Los Angeles leaders lashed out Monday night at Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his comments in a nationally televised interview in which he criticized Earvin "Magic" Johnson for contracting HIV and said he was "baited" into making racist remarks that prompted his lifetime ban from professional basketball.
"What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then ... catches HIV?" Sterling said of Johnson during an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. "Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself."
Monday's interview was the first time Sterling had spoken publicly since a tape was released two weeks ago that captured him telling a female friend not to appear publicly with black people, including Johnson. Afterward, Johnson, a former Lakers superstar and L.A. business and civic leader, spoke out against Sterling’s continued ownership of the Clippers. During Monday’s interview, Sterling apologized for the remarks he made on the tape. In addition to a lifetime ban, Sterling faces a $2.5-million fine from the NBA and could be forced to sell the team.
The CNN interview provided "even more convincing" evidence that Sterling should no longer own the Clippers, said John Mack, the former president of the Los Angeles Urban League and former head of the L.A. Police Commission.
"Donald Sterling should have kept his mouth shut," Mack said. "He’s digging a deeper hole, and reaffirming his racism and his paternalism."
Los Angeles community activist and writer Earl Ofari Hutchinson said Sterling's apology lost its sincerity when he criticized Johnson and said he was "baited" into making the initial remarks that sparked the controversy.
"I got a very, very strong sense that we’re dealing with someone who doesn’t get it," Hutchinson told The Times. "We’re dealing with someone who’s only reacting two weeks after all the drama went down. The time for an apology — a sincere, heartfelt, mea culpa — was the day it happened."
"It’s a classic case of being in a hole and digging it even deeper," Hutchinson added.
Rather than using the interview to insult others, Hutchinson said, Sterling should have "owned up to past behavior."
During the interview, Sterling also criticized Johnson’s level of commitment to helping the community. "Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don't think so... I don't think he's a good example for the children of Los Angeles."
"That’s poppycock," Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson told The Times. "Somebody needs to put some tape over his mouth."
In a prepared statement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Johnson was "an incredible inspiration on the court, and since his playing days ended, he has been one of L.A.'s shining stars in business and community service."