Last month, published audio tapes revealed Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling as chiding his girlfriend V. Stiviano for “associating” with minorities, publishing pictures taken with African-Americans on her Instagram account and potentially bringing them to games at the Staples Center. Days later, Sterling was banned for life by the NBA, which utilized a clause in its constitution that allows the league to force an owner to sell -- a clause Sterling had no problem approving several times over until he was caught on tape saying what he now says are “foolish” things for which he is now asking forgiveness for.
We think. Monday’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper did little to dismiss the image of Donald Sterling as someone the NBA needs to force out, sooner rather than later. In particular, his thoughts on former Lakers All-Star, coach, owner and current Los Angeles Dodgers owner Magic Johnson will reverberate the most. Johnson was the subject of Sterling’s initial frustrations at his girlfriend’s Instagram account: She was photographed posing with the Hall of Famer and dared documenting as such on social media. On Monday, Sterling seemed to have no problem ranting against Magic Johnson for his supposed lack of contributions to charities designed to aid minorities, even though Johnson has decades’ worth of highly regarded work in that realm.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement after the interview denouncing Sterling's latest comments about Johnson.
"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."
Clearly deluded, for whatever reason, Sterling at one point called out Cooper as “having more of a plantation mentality than I do” while calling the respected CNN reporter “more of a racist than” Sterling is. Seconds later, Sterling went on to point out he doesn’t “know what that means, ‘a plantation mentality,’” which is a weird thing to say about a phrase he just accused a man sitting feet away from him from having.
This is the sort of person we’re dealing with, here. And who the NBA is going to have its work cut out for as it attempts to remove him from its league.
The NBA has a right, inside a collectively bargained private constitution Sterling and his wife Shelly Sterling signed off on over and over again, to force the removal of an owner if the league feels the owner in question is hurting the league’s brand and ability to make money. NBA owners, to a man, are expected to vote unanimously to oust Sterling as is their right – this has nothing to do with tired “freedom of speech” arguments – never hesitating in dismissing Sterling’s recorded comments about excluding an entire race of people from his basketball arena.
This is what makes it odd when, in talking with Cooper, Sterling claimed “several” NBA owners have his back, and that “of course they support me.” Which either hints at a typical showing of Sterling-esque delusion, or some deep seated and unspoken racism within the NBA’s ownership ranks. In decades past, perhaps it would have been a mixture of both. In 2014? It’s hard to single out a current NBA owner and determine that, “of course,” they would support Donald Sterling in a fight that is distracting from one of the more enjoyable playoff seasons in NBA history.
Soon after projecting ownership support, Sterling claimed “the fans don’t hate me,” and that it was the media that was attempting to pushing him out, typically ignoring the Clippers fan base (as he has for decades) and the thousands upon thousands of NBA fans that took to the Internet, the airwaves and literally to the streets around the Staples Center begging for Sterling’s removal.
Sterling then went on to blame peer pressure for the Clippers deciding to, en masse, reverse their Clipper jerseys in the game directly following his leaked comments, claiming that “if one does it they all have to do it.” The Clippers owner then decided to say “I contend that they love me,” referring to his players that have disavowed him repeatedly in the days since,
In regards to the various dates that his friend was posing with on Instagram, Sterling blamed jealousy and again, weirdly, referred to “gorgeous black guys.”
Cooper went on to call out Sterling’s lawyer-esque assertions that he was merely responding to his ex-girlfriend using the same sort of language that she was, referring to African-Americans and minorities, when in fact it was Sterling on the TMZ tape that was going out of his way to call out V. Stiviano for “associating” with men of color, with no lead in.
“I can’t explain some of the stupid, foolish, uneducated words that I uttered.”
Neither can we, but the difference between most right-thinking sentient humans and Donald Sterling is that we don’t speak in lawyer-ese, as Sterling did during this interview. The current Clippers owner spoke in equal parts lawyer-ish statements and desperate, C-level celebrity pleas, at times almost begging to stay owner of the Clippers and, by extension, his own perverted status as the longtime Worst Owner in North American Sports.
