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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Outrage Grows Over Clippers Owner; Search for Flight 370; What Should NBA Do about Donald Sterling?
Aired April 28, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is a CNN special report. I'm Don Lemon.
Tonight: a story that's not about sports. It's about America in black and white, what we think about race and how some people talk when they think no one is listening.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Well then, if you don't feel -- don't come to my games. Don't bring black people, and don't come.
V. STIVIANO, EX-GIRLFRIEND OF DONALD STERLING: Do you know that you have a whole team that's black, that plays for you?
STERLING: 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?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, that comes from Deadspin and it is of course Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling apparently caught on tape talking to his girlfriend.
That attitude is a lot more common than you might think. And it has ignited a firestorm all across the country. Tonight, I will get reaction from one of the game's superstars, Isiah Thomas, going to join minute a bit.
We also have the very latest on the new search for Flight 370. There are still so many more questions than answers. And you have been tweeting us your questions by the thousands. And my experts are standing by to answer questions about the plane and about Donald Sterling, questions like: "Donald Sterling has pals who aren't embarrassed he has a mistress, but are embarrassed his mistress takes pictures with black people? #values"
I want to begin tonight with Donald Sterling and what appear to be his own words, words that are indefensible and frankly quite hard to listen to.
CNN's Stephanie Elam has our report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
STERLING: It bothers me a lot that you want to promo --broadcast that you're associating with black people. You don't have to.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man on the tape is allegedly Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling talking to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano.
STERLING: You're supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl.
STIVIANO: I'm a mixed girl.
ELAM: The issue? His black and Mexican girlfriend posting Instagram pictures with black people, including black people like Magic Johnson.
STERLING: You could do anything. But don't put him on Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games, OK?
ELAM: The recordings first reported by TMZ Sports are sending shockwaves through the National Basketball Association and the rest of the country. Johnson says he won't go to another Clippers game as long as Sterling is the own.
EARVIN "MAGIC" JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Don't smile in my face and shake my hand and then you don't really respect me or want me to be around or come to your games, as the owner of the Clippers.
ELAM: The audio even prompted Michael Jordan, who avoids taking stances on controversial issues, to say he is disgusted and outraged.
Also coming down hard on Sterling, current league superstars like LeBron James.
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: There's no room for that in our game. We have found a way to make this the greatest game in the world. And for comments like that, it taints our game, and we can't have that.
ELAM: The scandal breaking as the Clippers are in the middle of a playoff series with the Golden Gate Warriors. At game four in Oakland, some people held up signs referencing the racist rant. The Clippers players remained largely silent, but made their disapproval known, removing their warmup jackets to revel inside-out T-shirts that hid the team logo.
One of those players, Chris Paul, also happens to be the president of the NBA Players Association. On behalf of the union, he said in a statement -- quote -- "This is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers canceled practice, but did take questions on a conference call, saying he hopes the fans continue to support the players. The embattled owner will be sitting out the playoffs.
QUESTION: I'm just curious, have you actually heard from Sterling himself?
DOC RIVERS, L.A. CLIPPERS HEAD COACH: He has not -- well, he has in the point that, you know, I was asked, do I need to talk with Donald? And I passed. Quite honestly, I don't think right now is the time or the place for me, at least.
ELAM (on camera): The most pressing questions now, what will the NBA have to say and how will Clippers fans react when the team takes the court here at home in game five of the series Tuesday night?
Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.
LEMON: All right, Stephanie, thank you very much.
The sad truth is that the opinions expressed in Sterling's alleged rant are all too common. A lot of people who feel that way just try not to get caught saying so out loud.
So, what should the NBA do about Donald Sterling and will that change anything?
Joining me now is Isiah Thomas. He's a 12-time NBA All-Star, Basketball Hall of Famer and the CEO of Isiah International.
Clearly, this guy is a jerk. There are other words that I would like to say. What was your reaction though when you heard this?
ISIAH THOMAS, FORMER NBA BASKETBALL PLAYER: When I first heard it, when I first heard it, like everyone else, you are disgusted. You are outraged about, how can someone have these feelings and these beliefs in the NBA?
And when you talk about race and racialization, I think about the key is that we fight for every day the voiceless who don't have voice in our community, who experience race and racialization and racism, you know, within our community. As African-Americans, we need to do something about this. Something needs to be done about this.
And I think Adam Silver and the league and the NBA owners will do something about this. I do think that due process -- we need to wait for due process to happen. But at the same time, we need to act swiftly, and because what's really at stake is the public trust that the players have with the fans, that the owners have with the fans, and that we, as players, former players, have with the community at large.
