Magic Johnson said Tuesday evening that he was asked by Donald Sterling to join him for an interview with Barbara Walters.
The NBA legend also said that Sterling would be wise to relinquish ownership of the Clippers. “Enjoy the rest of your life,” Johnson advised Sterling in a CNN interview.
Johnson said he received a phone call from Sterling about 10 days ago and that the embattled Clippers owner suggested they appear together with the ABC host.
"He asked me to go on the Barbara Walters show with him,” Johnson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I told him I wouldn’t do it.”
Johnson said he told Sterling that he needed to apologize for the racial remarks he made, which prompted the NBA to ban him for life. In a recording released by TMZ two weeks ago, Sterling is heard telling a female friend, V. Stiviano, not to associate with black people, including Johnson.
Johnson recalled Sterling saying, “I’ll apologize later."
“When he called me, he should have said, ‘Magic, I’m sorry,’” Johnson said.
Johnson’s interview with Cooper came a day after Sterling appeared on the same show and made comments that sparked a new wave of outrage.
In his CNN interview, Sterling apologized repeatedly for his remarks on the tape released by TMZ. But at the same time, he also took another swipe at Johnson, saying that the former Laker wasn’t a good role model for children because of his HIV-positive diagnosis.
“What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then catches” HIV? Sterling tells Cooper. “I think he should be ashamed of himself.”
Sterling also questioned whether Johnson has made a positive contribution to the African American community in Los Angeles. He then pointed to his own charitable work and said that Jewish people--unlike some African Americans who become successful--give back to their community.
“Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people,” Sterling said.
On Tuesday night, Johnson spoke on a range of topics, including Sterling’s relationship with Stiviano and his comments regarding HIV and AIDS.
He also defended his contributions in the black community, saying he has helped create hundreds of jobs.
“I’m one of the leaders of the black community. I can’t let anyone attack our community and not respond,” Johnson said.
He said that his foundation has given millions of dollars to help people battling HIV and AIDS.
“Our biggest fight” in the HIV community is to get people “to stop discriminating,” Johnson said. He added that Sterling’s comments helped spread misinformation about people with the virus.
“I hope this doesn’t set us back,” Johnson said. “I just wish he knew the facts when he was talking."
Johnson said he didn’t understand why Sterling chose to drag him into the controversy. The real problem, Johnson said, is Sterling’s relationship with Stiviano and his conversation that was secretly recorded.
“He needs to address this young lady. … That’s where the problem started. Not with Magic Johnson,” the Laker legend said. “I’m caught in the middle of this love affair or whatever they have.”
Johnson also said that he and others should have supported former Clippers general manager and fellow NBA great Elgin Baylor, who filed a lawsuit against Sterling and others in 2009 for wrongful termination and discrimination.
The lawsuit alleged that Sterling had a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure” for the Clippers and accused the owner of a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude.”
Baylor, who spent 22 years as Clippers general manager before departing in 2008, later dropped the race accusation. A jury ruled in favor of Sterling in March 2011.
“Now we all feel bad that we didn’t support him. We should have,” Johnson said of Baylor. “Everything he said is coming to light today.”
In an ABC interview, Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling’s wife, said she may eventually divorce her husband and will fight efforts to force her to sell her share of the Clippers, adding that the team was part of her family legacy.
But Johnson predicted that neither Shelly Sterling nor any family member would be able to keep the team.
“I think the players, the fans, the sponsors wouldn’t go for it,” he said.
Johnson didn’t rule out a bid by him and his business partners to buy the Clippers. But, he added, “what I really want to do is own the Lakers."
Johnson offered some advice for Donald Sterling: “You’re 80-years-old. ... Just go ahead and enjoy the rest of your life. ... You’re fighting a battle you can’t win.”