As the session trudged on, and Sterling dug his hole deeper and deeper and embarrassed his few supporters further and further as they possibly rethought their initial defense of a clearly dottering and disturbed old man, the Clipper owner then launched into a bizarre diatribe against Magic Johnson.
Sterling, unsolicited, went on about how Johnson “acts so holy, [making] love to every girl in every city,” before pulling back to point out that he prayed for Magic when he announced his HIV diagnosis. Sterling then made a point to ask aloud if Johnson was “an example for children, because he has money he was able to treat himself,” which seems relevant to absolutely nothing in this instance. The Clippers owner then pulled back again immediately, pointing out Johnson “didn’t do anything to anybody,” and that Sterling “admires him and respects everything that he does.”
Which is clearly not the case.
The Clippers owner guessed that Johnson, who, according to Sterling, told Sterling not to comment on them because Magic wanted to buy the Clippers as a result of Sterling’s imminent NBA demise.
Then there was this lovely back and forth.
Sterling: “What has he done, can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?”
Cooper: “Well, he’s a businessperson …”
Sterling: “He’s got AIDS! Did he do any business; did he help anybody in South L.A.?”
Cooper: “I think he has HIV, he doesn’t actually have full blown AIDS …”
Sterling: “Well what kind of guy goes to every city and sleeps with every girl and gets AIDS, 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. But what does he do for the black community? Doesn’t do anything!”
Cooper: “He’s opened a lot of businesses in inner-city neighborhoods …”
Sterling: “I’m just telling you, he’s done nothing! It’s all talk!”
Cooper: “Are you telling me that African-Americans don’t contribute as much to their own communities as Jewish …”
Sterling: “There’s no African-American that … I’m sorry. They all want to play golf with me. Everybody wants to be with me.”
The Clippers owner revealed he did not apologize to Magic Johnson, once again calling him “a good person,” before launching into the thoughts about Johnson’s abilities as an example for “the children of Los Angeles.”
Sterling remarked on Johnson’s 1980s-era proclivities, pretty much par for the course for a huge swatch of professional athletes and millionaire entertainers at the time, complaining “that he would do what he did, and get AIDS,” forgetting for a second that Donald Sterling was a notorious womanizer who is on court record as having sex with a woman outside his marriage.
The Clippers owner, who has for years trumpeted building a homeless shelter with several Los Angeles Times ads, a shelter that never came to fruition, then offered this:
“I spend millions on giving away, and helping minorities. Does [Magic Johnson] do that? Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African-American – maybe I’ll get in trouble again – they don’t want to help anybody. What has Magic Johnson really done for children’s hospitals? Where kids are lying in the hallways? They’re sick. They need a bed. What has he done for any hospital? What has he done for any group? I don’t know. Maybe he’s done a lot.”
Johnson chose not to respond much on his Twitter account to Sterling's latest comments.
I'd rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling's interview.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 13, 2014
The current Los Angeles Clippers owner went on to say he doesn’t “care about business,” to which Cooper countered he could sell the team he purchased for around $13 million some three decades ago for potentially well over a billion dollars, and give “hundreds of millions of dollars” to various charities. “Maybe I will do that,” Sterling replied. Mind you, this is the Los Angeles Clippers owner who has vowed to fight the NBA’s legal and collectively bargained bylaws that Sterling himself signed off on several times over since joining the NBA.
And, it should be noted, that Magic Johnson’s various charities have donated millions upon millions to all manner of recipients over the years, with lower-income and minority recipients among the lot. Meanwhile, Donald Sterling takes ads out in newspapers triumphing the creation of “save the children” foundations that he doesn’t eventually end up putting the money in to create.
This is presuming Donald Sterling has any support outside of a vocal, crazed lot. But an interview like this once again lends credibility to the idea the more Sterling speaks on record, the less support he is going to have.
One also gets the feeling Donald Sterling will never realize this. Not in his lifetime.
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