Magic Johnson responds to Donald Sterling comments in CNN interview

Tasos Katopodis

Johnson spoke on a range of topics, ranging from calling Sterling "delusional" to saying the team he'd really like to own is the Lakers.

Magic Johnson joined Anderson Cooper for a taped CNN interview Tuesday night to respond to comments directed at him by suspended Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The conversation touched upon Sterling's racism and his personal attacks on Johnson in both a leaked phone conversation and an interview on Cooper's show. Johnson then denied any notion that the league might accept Sterling back and confirmed his own potential interest in buying the Clippers from Sterling while adding that he'd rather own the Lakers.

Johnson first responded to the contents of the leaked phone conversation in which Sterling made racist comments and demanded that girlfriend V. Stiviano not appear publicly with him. Johnson expressed bafflement that his name had been dragged into the couple's argument simply because he'd taken a photo with Stiviano, who he doesn't even really know.

Sterling apparently called Johnson after the tape leaked, first insisting that he conduct an interview with Barbara Walters, then pestering him to the point that Johnson asked Sterling to stop calling him and his people until he'd apologized.

Johnson went on to discuss Sterling's bizarre comments questioning Johnson's role as "someone we want to respect and tell our kids about" because he is HIV positive and "doesn't do anything" "for the black people." Johnson, along with Cooper, defended his reputation as an advocate for people with HIV and AIDS and as a philanthropist. "I've continued to do good work in urban America, and I will always do that."

On Sterling's reputation

Johnson went on to question Sterling's insistence that he isn't a racist:

"He wants us to play for him, but he doesn't want us in the stands. He wants us to help him win a championship, but he doesn't want us in the stands. Same thing happened with his housing. He wanted to discriminate against Latinos and African-Americans."

And he shot down Sterling's assertion that players and fans still love him and want him to own the Clippers:

"He is delusional."

"He can't buy his way out of this one. He's bought his way out of all the other situations. He can't do it this time."

"Donald Sterling is not welcome back in the NBA. The owners, the players, the former players, and the fans don't want to see Donald Sterling as the owner anymore."

"He's in another world if he thinks that everybody wants to see him back owning the Clippers."

On Johnson himself buying the Clippers

Since Sterling was pushed aside, many have wondered if Johnson, who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers (contrary to Sterling's suggestion that he "works for the Dodgers," which Johnson found amusing) would consider purchasing the Clippers. Johnson acknowledged this as a real possibility, but one for the future. "We have to wait. That's going to be eight months to a year. We'll see if it ever hits the market."

"If it comes out and it's for sale and my group of partners and I say 'Okay we're going to take a look at it, we're going to buy it,' of course we'll make a run."

Johnson would rather own the Lakers

Johnson went on, though, to note that he has had offers to own stakes in several NBA teams, and if it were entirely up to him, he'd be much more interested in the other L.A. franchise, the one he made his home for his entire playing career:

On that note, Johnson laughed at the idea that any part of his brief encounter with Stiviano was somehow a ploy to wrest the Clippers from Sterling. "If I was going to trick somebody, deceive somebody, be dishonest to somebody, steal somebody's franchise, it's going to be the Los Angeles Lakers!"

With all that out of the way, Johnson expressed hope that he could put aside his forced role in this controversy, announcing he'll do "one more interview and that's it."

"I'm tired of talking about Donald."

For longer quotes from Johnson's interview with Cooper, head to Sports Illustrated.


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