Donald Sterling in CNN exclusive: Clippers will play if I am still owner
(CNN) — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling says he thinks that if he is able to keep his team, he won’t have to worry about an NBA players boycott next season.
“That’s talk, the media pushes that,” he tells “Anderson Cooper 360” Wednesday night in the second part of an exclusive interview with the banned owner. “Why would they do that? If they get their salaries, they’re going to play.”
The idea of a league-wide boycott gained traction for a few hours Wednesday when the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, Roger Mason Jr., told a Showtime cable network show that LeBron James might lead a walkout if Donald Sterling is still the controlling owner of the franchise when the new season begins in the fall.
But another member of the organization and James’ teammate in Miami, James Jones, told the New York Daily News that the boycott talk is old news and was discussed before Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the league for life and fined him $2.5 million.
Sterling, an 80-year old lawyer and billionaire real estate investor, tells Cooper that people have the wrong impression of him.
“What am I, a Frankenstein? What am I, some kind of an ogre?” he asked. “I’m a good person, I’m a warm person. I say hello to everybody who comes to the team.”
Sterling, who told Cooper in Monday’s portion of the interview that he is still loved by the players and fans, wonders why people turned on him so quickly.
“One day, they all love you, and the next day, you make a mistake and say something, and suddenly they hate you — is that the way it is? ” he says in part two on Wednesday. “What if a player said, ‘I don’t like working for that Jew.’ What would we do?
“I wouldn’t do anything. I would ask him, ‘Why? Why?’ I want to make you happy. If you want more money, more attention, more love?”
The NBA is in the process of forcing Sterling’s family trust to sell the team, but an advisory committee is still discussing the matter and no vote has been taken.
Sterling’s explosive CNN interview, the first part of which aired Monday night, was the first time he had spoken publicly since audio recordings surfaced last month of him making racist remarks. Reaction to the recorded remarks came fast and furiously.
Magic Johnson, who became an involuntary figure in the controversy after Sterling named him in the leaked recording and trashed him in Monday’s interview, responded on Tuesday. The basketball Hall of Famer and five-time NBA champion told Cooper that Sterling’s anger was misplaced.
“What’s really sad is, it’s not about me,” Johnson said. “This is about the woman you love outing you and taping you and putting your conversation out here for everybody to know. … This is between you two, but then he wants to include me.”
Johnson said he doesn’t think Sterling understands what a big mistake the Clippers owner’s racist comments were or the number of people who were offended by the first remarks — and by Sterling’s second set of statements slamming Johnson again.
“What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about?” Sterling asked Cooper in Monday’s interview. “I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”
In response, Johnson defended his charitable work and business investments, saying Sterling should have done his homework before making the comments.
“My whole life is devoted to urban America. So, you know I just wish he knew the facts when he’s talking,” Johnson told Cooper. “But he’s a man who’s upset and he’s reaching. 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.”
Johnson said Sterling disrespected the work he’s done, like helping coffee shops, gyms and theaters open in urban areas. “That really makes me upset. And then my competitive spirit comes out, because I’ve done all this great work. All the kids we’ve sent to college, and I’ve got 150 kids on scholarship right now.”
He also responded to Sterling’s HIV remarks, saying he never tried to hide the diagnosis when he retired from the NBA in 1991.
“I came out like a man, you know, I told the world. I didn’t blame nobody else. I understood that what I did was wrong,” Johnson said. “OK, so I announced that to the world, and I hoped that I was able to help people in doing that, and I think I did.”
Johnson says Sterling’s comments about HIV show there’s still a stigma that needs to be fought.
“I hope this doesn’t set us back,” Johnson said. “The stigma is still there. We know that. We’ve been fighting it for years, and what we want to continue to do is just educate the world that it’s OK, that you can high-five a person who has HIV. It’s OK. … It’s a shame that Donald used this platform with you, instead of using this platform to come out and apologize to the world, which would have been great.”
Johnson also told Cooper that he has yet to receive an apology from Sterling, who called him and asked him to appear by his side in an interview with Barbara Walters that never took place.
Johnson and the woman at the center of the scandal — V. Stiviano — have met briefly only once, the NBA legend said, taking a picture at a Los Angeles Dodgers game. Johnson is a part-owner of the baseball team.
“I don’t know the young lady. I barely know Donald, so now I am caught in the middle of this love affair or whatever they had,” Johnson said.
By Steve Almasy
CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.