Burying the shovel
So disgraced L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling agreed to an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper Monday evening. Unless Sterling was going to issue a 100% mea culpa for his racially insensitive comments caught on tape a few weeks ago, there really seemed to be no upside of his agreeing to it.
At the beginning of the interview, Sterling, who almost had a pathetically defeated tone to his voice, did indeed attempt contrition.
"I'm not a racist," Sterling told Cooper. "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."I honestly do not know if that seemingly desperate plea was enough for any of the other 29 owners to not vote to dissolve Sterling's ownership of the Clippers. Regardless, Sterling seems to be one of these multi-billionaires who has so insulated himself for so long that he's been able to speak unfiltered without any push back or repercussions. The fact he now is suffering consequences is causing him a significant amount of angst.
Asked by Cooper why he took so long to say he's sorry, Sterling said he was "emotionally distraught."
"The reason it's hard for me, very hard for me, is that I'm wrong. I caused the problem. I don't know how to correct it," he said. Sterling said he doesn't want his comments to eclipse his lengthy tenure with the NBA.
"I'm a good member who made a mistake and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," he said. "Am I entitled to one mistake, am I after 35 years? I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake? It's a terrible mistake, and I'll never do it again."
As the interview went on, Sterling invoked the name of NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Apparently it was Johnson appearing in an Instagram photo with Sterling's girlfriend that was the catalyst for his racial tirade. If Sterling had built up even a scintilla of public goodwill with his apology, he likely destroyed it within minutes by denigrating the popular Johnson.
"What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then catches HIV," Sterling told Cooper. “I think he should be ashamed of himself.”To Magic's credit, he didn't engage in a war of words with Sterling. Actually he probably did more damage to Sterling by pitying him. Johnson is perhaps one of the most successful former athletes in history having made multi, mutli millions of dollars in different business holdings over the past 15+ years. As such, he's been very generous with his finances in the black community in addition to his continued worldwide advocacy for HIV awareness. I'm not going to defend Magic and his behavior that led to his disease. However, he himself never once made excuses for his plight. Upon announcing in 1991 he contracted HIV via unprotected sex, Johnson chose to take his potentially life threatening illness and throw himself into educating others in an effort to avoid the disease (I never much cared for the fact Magic didn't even offer up abstinence as a viable solution, but whatever).
Sterling also questioned whether Johnson has made a positive contribution to the African American community in Los Angeles. He then pointed to his own charitable work.
“Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people,” he said.
At one point Cooper asked if he apologized to Johnson.
"If I said anything wrong, I'm sorry," Sterling responded. "He's a good person. I mean, what am I going to say? Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don't think so. But I'll say it, he's great. But I don't think he's a good example for the children of Los Angeles."
All that being said, it's hard to believe Sterling's image could have been any more sullied, yet somehow he managed to accomplish that. The only issue remaining is if the other 29 NBA owners will vote unanimously to force Sterling to sell the Clippers (only 22 need to consent). If indeed that occurs, I don't get a sense Sterling will go gently into that good night. After all, when one is an 81-year old disgraced (not to mention litigious) wealthy guy, what other pressing needs does one have in life?