LEMON: But this also goes beyond sports, but I want to stick with sports just for a second here, because you played with Magic Johnson. He responded tonight at an event in Indiana. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: There's no room for racism and discrimination. That's what I would tell him. And, unfortunately, he is a man in a powerful position, and a man who should be embracing minorities, not discriminating against them.
And it has no room in our society for it or in sports. So it was a sad day for all owners of every sports team, but especially in the NBA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: When he said a sad day for society, as I said, this goes far beyond sports. This is really a window into a space that we don't normally hear. Many people say they hear it in the board rooms, they hear it in the country clubs, they hear it in private conversations, but rarely do we get to hear it on tape from someone as prominent as Donald Sterling.
THOMAS: Yes, this is a rare moment. But this is a moment that's it's a teachable moment.
It's a moment that we can educate from and it's a moment that we can uplift society.
LEMON: Have you ever heard anything like that?
THOMAS: Not from owners.
I must say that the owners that I have dealt with and the league that I have been a part of so many years, I have never heard this kind of talk about African-Americans. Now, this is a league that we have dealt with everything. We deal with race. We deal with gender. We deal with class.
LEMON: You deal with sexuality.
THOMAS: We deal with sexuality.
So, this is a place where the NBA has been a place historically where we do discuss these hard issues and we do discuss these type of things that society shies away from. I look at this case and I look at this situation, and I'm excited to have this debate that we can at least bring to the public forum, but now we can discuss things that are said privately in a public situation.
LEMON: I have to say is it very interesting to me to sit here -- and this is really a part of history -- to sit here and be a witness to this up front, speaking with all these of prominent African-Americans and people about this -- and not just African-Americans -- about this particular issue.
And I would like to feel -- I kind of feel that way, but I hope it's lasting -- that this is a moment that will make a difference. And I started feeling that when I spoke with Charles Barkley the other night. He has spoken out several times. He spoke with me on CNN and he has also reacted again. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: If somebody wants to be racist, that's all right. That's their thing. But when you're in a position of power and you can take jobs and economic opportunity from people, that's what crosses the line.
But we cannot have an NBA owner discriminating against a league that we're a black league, Ernie. We are a black league. I don't know the number, but I probably say 80 percent of our players are black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Black league?
THOMAS: We're definitely a black league, but again when you talk about race and racialization, the stereotypes that come with being black, the stereotypes that are perpetuated throughout our society, it not only affects the league. It affects us systemically. It affects us institutionally beyond the playing field.
And, again, this is a very teachable moment, a moment that I hope the owners, the players, the fans, the community at large take the opportunity to continue this discussion, and bring it out in public, so it's not hidden in a boardroom and it's not hidden in private.
LEMON: So, maybe I'm not phrasing the question properly.
So, forgive me if I'm not. But is this -- is this the Jackie Robinson moment now for -- do you think -- I feel that -- again, I would hope that this makes a difference not just in sports, but throughout society, that you can't do this any longer. You can't say things like that or -- you can say whatever you want. But if you are going to be a manager of a team or an owner, you can't do that.
THOMAS: It can be the Jackie Robinson moment if we collectively, as a community, come together and really embrace and have the conversation about race, racialization in this country.
LEMON: Thank you. Don't go anywhere, because I want you to help me throughout the show, will you? All right?
A little bit later on in the show, we're going to get viewer reaction about the hunt for Flight 370.
But up next, we're going to continue on with this story, Donald Sterling's long history of facing racism claims and what the Clippers head coach says tonight about the scandal.
LEMON: We are back and we're talking about the scandal that has the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers facing charges of racism. But this isn't the first time.
Joining me now to talk about all of this is Gary Rhoades. He is a deputy city attorney in Santa Monica. He sued Donald Sterling for housing discrimination. Also, Paula Madison, the former owner of the L.A. Sparks of the WNBA, and Dave Zirin, the sports editor of "The Nation," Steve Stoute, founder of the marketing firm Translation and the author of "The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy." And then Michael McCann, a writer for "Sports Illustrated" and law professor at the University of New Hampshire. Isiah Thomas is back with us.
Good evening to all of you.
But I want to begin with Gary Rhoades.
Gary, I want to start with you, because you have your own experience with Donald Sterling. You filed suit against him for housing discrimination. Tell me what he was accused of. What did you accuse him of doing?
GARY RHOADES, SANTA MONICA DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY: Well, in the winter of 2002, tenants and employees from a couple of his buildings were coming to us at the Housing Rights Center with this story that was -- was going to be one of the largest and most unusual housing discrimination cases we had seen, beginning with the employees.
