AL HAMNIK: Some Magic that never grows old

2014-04-28T20:30:00Z 2014-05-13T21:28:04Z AL HAMNIK: Some Magic that never grows oldAl Hamnik Times Columnist
April 28, 2014 8:30 pm  • 

GARY | Can Donald Sterling be that stupid?

The Los Angeles Clippers' bigoted owner may as well place a gun to his temple and pull the trigger to complete a death wish after making racist comments about the black players on his team and their minority fans.

There is no going back on this one. No acceptable apology. No claim of being misquoted. TMZ, Deadspin and his wife all confirmed it.

The hurt is too deep. The shock has left NBA players, coaches and new commissioner Adam Silver numb with disbelief.

CarMax, Virgin Airlines, Kia Motors and State Farm have ended or suspended their sponsorships with the Clippers, who are valued at $460 million.

NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Partners, the business group with whom he purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for $2.15 billion, reportedly were interested in purchasing the Clippers if Sterling is banished but Johnson was quick to shoot that down at a personal appearance Monday in Gary.

Johnson visited the region — talk about irony — in teaming up with the Gary School Corporation to deliver "A Gary Promise," which provides scholarship opportunities for students who fulfill Indiana Core 40 requirements.

Unlike most pro athletes who retire and immediately head for the broadcast booth, Magic became an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention as well as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, broadcaster and motivational speaker.

He continues being one of this country's greatest "assist" men by helping those in the inner-city.

But Monday night, Sterling's comments dominated the conversation and had Magic seeing red.

"He's a man in a powerful position who should be embracing minorities, not discriminating against them," Johnson said. "There's no room for that in our society or in sports.

"It was a sad day for all owners of every sports team, especially in the NBA, and hopefully our commissioner Silver will act quickly to resolve this situation because (Sterling) has every race of people in an uproar."

The NBA has scheduled a news conference Tuesday to address the thorny issue, though Johnson knows what he'd do in a heartbeat.

"He has to lose the team," Johnson said. "The commissioner and (Sterling's) partners have to decide his fate. I'm in an uproar for my people because I'm always going to fight for African-Americans as well as Latino minorities to the death.

"I've been doing that for years. That's where I've invested my money. That's who I hire. So when he singled me out — saying he didn't want me to come to his games — and then singled out African-Americans ... I'm disappointed. I'm hurt. I'm outraged."

Johnson is considered the most powerful African-American businessman in the country with a net worth of $500 million. He runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, its purpose to rebuild inner cities by bringing in new business, the proper training, and creating good paying jobs.

Magic has saved many depressed cities and failing businesses while providing help for troubled school systems such as Gary's.

To see Sterling abuse his wealth and power at the expense of those who've helped make him wealthy as a czar — a plantation attitude, if you will — is a shameful injustice, Magic said.

The Clippers need new blood upstairs, hopefully a qualified African-American owner and I'll tell you why: What black player in his right mind would want to sign with or return to that franchise now, fearing Sterling's racism might be embedded deep in the franchise's fabric?

It's a valid concern.

I also wonder if other NBA owners, most of them older white males, share the same warped views as Sterling, but privately.

"I'm not going to judge a man if I don't know what he's like," Johnson replied. "You don't know how I am, I don't know how they are. I can only judge a person by what he says and his actions — and that's what we're judging him by.

"I don't care about the other 29 (owners) until they cross the line, then I'll start caring. This is America, 2014. We're not going to stand for that."

The cancer has been discovered, but I fear a long recovery both for the NBA and this country.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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