LOS ANGELES — An interview that was supposed to be an attempt at rehabilitation instead had Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling facing fresh rebukes as he went from apologizing for recent racist remarks to slamming Magic Johnson, repeatedly bringing up the ex-NBA star’s HIV and calling him an unfit role model for children.
“He’s got AIDS!” Sterling said loudly at one point in the interview, cutting off CNN’s Anderson Cooper as the interviewer attempted to cite Johnson’s accomplishments after Sterling asked, “What has he done, big Magic Johnson, what has he done?”
Johnson, who is appearing on Cooper’s show on Tuesday, wrote on his Twitter account that “I’d rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling’s interview.”
In an early excerpt from Johnson’s interview posted on CNN’s website, the former Lakers star said Sterling is “reaching.”
“He’s trying to find something that he can grab on to help him save his team,” he said. “And it’s not going to happen. … I’m a God-fearing man and I’m going to pray for him and hope things work out for him.”
Sterling’s comments earned quick condemnation from the league that was already trying to rid itself of the owner.
Commissioner Adam Silver, who gave Sterling a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine two weeks ago, issued a statement saying, “while Magic Johnson doesn’t need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologize to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack.”
“The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible,” the commissioner added.
Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelley Sterling, watched her husband’s interview and told NBC’s “Today” show that he may be losing his mental faculties.
“He’s not the man I know, or I knew,” she said. “There’s something wrong. I really think, personally, he has dementia.
“I don’t think it happened overnight. I think it’s been happening, but nobody really knew the reason. I mean, he gets crazy, and yells, and screams, and hollers one moment. The next moment he’ll … talk about something else. I mean it’s like nothing makes sense.”
Sterling changed course briefly during the interview to call Johnson “a good person,” but soon resumed his criticism.
“He acts so holy,” Sterling said. “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 I 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?”
Cooper corrected Sterling, explaining that Johnson was HIV-positive but did not have “full-blown AIDS.”
Sterling briefly adjusted his language but not his tone.
“What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV. Is that someone we want to respect, and tell our kids about?” Sterling said. “I think he should be ashamed of himself.”
Sterling also claimed that the Clippers players still love him and don’t believe he’s a racist.
Two of the team’s stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, were asked about Sterling’s comments prior to Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma City. The Los Angeles Times reported that both disputed Sterling’s characterization but said they are focused on the team and not the owner.
“If you ask every single guy on this team, they’d say they love their family. They love their teammates,” Griffin said. “That’s who we’re playing for. And that’s really the bottom line.”