Magic Johnson responds to Sterling

ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Magic Johnson on Tuesday responded to Donald Sterling's comments slamming the Hall of Famer, telling CNN and TMZ that the whole situation is "sad" and that the banned Los Angeles Clippers owner is directing his anger at the wrong person.

"We've got to pray for the man," Johnson told TMZ on Tuesday.

In an interview that aired Monday on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Sterling went from apologizing for his recent racist remarks to attacking Johnson, repeatedly bringing up the ex-NBA star's HIV status and calling him an unfit role model for children. "He's got AIDS!'' Sterling said loudly at one point in the interview.

"It's very disturbing. I think when you come on, No. 1 you should have your facts straight," Johnson told TMZ in a telephone interview. "I don't have AIDS; I have HIV. I've been living with HIV for 22 years. That's his opinion if he thinks I'm not a role model. I know the things that I've done in urban America and for people."

Johnson also was interviewed by "Anderson Cooper 360," with the conversation airing Tuesday night. In that interview, Johnson called Sterling "a man who's upset and he's reaching."

"He's trying to find something that he can grab on to help him save his team. And it's not going to happen. It's not going to happen," Johnson told CNN in a soundbite from the show released by the network. "The board of governors now have to do their job. Adam Silver, our commissioner of the NBA, did a wonderful job of banning him for life. Now the board of governors have got to do their job."

On Tuesday the NBA issued a statement saying its advisory/finance committee has discussed the "recent media appearances by Donald Sterling and [wife] Shelly Sterling" and will reconvene next week.

"All I know is Donald Sterling is not welcome back in the NBA," Johnson told Anderson Cooper.

Johnson went so far as to call Sterling "delusional" for thinking the Clippers or any of the league's other players love him.

He also said during his CNN interview that "the players, the fans, the sponsors would never go for" another Sterling taking control of the team but said that decision is up to the board of governors.

"I just hope the board of governors does what it's supposed to," Johnson said.

When asked whether he would be interested in owning the Clippers, Johnson conceded that he and his partners with whom he co-owns the Los Angeles Dodgers would consider it, but he also said the team he would much rather own is the Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson also responded to Sterling's Monday remarks questioning the Hall of Famer's efforts to help the black community.

Johnson told TMZ he has sent more than 10,000 minorities to college and through his Magic Johnson Foundation has invested more than a billion dollars in urban America and has put more than 50,000 minorities into jobs. He said he has given inner-city kids access to computers to do their homework via the 18 technology centers his foundation is responsible for and he has overseen food and toy drives and job fairs.

"I'm proud of my work and I'm excited about what I do," he said.

"It's disturbing. It is sad. He didn't do his homework," Johnson added when speaking to Cooper.

Sterling said in the interview with CNN that he has talked to Johnson twice since the firestorm began and apologized for his racist comments on the leaked audio recording that prompted outrage throughout the NBA and the nation when it was released, leading to his lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine from the league. 

Johnson, however, said Sterling still hasn't apologized to him for his comments. He also said Sterling wanted Johnson to appear with him in an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters but Johnson refused.

"Donald Sterling reached out to me; I took the call. I'm the one, when he wanted me to go on Barbara Walters with him and try to save him and his reputation, I told him I would not go on the show with him and I told him, 'You should seek the advice of your attorney and try to make this thing go away,'" Johnson told TMZ. "'Whether that's making a deal with [girlfriend V. Stiviano] or whatever the case may be. And, No. 1, you've got to apologize not only to me but all minorities out there because you haven't apologized yet.' He said, 'Oh, I'm gonna get to that. I'm gonna get to that.'

"Not once, even today, has he ever apologized to me or the other minorities he offended."

"When he called me, he should've said, 'Magic, I'm sorry,'" Johnson told Cooper.

Stiviano had posted a photo of her and Johnson on her Instagram account. In the audio recording, Sterling told her to remove the photo, then made his racist remarks.

"I don't know that young lady. I took a picture and all of a sudden I'm in the middle of this mess," Johnson told TMZ. "But at the same time, I will not let you attack me without responding. And so that's what I've done in this situation. I responded. I responded for myself: You don't want me to come to your games? Then I won't come. You don't want blacks to come? Then I'm going to fight for those people.

"I'm a proud black man. I'm one of the leaders in the black community and I take that role seriously. I don't have any ill feelings anymore to Donald. I think we all should try to get him some help. I think it's a shame."

Johnson went on to say Sterling is misdirecting his anger in the situation. Johnson also said he believes Sterling's strategy is to attack him and try to pit the black and Jewish communities against each other, "but it's not going to work."

"He should point that anger at the young lady that he's in love with that put this out," Johnson said. "I had nothing to do with this. You put me in it, Donald, by saying those terrible things about me."

"I'm tired of talking about Donald, it's a shame, I wish I would had did something to deserve this," Johnson told CNN. "[I take] a photo with a young lady and I have to answer all these questions."

Related Video