Donald Sterling, in his CNN interview, went hard at Magic Johnson:
“He acts so holy. He made love to every girl in every city in America and he had AIDS. And when he had those AIDS I went to my synagogue and prayed for him. I hope he could live and be well. I didn’t criticize him. I could have. Is he an example for children? Because he has money he is able to treat himself…. He is irrelevant in this thing….
“He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business? Did he help anybody in South LA?… What kind of a guy goes to every city and has sex with every girl and he catches it, HIV, is that somebody 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. What does he do for the black people? The Jewish people have a company, it’s for people who want to borrow money at no interest. We want to give them a fishing pole. We want to help people. You don’t have any money, we’ll loan it to you, without any interest. One day you’ll pay us back. I’m just telling you he does nothing, he’s all talk.”
Sterling said Magic called him up when the tape was first made public and told him to do nothing.
“I think he wanted me to just do nothing so he could buy the team. He thought maybe the whole thing would be resolved in two weeks. What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?
NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a statement:
“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.”
This whole thing wasn’t about Magic Johnson as much as people tried to make it so. In the initial audio, Johnson was just a name who happened to be mentioned, not an actual victim.
Now – especially if Johnson called Sterling in attempt to sabotage Sterling so Johnson could buy the Clippers (a charge that, given the source, is not necessarily believable) – it might be a little about Johnson. By going on national television and smearing Johnson, Sterling definitely brought Johnson into the forefront of the situation.
In no way were Sterling’s criticisms appropriate – especially because he said, accurately at that point, Johnson “is irrelevant in this thing.” Why so much of the interview featured Sterling’s thoughts on Johnson – besides the part about Johnson angling to buy the team – is beyond me.
Sterling is not the first NBA owner to say something negative about a former NBA player, though this might be the most extreme case. I’m not sure this – as venomous and hateful as it was – warranted an apology on behalf of the NBA.
Sterling has seriously harmed a lot of people and ruined lives through housing discrimination. We should focus on them – Sterling’s potential ouster is a means toward that end – and not get distracted by an old man saying ridiculous things about Magic Johnson.
If Silver is apologizing to the people Sterling has wronged, include Johnson, sure. But if that’s the goal, Johnson shouldn’t comprise the entire list of the aggrieved.
Dan Feldman, NBC's Pro Basketball Talk