Updates from Wednesday, April 30
Magic Johnson was once again asked about owning the Clippers on Wednesday, and he offered a rather interesting answer according to Ben Bergman of 89.3 KPCC in LA:
“I will be owning an NBA team sometime," Johnson told a gathering of business leaders Wednesday at the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills. "Is the Clippers the right situation? Of course. It's one of the premiere franchises."
Johnson said that — whatever you may think of Sterling — he ran a good business, one Johnson and his partners at the Guggenheim Investment Group would like to buy if the price is right.
“I think the fans have already spoken," Johnson said. "They would like us to own the team. But we have to wait and see.”
Amid rampant criticism and calls for the removal of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling following leaked audio tapes purportedly featuring his racist rhetoric to his girlfriend, the man who was the impetus for that argument may be the franchise's salvation.
Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Partners, the business group with whom the NBA legend purchased the MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, reportedly have at least preliminary interest in purchasing the Clippers should Sterling be willing (or forced) to sell.
"Magic's absolutely interested," one source told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
However, Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com later disputed Wojnarowki's report:
Sorry to ruin a beautiful idea, but source close to Magic says "zero, zero, zero conversations" about buying the Clips.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) April 28, 2014
Magic has said publicly he'd want to buy an NBA or NFL team, but Clippers aren't for sale and it's very hard for NBA to force a sale— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) April 28, 2014
Johnson and the Guggenheim investors purchased the Dodgers for a record $2.15 billion in 2012. Guggenheim Partners is a massive collective of deep-pocketed business moguls that includes billionaire Mark Walter and former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten.
The group's decision to buy the Dodgers is seen as something of a franchise-saving move in retrospect, with the club floundering under financially strapped former owner Frank McCourt.
Johnson and Walter also partnered to purchase the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. The franchise was in danger of contraction or relocation without stable financial backing.
While the Clippers do not face the same financial plight of the Dodgers or Sparks, there may be no franchise in American professional sports facing a worse public-relations battle.
Sterling, the 80-year-old real estate developer who has owned the Clippers since 1981, came under fire this weekend after recordings of him criticizing African-Americans and other races was leaked by TMZ.
In the tape, a voice allegedly belonging to Sterling angrily berates a woman said to be then-girlfriend V. Stiviano about an Instagram picture she took with Johnson. The tape at times oscillates between wildly racist and misogynist, and it drew most of the ire when Sterling allegedly told Stiviano, who is mixed race, to not bring African-Americans to Clippers games.
"You can sleep with (black people)," the tape said. "You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that...and not to bring them to my games."
About 15 minutes of the reportedly hour-long tape have been released. On Sunday, Deadspin's Kyle Wagner exclusively leaked an extended version of the clip. In it, Sterling takes a condescending tone when discussing the nature of his relationship with players.
He likens them to employees, not equals, and adds that owners "make" the game:
You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?
The outcry for Sterling's removal or at the very least a swift punishment from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been widespread. Public figures ranging from President Barack Obama to multiple NBA owners (including Michael Jordan) to even the Clippers themselves have expressed disgust over the comments.
Clippers players, in a form of silent protest, discarded their team-issued jackets at center court and turned their warm-up shirts—ones displaying the Clippers logo—inside out prior to Sunday's 118-97 loss in Golden State.
The Clippers took off their shooting shirts and dumped them at center court. pic.twitter.com/Nod5QWsWJy— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 27, 2014
Silver has yet to come down with an official punishment for Sterling. In a press conference before Saturday night's Thunder-Grizzlies game in Memphis, the first-year commissioner noted Sterling would be given the same "due process" as NBA players would. Yet he also acknowledged there would be a harsh punishment laid down if the tape is authenticated.
Whether that results in Johnson's purchase of the Clippers remains to be seen. Resolution, should the NBA try to oust Sterling, is a long way away. There would likely be litigation in that case, which would send an already-wounded franchise into an even deeper hole.
Sterling, whose past history of discrimination includes the largest housing discrimination settlement in history involving apartment rentals, has not been the type to lie down. Yet if Johnson were to purchase the Clippers, perhaps it could create a nice full-circle moment to this embarrassing black mark for the NBA.
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