Donald Sterling sat down with Anderson Cooper on CNN to apologize and try to get in front of the public relations mess his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers has become in the wake of a recording of him making racist statements was made public. Statements that forced the league to ban him for life and start efforts to force a sale of the team against his will.
It didn’t come off as he had planned.
While Sterling apologized for his racist remarks, calling them “foolish, stupid, uneducated words that I uttered” he at other points went off on rants that made him seem a combination of angry, out of touch and just sad sad. He broke down in tears at several other points. He seemed unaware of both himself, his words and his role in all of this.
One of those rants was about about Magic Johnson, a person largely beloved in Los Angeles for his play on the court and his business dealings off it.
“He acts so holy. He made love to every girl in every city in America and he had AIDS. And when he had those AIDS I went to my synagogue and prayed for him. I hope he could live and be well. I didn’t criticize him. I could have. Is he an example for children? Because he has money he is able to treat himself…. He is irrelevant in this thing….
“He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business? Did he help anybody in South LA?… What kind of a guy goes to every city and has sex with every girl and he catches it, HIV, is that somebody we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. What does he do for the black people? The Jewish people have a company, it’s for people who want to borrow money at no interest. We want to give them a fishing pole. We want to help people. You don’t have any money, we’ll loan it to you, without any interest. One day you’ll pay us back. I’m just telling you he does nothing, he’s all talk.”
Sterling said Magic called him up when the tape was first made public and told him to do nothing.
“I think he wanted me to just do nothing so he could buy the team. He thought maybe the whole thing would be resolved in two weeks. What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?
When you watched the interview, if felt pretty clear when Sterling was “on script” that he got from his public relations person/handler and when he went off it. There was a reason Sterling was long kept from media interviews around the Clippers, you could see it in this interview.
When on script he was apologetic to a fault.
“I’m not a racist. I made a terrible, terrible mistake and I’m here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I’ve hurt. And I’ve hurt so many people, so many innocent people. And I’ve hurt myself. I spoke to a girl I was fond of and I don’t know why, when I listened to that tape, I don’t even know how I could say words like that. I’m not a racist. I love people. I always have. But those words came out of my mouth, I guess, and I’m so sorry, and I’m so apologetic.”
But when he was off script it was obvious, at times sounding whiny and at others like an old man filled with conspiracies.
He thinks the players still back him.
“The players don’t hate me. The sponsors don’t hate me. The fans don’t hate me. The media hates me, it’s all the media. I believe it 100 percent. People call me by the thousands and give me support.
He would go on to say he doesn’t think the other owners want him out, that the players don’t hate him, that this is all media driven. Check out this exchange about the owners wanting him ousted and moving toward that end:
Sterling: “I’m not sure that’s what they want.”
Cooper: “That is what they want.”
Sterling: “Well that’s your opinion, and that’s what the media says. I’m a good owner and I have a good team, there are people that want to buy my team, because the media says that owners want me out doesn’t mean they want me out.”
For the record, all 29 other NBA owners publicly backed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s move to suspend Sterling for life from the league and to try to force a sale of the team.
I don’t know that this interview helped change any of those minds, and those are the ones that matter.