Basketball Hall of Famer and former ESPN NBA analyst Earvin “Magic” Johnson made a special appearance today on ABC’s NBA Countdown to address the issue surrounding Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling. Johnson joined host Sage Steele and analysts Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose and Doug Collins on the set.
On his initial reaction:
I was really upset. You can’t understand how hurt I was and also I was hurt for all African-Americans and all minorities. Donald Sterling has had issues in the past, so this isn’t the first time. I’ve known Donald, he was one of the first men I met when I came to L.A. Dr. Buss took me to his annual Malibu beach party. Then I met with Donald two or three times and he wanted to discuss the issues with his Clipper teams. So, I had a friendship with him. So for him to then make these comments, or alleged comments, about myself and other African-Americans and minorities – there is no place in our society for it and there’s no place in our league because we all get along. We’re all different types of races of people when you play in sports. And then, he’s put his own team in a tough situation.
I believe once Commissioner Silver does his due diligence and he gets all of the information, he’s got to come down hard. He shouldn’t own a team anymore. And, he should stand up and say ‘I don’t want to own a team anymore,’ especially when you have African-Americans renting his apartments, coming to his games, playing for him and coaching for him. This is bad for everybody. This is bad for America. I’m really upset about it.
On not attending Clippers games anymore:
No problem. I have no problem with that. I won’t be going. And then he said other African-Americans – so they’re not welcome either – this is not good. Not just for the league but for America, this is not good. Then I think about how we’ve made him money, but we’re not welcome at the game. You can’t get over that and that’s why everybody is upset – Black, White, Latino – everybody is upset at Donald Sterling right now.
On whether he would have had issues playing for Donald Sterling:
No question about it. And even today, now finding out everything, I wouldn’t want to play for him today. Now, what we have to understand is, all of these young men need their jobs though. They need to take care of themselves and their families. So we can’t blame Doc Rivers or the players. They have to do their jobs to take care of their families and play the game that they love. I’m really upset that we’re here talking about Donald Sterling and this tape when the spotlight should be on the playoffs. These playoffs have been tremendous. Since I’ve been in basketball – the best first round I have ever seen in 35 years of being associated with this league.
On how Chris Paul and Doc Rivers can lead the Clippers going forward:
I talked to Doc Rivers yesterday and I wanted him to understand this: this isn’t his fight or the Clippers fight. We’ll fight the battle for them. Their focus should be on the game. They’ve got a tough series with Golden State and focusing in on how to win Game 4.
Then what’s really crazy is that I’ve been in a similar situation. Spencer Haywood, our sixth man, got suspended in Game 1 and we kicked him off the team. We understood that our sanctuary is that basketball court. The Clippers understand. Chris [Paul] – get your guys ready to play in Game 4. When you hit that court, you don’t worry about what’s going on at home or what people have said about Donald Sterling, all you want to do is focus in on that game. As a matter of fact, it’s going to be good for the Clippers players to hit the floor today.
On how he plans to handle this situation going forward:
It’s really not me. It’s now Adam Silver and the owners of the league. I’m going to say what I’ve been saying all along – he’s got to give up the team. If he doesn’t like African-Americans – he’s in a league that’s over 70 percent African-American. When you have the President of The United States saying that this is bad and you have all the fans all around the country of different races saying its bad, it’s time for him to exit. I don’t know if he will. He’s been used to fighting every battle. The Clipper fans will have a big say-so if he does come back.
On how fans or Clippers family members can support the team:
The fans will have to make a decision because he has a big African-American following and he has a big Latino following and they will speak, trust me. And then when you think about the players – nobody’s going to want to play for the Clippers ever again. They would probably want to play for Doc Rivers and with Chris Paul but it’s going to be hard for them to play for the organization.
Michael Wilbon on Good Morning America, comments re: Donald Sterling
Sunday’s Good Morning America on ABC included an interview by anchor Bianna Golodryga with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon.
Here are Wilbon’s comments from that interview:
On how damaging this scandal is if the tape recordings are authenticated:
Donald Sterling has no idea what he’s wrought here. We’ve heard from President Obama (who is) out of the country. . . it’s going to be a difficult time for the NBA first of all with Adam Silver, the commissioner, and its investigation which has to wrap up pretty quickly.
If it is Donald Sterling’s voice on the tape there’s going to be so much pressure for Donald Sterling to step down.
There are some complications – the NBA isn’t Major League Baseball, which has anti-trust exemption and the commissioner has wider ranging powers to affect the game than the NBA commissioner does. . . But still, it can be economic, sort of unofficial sanctions, if you will.
People are up in arms. There is legitimate outrage, the kind of which you rarely see in American sports for any owner of a franchise so prominent.
On how NBA Commisioner Adam Silver performed yesterday:
I thought Adam Silver was in an impossible situation following [former commissioner] David Stern who certainly had a command in his 30-plus years as NBA commissioner.
I thought he was a little lawyerly and I thought there could have been more outrage expressed and I understand what Adam Silver was attempting to do.
Moving forward, if that tape is authenticated, we’re going to have to see not just a different Adam Silver, but a different NBA and there are going to have to be sanctions if Donald Sterling does not step down that are severe. A suspension so severe that he will then think about stepping down.
The NBA has nowhere to go but to do that. They’re going to have to demonstrate zero tolerance and as much outrage as some of the players and fans are expressing now.