NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson says Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has badly outdated views about minorities, and is shockingly ignorant about HIV and AIDS for such a prominent public figure.
“He’s living in the stone ages,” Johnson said in an interview that aired on Tuesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, a day after Sterling made his first public comments since racist recordings emerged last month and earned him a lifetime NBA ban.
“You can’t make those comments about African-Americans and Latinos. You just can’t do it,” Johnson said.
In Sterling’s interview with Cooper, Sterling repeatedly brought up the ex-NBA star’s HIV status and called him an unfit role model for children.
Johnson mostly avoided lashing back at criticism from Sterling, who at one point cut off Cooper’s listing of Johnson’s achievements to loudly say: “He’s got AIDS!”
Johnson, who is HIV positive, but does not have AIDS, said he was surprised Sterling did not make the distinction.
“Here’s a man who you would think would be educated, and a man who is smart enough to build this type of wealth and own a team and have an incredible platform to change the world,” Johnson said. “But he’s doing it in a negative way.”
Johnson is now a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and was once a part-owner of the Lakers after the playing career that was cut short by his contracting HIV in 1991.
“I came out like a man, I told the world,” Johnson said of his famous public press conference announcing his retirement. “I didn’t blame nobody else. I understood what I did was wrong. And I hope that I was able to help people.”
Johnson, who said he has known Sterling since he first came to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers more than 30 years ago, said he did not know how he got stuck in the middle of a situation that should have been a personal dispute between Sterling and V. Stiviano. Stiviano recorded Sterling making racist comments about a photograph of herself and Johnson on Instagram.
“He’s trying to find something to grab on to help him save his team and it’s not going to happen,” Johnson said.
Sterling’s comments won him a quick and stinging rebuke from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who said owners were working quickly to force Sterling out of the league.
On Tuesday his fellow owners in the league’s advisory/finance committee met via conference call, discussed the CNN interview and reviewed the status of the charge for termination of the Clippers’ ownership.
Silver or an owner has to formally charge Sterling in writing with violating Article 13 of the NBA’s constitution. A hearing would then be held and require a three-fourths vote of the board of governors to force Sterling to sell the team he has owned since 1981.
Sterling has claimed that his Clippers, who were in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night in their playoff series against the Thunder, still loved him and do not believe he is a racist.
Two of the team’s stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, were asked about Sterling’s comments prior to the game. The Los Angeles Times reported that both disputed Sterling’s characterization, but said they are focused on the team and not the owner.
“If you ask every single guy on this team, they’d say they love their family. They love their teammates,” Griffin said.
“That’s who we’re playing for. And that’s really the bottom line,” he added.
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