They told us that when Sterling had bought their building that they worked at, that he called a meeting and said several things. He said that he did not like black and Latino tenants and that he wanted to rent only to Koreans, because Koreans or Korean-Americans would pay the rent and live in whatever conditions that Sterling gave them.
And, sure enough, the tenants reported that after that meeting, they started seeing signs of a pretty massive discrimination scheme. They were subjected to -- the African-American and Latino tenants were subjected to sham inspections, and this even included one from Shelly Sterling herself, where she showed up at one of our tenant's doors claiming to be a health inspector.
LEMON: And that -- you're talking about his wife?
RHOADES: His wife. His wife came to the door with an entourage and said that she was a health inspector. And the tenant was thinking, like, the hell you are. I know who you are. You're Shelly Sterling.
But he didn't say it. He got out a camera and videotaped her and got her to say again on tape that she was a health inspector. So...
LEMON: The tenants are saying -- it is reported that the tenant said that he said he doesn't like to rent to Hispanics because Hispanics, they hang out and they don't work, and he doesn't like to rent to blacks because blacks smell and they attract vermin.
RHOADES: That's -- those are statements that we collected in our case.
We didn't get those statements until a little later after we filed the case from other buildings. This was the first set of tenants that came to us.
LEMON: Ultimately, what happened with your case? RHOADES: Well, ultimately, the tenants got a great result for themselves and for the general public. A federal judge that reviewed the settlement said it was monetarily the largest -- one of the largest of its kind and that it had significant and wide-ranging benefits for all the other 5,000 households in Sterling's properties.
LEMON: When you heard the comments this weekend, you were not surprised, I'm sure?
RHOADES: I was not surprised, because I had heard all this before. And I think -- I think that this -- these old cases are germane to what is happening with the NBA case, but, at the same time, there is a vice versa here.
I think this reflects back on that we should be giving at least as much scrutiny to his other -- his role in housing in L.A., because he is -- he owns and manages thousands and thousands of people's homes. And that is a -- you know, for someone who is making statements like he has, and who has been sued and should learn the lessons time and time again, his role in housing in L.A. should be reexamined.
LEMON: Gary Rhoades, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us here on CNN.
I want to bring in now the rest of the experts.
And, tonight, joining me is Dave again.
And, Dave, to you first. What do your make of what he said? It's interesting to me, because he has made a lot of money off minorities, Hispanics, blacks, Koreans, whatever, tenants. But he is -- he doesn't treat them in a way that is fair. He doesn't seem to understand that.
DAVE ZIRIN, "THE NATION": Yes, it's because he is a slumlord. I think you just said the definition of what a slumlord is.
And if you apply that to his NBA career, you are talking to somebody who 30 years put $13 million on the table, just $3 million down, $10 million on layaway. And now he has a club that is worth between $800 million and a billion dollars. And it's been done with the blood, sweat and tears of African-American players.
And yet he has contempt for them. He speaks about them with what's been called a plantation mentality. I think, Don, you spoke about this being a turning point kind of moment. I think it's only going to be a turning point moment if we realize that the efficacy of what are called respectability politics, this idea that if African-Americans just don't wear baggy pants and wear good clothes, then somehow racism is going to go away is a fiction, because institutionalized racism is alive and well in the United States. And that is what was caught on tape.
LEMON: Yes, I'm not sure if that has anything to do with Donald Sterling. Donald Sterling is just a jerk. He's just somebody who...
LEMON: ... who doesn't understand that.
ZIRIN: No, but he's a jerk who has been coddled. He's been a jerk who has been coddled by NBA owners for three decades.
If Donald Sterling was the one who was caught on tape -- and I'm sure what Isiah said is true, that he has never heard other owners say similar things. But that doesn't mean they didn't abide this person being in their ranks for many years. And David Stern, the former commissioner, and the current owners, they have to answer for that.
LEMON: Paula, in a piece for CNN.com today, you wrote: "Sterling, his reported racist thoughts are not unique. What is unusual is that the sentiments were made public."
I had a similar comment on my Instagram today from Fresca1908. It says, "Please discuss underlying issue of white-owned teams and coaches, black players and the implications and history of such the system in sports. Generally, I just would like for coverage that does not treat this as a surprising piece of news."
Do you think that many like you are not surprised by this?
PAULA MADISON, FORMER OWNER, L.A. SPARKS: Well, I think that, Don, many of us wouldn't be surprised.
And for the moment, I'm going to limit it to Donald Sterling, because I think he has got a legacy and a history of poor treatment, mistreatment, discrimination against people of color.
Insofar as the league is concerned, I was a member of the board of governors and an owner of a WNBA team. And the WNBA is in fact owned -- a part of the NBA. And we are scrutinized. We are scrutinized when we step up to buy a team. We are scrutinized and interviewed, and our financial records are gone over.
