me up and he said don't do anything," Sterling told CNN. "[He said], 'Wait until you hear from me.' Then someone called me later and said he doesn't want to be involved. And then he released the tape I sent to him. That I talked to him in confidence."
Sterling believed Johnson wanted him to wait because, "I think he wanted me to do nothing so he could buy the team. He thought the whole thing would be resolved in two weeks."
The CNN interview is the first since Sterling was caught on tape berating his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, for posting a photo of Johnson to her Instagram account while making a series of racist remarks
Johnson, 54, was one of the most beloved players in league history, capturing five titles, three MVP awards and three Finals MVP awards while making 12 All-Star Game appearances during his 13-year career. The motor behind the "Showtime" Lakers of the 1980s, Johnson is widely regarded as one of the greatest point guards of all time.
Since his final retirement in 1996, Johnson has served as Lakers coach, he held an ownership stake in the Lakers, he assembled a group that purchased the L.A. Dodgers, and he has served as a television commentator. In 1991, Johnson announced that he was HIV-positive, and he has spent years championing HIV and AIDS-related causes. Additionally, Johnson owns a chain of movie theaters, among other business ventures, and his net worth is reportedly hundreds of millions of dollars. His foundation has donated millions of dollars to various charitable causes.
Shortly after Sterling's first comments became public, Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from attending NBA games, practices, the Clippers’ facilities, and all personnel decisions. The NBA’s 10-member advisory/finance committee also voted unanimously to pursue Silver’s plan to oust Sterling and complete an ownership change. During his announcement of Sterling's punishment, Silver apologized to Johnson.
"I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and caused current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league," Silver said. "To them, and pioneers of the game like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, the great Bill Russell, and particularly Magic Johnson, I apologize."
In a statement issued prior to his lifetime ban, Sterling failed to acknowledge that it was his voice on the tape, but he did issue an indirect apology to Johnson.
"[Sterling] is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson," the statement read. "He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him– both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved."
Then, in comments that leaked out last week, Sterling allegedly admitted that "jealousy" fueled his initial comments about Johnson and other African-Americans.
"The girl is black. I like her. I’m jealous that she’s with other black guys. I want her," Sterling allegedly said, according to RadarOnline.com. "I never thought a private conversation would go anywhere out to the public. ... I didn’t want her to bring anybody to my game because I was jealous. I mean, I’m being honest."
Johnson, for his part, was furious when the tapes first became public, pledging never to attend a Clippers game until Sterling was removed as owner.
“TMZ reported this morning that Clippers owner Donald Sterling doesn’t want me or other African-Americans to come to Clippers games,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “[My wife] and I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner. I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African-Americans. … Sterling’s comments about African-Americans are a black eye for the NBA.”
Johnson also described meeting Sterling more than 30 years ago in an interview with CBSLA.com that was conducted shortly after the first tape leaked.
“I’m very disappointed, angry and upset. Let’s go back when I first got here in 1979. Dr. [Jerry] Buss took me to my first real party at Donald Sterling’s house in Malibu for his annual BBQ. Ever since then, since Dr. Buss introduced me to him at the time he bought the Clippers, we’ve been out, we’ve had lunch and even shared meals to talk about his team, so I thought we had a sort of a friendship, even though it may be a distant one.
“I respect him, I thought he respected me, but when these comments came out, it hurt. It didn’t hurt me as much personally as it hurt me for all African-Americans."
"If you come to me and say, ‘Hey look I'm a racist or I discriminate against blacks or I don't like you because you're African American, I respect that. I can respect you more by doing that, but don't smile in my face, shake my hand and then you don't really respect me or want me to be around or come to your games as the owner of the Clippers.”
As it became clear that Silver was intent on pushing out Sterling, Johnson's name was rumored as a possible buyer for the Clippers, and he called on Sterling to sell the team in multiple interviews.
"I would definitely take a look at [buying the Clippers] because I am a businessman," he said, according to the AFP. "But we here in Los Angeles, whether it's myself or somebody else, we just want an owner who will include everybody, who will understand diversity and not include all races of people."
Meanwhile, Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling's wife, has pledged to "fight" to keep the Clippers. Johnson said this week that the Clippers' players do not want to play for either one of the Sterling.
"Those guys are not going to play for anybody [with the name] Sterling," Johnson said, according to USA Today Sports. "It’s just how it is. It’s hard to separate the two. … It’s going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players."
Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association have made similar comments regarding Donald and Shelly Sterling.
The NBA has placed former Clippers president Andy Roeser on a leave of absence and appointed former Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons as the organization's new CEO.