In a telephone interview with TMZ and an interview broadcast on CNN Tuesday, former NBA superstar and Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson responded to the “malicious” verbal attack unleashed on him by disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Sterling went on a tirade against Johnson in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper saying, “Johnson should be ashamed of himself. But what does he do for black people? He doesn’t do anything.”
Sterling continued his rant by making disparaging comments about Johnson’s HIV status and saying he wasn’t a good role model for African American children. At one point during the CNN interview, Sterling raises his voice, saying, “He’s got AIDS.”
Johnson called into TMZ Live with a response saying, “It’s very disturbing. I think when you come on, No. 1. you should have your facts straight. I don’t have AIDS; I have HIV. I’ve been living with HIV for 22 years. That’s his opinion if he thinks I’m not a role model. I know the things that I’ve done in urban America and for people.”
Johnson, who has a long list of charitable contributions to the African American community, further tells TMZ, “I’m proud of my work and I’m excited about what I do. I’m a proud black man. I’m a leader in the black community and I take that role seriously.”
In the interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, which aired Tuesday, Johnson tells Cooper, “He’s trying to find something that he can grab on to help him save his team. And it’s not going to happen. The board of governors now have to do their job. Adam Silver, our commissioner of the NBA, did a wonderful job of banning him for life. Now the board of governors have got to do their job.”
Johnson, whose net worth is estimated somewhere between $500 million and $700 million, also tells TMZ he has put as many as 10,000 minorities into college and with the help of his Magic Johnson Foundation has invested about a billion dollars in the black community and placed more than 50,000 minorities in jobs.
Johnson also tells CNN that he took a telephone call from Sterling where he turned down a request from the beleaguered Clippers owner asking him to appear with him for an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters. He advised him instead to seek counsel from his attorney to find ways to minimize his public relations nightmare.
He says he has not received an apology from Sterling, something he reminded Sterling about during the phone call.
Johnson says he told Sterling, “And, No. 1, you’ve got to apologize not only to me, but all minorities out there because you haven’t apologized yet.”
He says Sterling replied, “Oh, I’m gonna get to that. I’m gonna get to that.”
“Not once, even today, has he ever apologized to me or the other minorities he offended,” Johnson says.
Johnson says he and his business partners have considered buying the Clippers if Sterling is eventually forced out by the NBA Board of governors. He concedes buying the Los Angeles Lakers would be his first choice.