Johnson rebuts 'delusional' Clippers owner
BASKETBALL great Earvin "Magic" Johnson has shrugged off Donald Sterling's character assault on him, calling the Los Angeles Clippers owner "delusional" and suggesting that Sterling acted out of desperation to keep the National Basketball Association from seizing his team.
"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," Johnson told CNN on Tuesday, a day after Sterling accused him of being a poor role model for children and of doing little to help the black community.
Sterling's comments about Johnson, one of the most revered figures in American sport, left many scratching their heads.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement apologising to Johnson for being "degraded by such a malicious and personal attack".
Sterling's CNN interview on Monday saw his first public comment since coming under fire nearly three weeks ago, when TMZ.com posted an audio recording of him berating a female friend for publicly associating with black people, including Johnson.
The resulting furore led Silver days later to declare Sterling banned for life from the NBA, and to call on the 29 other team owners who make up the NBA Board of Governors to strip Sterling of the team's ownership.
Such an unprecedented move requires a three-fourths' vote of the board. It remains to be seen whether Silver will muster the votes he needs, and whether Sterling will give up the team he has owned for 33 years without fighting back in court.
In the CNN interview, Sterling, 80, apologised for racist comments that he claimed he was "baited" into making by the 31-year-old woman who recorded the conversation, who uses the name V. Stiviano.
He also stoked further outrage by lashing out at Johnson, the charismatic former Los Angeles Lakers point guard who stunned the sports world in 1991 when he announced he had contracted HIV and was retiring at the peak of his NBA career.
"What kind of guy goes to every city, he has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV and - is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about?" Sterling told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I think he should be ashamed of himself."
Going on to compare Johnson unfavourably to his own charitable work, Sterling added: "What does he do for black people? (He) doesn't do anything."
Johnson, who has acknowledged that he was infected through promiscuous unprotected sex, became a leading advocate for HIV and Aids prevention, and launched a foundation that has raised millions of dollars for Aids-related care and education.
He has also been widely praised for teaming up with business investors to help bring development to under-served minority communities in urban areas of Los Angeles and elsewhere.
"My whole life is devoted to urban America, so...I just wish he knew the facts when he's talking," Johnson said. "I just feel sorry for him. I really do. It is sad."