"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
told CNN on Tuesday, a day after Sterling accused him of being a
poor role model for children and of doing little to help the black
Sterling's comments about Johnson, one of the most revered figures
in U.S. sports, left many scratching their heads. NBA Commissioner
Adam Silver issued a statement apologizing to Johnson for being
"degraded by such a malicious and personal attack."
Sterling's CNN interview on Monday marked his first public comment
since coming under fire nearly three weeks ago, when TMZ.com posted
an audio recording of him berating a female friend for publicly
associating with black people, including Magic Johnson.
The resulting furor led Silver days later to declare Sterling banned
for life from the National Basketball Association, and to call on
the 29 other team owners who make up the NBA Board of Governors to
strip Sterling of team ownership.
Such an unprecedented move requires a three-fourths' vote of the
board. It remains to be seen whether Silver will muster the votes he
needs, and whether Sterling will give up the team he has owned for
33 years without fighting back in court.
In his CNN interview that aired on Monday, Sterling, 80, apologized
for racist comments that he claimed he was "baited" into making by
the 31-year-old woman who recorded the conversation, who uses the
name V. Stiviano.
He also further stoked outrage by lashing out at Johnson, the
charismatic former Los Angeles Lakers point guard who stunned the
sports world in 1991 when he announced he had contracted HIV and was
retiring at the peak of his NBA career.
"What kind of a guy goes to every city, he has sex with every girl,
then he catches HIV and - is that someone we want to respect and
tell our kids about?" Sterling told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I think
he should be ashamed of himself."
Going on to compare Johnson unfavorably to his own charitable work,
Sterling added, "what does he do for the black people? (He) Doesn't
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Johnson, who has acknowledged that he was infected through
promiscuous unprotected sex, became a leading advocate for HIV and
AIDS prevention and launched a foundation that has raised millions
of dollars for AIDS-related care and education.
He also has been widely praised for teaming up with business
investors to help bring development to under-served minority
communities in urban areas of Los Angeles and elsewhere blighted by
decades of economic decay.
"My whole life is devoted to urban America, so, you know, I just
wish he knew the facts when he's talking," Johnson said. "I just
feel sorry for him. I really do. It is sad."
The former NBA star also disputed Sterling's claim that Johnson
called him after the audio tape surfaced and urged Sterling to keep
quiet in a ploy to wrest away the Clippers.
"I never deceived anybody. I never tricked anybody. And I would
never do that to gain wealth for myself or popularity for myself,"
He said it was Sterling who called him after the recording emerged
to ask Johnson to go on television with him. Johnson said he
Asked about Sterling's claim that he is still beloved by the players
on his team despite the controversy, Johnson replied: "Now he is
(Editing by Paul Tait)
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