But once you get in the club, you're in the club. And I dare say that my club was a tiny part of the NBA club. The WNBA is just a very small portion of it.
But, in this case, when -- should I be surprised, should any of us be surprised? I think what I'm most surprised by is that, somehow, his true sentiments were expressed in a way that he was very boldly speaking about them. And he felt he was very boldly speaking about them to one person.
LEMON: It is the most honest moment that you could have, when you're speaking personally to someone like that.
Steve, I want you to listen to more of the tape.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STERLING: I have nothing more to say.
STIVIANO: And I took a picture with someone I admired.
STIVIANO: And he happens to be black, and I'm sorry.
I think it's nice that you admire him. I know him well and he should be admired.
And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire him privately. And during your entire (EXPLETIVE DELETED) life, your whole life admire him, bring him here, feed him, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) him, I don't care. You could do anything. But don't put him on Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games, OK?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LEMON: Steve, how does a man who is involved in the NBA, where black people for decades have been a critical part of a league's success, speak this way or even feel this way?
STEVE STOUTE, FOUNDER AND CEO, TRANSLATION: Well, the first thing you see, that he was obviously threatened by the fact that his woman was taking a picture with another guy. There's a lot of that within his statement, on top of the fact that there is clear racism.
You know, I want to talk about earlier sentiments where you want to bring it back to, you know, David Stern and the league and they should have known this prior. I'm still appalled by the fact this the NAACP was going to give this guy a lifetime achievement award, knowing all this.
I can't just look at it and say, OK, maybe David stern knew and not acknowledge the fact that the NAACP absolutely knew of the history, and felt that it was OK to give him a lifetime achievement award.
LEMON: Everybody has access to Google. That's what is so shocking -- what is so shocking to...
STOUTE: Everybody -- I mean, look, man, obviously, the NAACP was -- he was donating money, giving them tickets, or whatever he was doing, so they kind of overlooked the situation.
But the fact of the matter is now, back to what Isiah said, is, this is a moment in time where we can galvanize the efforts of the players, the African-American community, the community at large, this is a big problem that could set us back many years if we just sit around and let this go away.
So I'm excited to see what happens next, to see how we all come together and can -- and really get this guy to force him out of the league, because I think that is what has to happen. LEMON: Well, I think it has to be beyond Donald Sterling. It has got to be bigger than that. They have to figure out, where do we go, where does the league go, where does the nation go beyond Donald Sterling?
Michael, let's talk about some of the legal aspects of the story, first proving the authenticity of this tape. How hard or how easy will that be?
MICHAEL MCCANN, DIRECTOR, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT LAW INSTITUTE: Well, Don, it will be somewhat difficult, because the NBA, as far as we know, doesn't have the original recording.
And without the original recording, it can be difficult to authenticate. And a lot of people are going to say, well, it's clearly Donald Sterling. And maybe it is. But the NBA wants to be extra careful because if it turns out, for instance, that it's Donald Sterling, but the recording was somehow tampered or edited, that would be an issue for the NBA that Donald Sterling could later on use potentially if this ends up in court.
I don't think that's the case, but I think the NBA wants to be very cautious. And a lot of people have said, why hasn't Adam Silver taken action swiftly? Well, he's a lawyer. And he knows that the right thing to do is to get all the ducks in a row and make sure everything is right before he makes a decision on what the right disciplinary action will be.
LEMON: Yes. In the meantime, the Clippers are losing tens of millions of dollars, it appears by the day, with almost a dozen advertisers, big advertisers pulling their support.
Stick around with me, everyone, because later in the show, we will go to Perth, where the search for Flight 370 is expanding.
But, when we come right back, were Donald Sterling's views an open secret? And why wasn't anything done about it and done sooner?
LEMON: Well, if you want proof that the Sterling scandal goes far beyond the sports story, listen to this from the president of the United States at a news conference yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything. You just let them talk, and that's -- that's what happened here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We're back talking about the Donald Sterling scandal and what the league should do about him. I want to play this, because of course, Mark Jacobson [SIC] of the Golden Gate Warriors, they're playing the Clippers. He had this to say tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK JACKSON, GOLDEN GATE WARRIORS: I believe if it was me, I wouldn't come to the game. I believe the fans, the loudest statement that they can make as far as fans is to not show up to the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mark Jackson, do you feel that there should be a boycott of the NBA playoffs?
THOMAS: No, I don't feel that way. And I think the fans are in a very difficult position. And the reason why I don't feel that way, again, is because the players have a public trust with the fans. The fans don't come to see the owner. They don't have that public trust necessarily with the owner. That public trust is built within the players.
