Magic Johnson shrugged off criticism from Donald Sterling today, saying he would pray for the ostracized owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I'm a God-fearing man and I'm going to pray for him and hope things work out for him," Johnson said in an excerpt of an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper set to air tonight.
Sterling, in an interview with Cooper that aired in full last night, questioned whether Johnson should be considered a role model.
"What does he do for the black people? He doesn't do anything," the embattled billionaire said. "What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then catches (HIV)? I think he should be ashamed of himself."
In response, Johnson said he wished Sterling knew the facts before speaking out and said he took his role as a leader in the black community seriously.
The former Laker great said his "whole life is devoted to urban America."
Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks said Johnson, among other things, invested in a much-needed South Los Angeles shopping center and has raised money for college scholarships for minorities.
"We view Magic as one of the best stimulus packages that we have seen in dealing with issues we have in our community," the councilman said.
Parks said Johnson opened his namesake movie theater in a mall that had been in danger of closing and "saved the shopping center" by persuading chains such as Starbucks and TGI Fridays to open nearby.
Parks said he expected to Sterling to apologize for the racist comments he previously made to an associate that led to his lifetime ban from the NBA, but "I had no idea he would do it so poorly."
Parks said Sterling's statements reflected "ingrained thoughts that are not a problem of the mind. It's in the heart -- that's what he believes."
Johnson said Sterling is upset and appears to be trying "to find something he can grab onto to help him his team. And it's not going to happen."
Johnson acknowledged he was upset about Sterling's remarks, but would not hold grudge.
In a tweet, Johnson wrote that he "would rather be talking about these great NBA playoffs than Donald Sterling's interview," referring to the Clippers' defeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the latest playoff game, tying the series 2-2.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the league for life, fined him $2.5 million and said he would do everything he could to force the Clippers owner to sell the team after taped remarks Sterling made to a frequent courtside companion were leaked to a pair of websites.
He chastised V. Stiviano for appearing in photographs with black people - - including Johnson -- and bringing them to Clippers games, but told CNN's Anderson in his first public statements that he was not a racist and that he had been "baited" into making the comments.
Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million, but the team recently was valued by Forbes around $575 million, making it the league's 13th most valuable.
--City News Service