Donald Sterling On Magic Johnson: “He Acts So Holy, He Made Love With Every Girl In Every City, And He Catches HIV”

Donald Sterling sure has a funny way of “apologizing” for making racist remarks and trying to get back into the good graces of the NBA. The Los Angeles Clippers owner appeared on “Anderson Cooper 360″ last night, and in addition to denying that he’s a racist and claiming he was baited into making those racist statements by his mistress, V. Stiviano, Sterling couldn’t help but go in on Magic Johnson, the NBA legend who was name-checked in his original rant. It seems that Sterling, who maintains that he respects and admires Johnson, just thinks Johnson is a bad role model and should “fade into the background” — not because he’s Black but because he “has AIDS.” (Johnson actually has HIV, not AIDS, but we’ll get to that in a second.) Sterling explained to Cooper:

“Here’s a man I don’t know if I should say this, he acts so holy. He made love with 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 hoped he could live and be well. …

I didn’t criticize him. I could have. Is he an example for children? You know, because he has money, he’s able to treat himself. But Magic Johnson is irrelevant in this thing. He didn’t do anything harmful to anybody and I respect him and I admire everything that he does. I’d like to help even more if he would offer me an opportunity to help. I like to help minorities. … What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done? He’s got AIDS. …

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? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”

But it’s not just Johnson who doesn’t do anything for “the black people.” It’s black people in general! Sterling continued:

“That’s one problem I have. Jews when they get successful they will help their people and some of the African-Americans — maybe I’ll get in trouble again — they don’t want to help anybody.”

For starters, it’s really hard, nay, impossible, to take someone who claims not to be racist seriously when he insists upon referring to an entire vast minority group as “they” and “the black people” while making sweeping generalizations about what “they” do or do not do to help each other. Especially when Sterling’s racist history goes beyond his recent rant about Stiviano not bringing Black people to games with her. Sterling was sued several times for racially discriminatory real estate practices, specifically refusing to rent apartments to minorities.

Secondly, Sterling, A MARRIED MAN WITH A MISTRESS, has a hell of a lot of nerve getting up on a moral high horse about Johnson’s alleged promiscuity, especially when I doubt he feels the same way about, say, Larry Bird or many of the other professional athletes who’ve had sex with tons of women. Sterling makes it pretty obvious that Johnson is a bad role model because his sex life led to him contracting HIV. And about that — if you’re going to accuse a person of being a bad role model because of his health diagnosis, at least get the diagnosis correct. Johnson has HIV. His HIV has never become full-blown AIDS.

That Sterling thinks Johnson’s HIV status makes him a “bad role model” and that he should “go into the background” is not only grossly offensive but dangerous. Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, when many people still believed HIV/AIDS was a “gay disease.” At a press conference announcing his diagnosis, Johnson said, “We sometimes think only gay people can get it, that it’s not going to happen to me. And here I am saying that it can happen to anybody, even me.” Putting aside the fact that people with HIV/AIDS are not fucking LEPERS who should be cast off to the outreaches of society, Johnson staying in the spotlight, emphasizing this very point — that HIV/AIDS can happen to anyone — and advocating on behalf of safe sex is absolutely role model behavior.

Following his diagnosis, Magic Johnson retired from the Los Angeles Lakers and in the years since has written a book about safe sex and has been involved in numerous charitable efforts related to HIV/AIDS education, including teaching others not to “discriminate against people who have HIV and AIDS .” Whether he’s done enough has been the subject of debate, with some AIDS groups criticizing his decreased involvement in recent years. However, I think anyone who actually gives a shit about stopping the spread of the disease would argue that Johnson’s HIV status does not make him a bad role model, especially when he’s using his personal story to educate others on protecting themselves and treating those who do have HIV/AIDS with respect and dignity.

Donald Sterling on the other hand? He can have an area full of seats — so long as it’s not an arena operated by the NBA of course. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who banned Sterling from the NBA for all eternity, released the following statement about Sterling’s interview:

“I just read a transcript of Donald Sterling’s interview with Anderson Cooper and 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.”

[Washington Post]