Magic Johnson: Sterling Wanted Me to Sit With Him for Interview

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 10:01 PM

By Greg Richter

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Magic Johnson says he will pray for embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in the wake of Sterling's blaming the former NBA superstar for his recent troubles.

Sterling told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an interview aired Monday that Johnson told him not to respond publicly after an audio recording was released of him making racially offensive statements, and said he thinks Johnson wanted Sterling to get into trouble so he could buy the team.

Sterling also derided Johnson for being sexually promiscuous and contracting HIV, and said Johnson has done nothing to help minorities with his wealth.

"My whole life is devoted to urban America," Johnson told Cooper on Tuesday. "So, you know, I just wish he knew the facts when he's talking."

Story continues below video.



Johnson said Sterling is "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."

Sterling had told Cooper that he still thinks he can maintain ownership of the Clippers even though NBA Commissioner Adam Silver urged the other 29 team owners to force him to sell.

Johnson denied the claim by Sterling that he tried to trick him into staying silent so Johnson could buy the Clippers. It was actually Sterling who made the call, Johnson said, and Sterling wanted him to sit with him for an interview with Barbara Walters.

Johnson said he refused and told Sterling he should first apologize to the public and to Johnson himself for dragging him into a situation he had nothing to do with.

Sterling said he would do that later, but pressed him to sit for the Walters interview, Johnson said. Johnson said he told Sterling to talk to his advisers and make things right.

"He was adamant about me going on this show with him," he said.

Sterling ended up canceling the Walters interview, instead taping the interview with Cooper on Sunday.

Johnson's name came up in the racially offensive recordings because Sterling's female friend V. Stiviano, almost 50 years his junior, posted a picture on Instagram of herself and another woman posing with Johnson at what appeared to be a Los Angeles Dodgers game. Johnson is part-owner of the baseball team.

Sterling said he was jealous of Stiviano's being seen with other men, and that's why he told her not to bring Johnson or other black people to Clippers games. But Johnson told Cooper he had never met Stiviano except to pose for a picture, something he does several times a day with fans.

"I don't know the young lady, barely know Donald," Johnson said. "And now I'm caught in the middle of this love affair, whatever they have."

Johnson said Sterling's problem is with Stiviano, and he needs to talk to her, not about Johnson.

He also said he was fine with not going to Clippers games if that had been the totality of Sterling's comments, but that once Sterling began making racist comments about African-Americans, "I had to speak up."

"I'm one of the leaders in the black community, so I can't let anybody attack our people and not respond," he said.

That said, Johnson said he forgives Sterling.

"I'm going to pray for the man because even if I see him today, I'm going to say hello to Donald and his wife as well. I'm not a guy who holds grudges and all that."

Though Johnson said he was aware of past charges of racism against Sterling, he was "blown away" when he first heard the recording, and "I couldn't believe that he had said those things."

Johnson also addressed the comments Sterling made about his contracting HIV from sleeping with many women, then acting "holy" today.

"I didn't blame nobody else. I understood what I did was wrong," Johnson said. "And I hope that I was able to help people in doing that."

Johnson said he has hugged people who were dying of AIDS, urged HIV-positive people to stay on their medications, and counseled young people who have just contracted HIV.

"I lean on my faith, but I don't walk around like I'm better than anybody. That's why I'm basically forgiving him," Johnson said.

Though Johnson denied Sterling's claims that he tried to trick him so he could buy the team, Johnson did say he would consider a purchase, with his investment team, if the Clippers come up for sale as expected.

But the team he'd really want to own is the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom he played for more than 10 years.

As to Sterling's allegations, he said, "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.... It won't be the L.A. Clippers."

Sterling, 80, can't win in his fight to keep the team, Johnson said, so he should just sell it for the $1 billion it is estimated to be worth.

"If I was him, I'd just benefit from the fruits of my labor, and just take the money, go and enjoy your life," he said.

Cooper suggested he could give some of the money to inner-city groups, but Johnson said he doubts they would accept it.

"I just feel sorry for him," he said.

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