In this league, it's built on the back of the players. That's who -- that's who the product is. That's who excites the fans. That's who excites the community. That's who's on television.
Now the owner's beliefs. The owner's beliefs are a different thing than the players' beliefs and the fans' beliefs.
What I'm happy about right now is that sponsors have exercised their voice in terms of the boycott. And that's where the boycott should come from; it should come from the sponsors.
LEMON: That's -- I want to ask, Michael, is this all about -- is this all about the money? Look at the sponsors that have pulled out. And these are big sponsors, either pulled out or suspended. You've got Red Bull. You've got CarMax, Sprint, State Farm. We're talking tens of millions of dollars here.
MCCANN: Yes, Don, and it's a very important point. Should the NBA think about the legal action of trying to expel him from the NBA.
As Mark noted, a number of sponsors have taken themselves out of a relationship with the Clippers. So if the NBA wants to force Donald Sterling out of the NBA, they would likely argue that there is some type of financial consequence to the NBA. It has to be more than just bad P.R. It has to be more than an owner who's racist. There has to be a real financial impact for the NBA to justify that. And I think the fact that there are now sponsorships that are drying up, that could help the NBA in taking a serious sanction against Donald Sterling.
LEMON: Steve, sponsors wasted no time and big ones.
STOUTE: Well, you know what? I have to give it up to State Farm. Because this morning, starting at 7 p.m. this morning, they jumped on top of it, and they wanted to see, until there was an investigation, they had to suspend their relationship. And of course, you know, for sponsors to come out on the limb and support civil rights and the rights of people, you know, unfortunately that is a big step. But State Farm stepped up and did it. I'm proud of that.
And I think that's the only way to start the domino effect. If you start drying up the sponsorship and the fans stop showing up to the game. I kind of agree with Mark Jackson. I understand where he's coming from. That's the only way to force the sale of that team. Because if you don't have that, you don't have some level of leverage and apply it against this guy, what are they going to do? Fine him $5 million? They ain't going to matter. You've got to, you know, enforce real leverage against him and have the other owners saying, "Look, if we have a team that's not making money or getting hurt and hurting the reputation of our league, we're going to have to, you know, force him to leave as an owner."
LEMON: And Steve, you should say that you have a relationship with State Farm. You represent them, correct?
STOUTE: Absolutely. I'm proud to represent them, and I'm proud to be a part of pushing that movement forward this morning and causing that change.
LEMON: Paula, I want to talk to you about this. You know Adam Silver, the new NBA commissioner. You'll see him tomorrow at a press conference. What type of man is he and what do you think he'll likely do?
MADISON: Well, Adam is the new NBA commissioner. But Adam has been the heir apparent for years under David Stern. So all of the owners are very familiar with Adam.
Adam is measured. He is an attorney. And I think that what Adam is going to do is take into account exactly what the blowback on the league is going to be.
Right now, there are, in fact, 30 members who comprise the board of governors. These are the owners of the teams that comprise the league. Adam can take action, but the other owners are probably, I hope, having as many private talks with Donald Sterling as they can to try to, I think, convince him that what should happen is whether Adam has to take a hard line or if Donald Sterling realizes that his actions are costing not only the Clippers significant money, but it's eroding the value of the team. It's also eroding the value of the NBA.
So I'm hoping that they're talking to him about selling the team. He can -- if as I heard earlier, the team was worth 800 to a billion -- 800 million to $1 billion, if he spent under $20 million for this team, this guy is still going to walk away with a handsome profit.
LEMON: A lot of money. Yes.
LEMON: Did you want to get in, Isaiah?
THOMAS: I know Adam Silver also, and he will act decisively. And he will be hard in this situation.
But we, as African-Americans, again, we should want and expect due process. But speaking for the NBA owners and Adam Silver and the NBA that I've been a part of, this situation will be dealt with, and it will be dealt with harshly if he's found, you know...
LEMON: Thank you.
I see you want to get in. We've got a lot more show left. So don't worry. We'll get you in here.
Next, though, your views on this whole Clipper controversy and what the NBA should do now.
LEMON: I am back with my guests who represent all aspects of professional basketball, from Hall of Famer to former owner. And they're answering your questions right now.
Dave, I want to play another piece and then you and I can talk about it, of this tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STERLING: It's the world. You go to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs.
STIVIANO: Do you have to treat them like that, too?
STERLING: The white Jews. There's white Jews and blacks. You understand?
STIVIANO: Are the black Jews less than the white Jews?
STERLING: A hundred percent, fifty, 100 percent.
STIVIANO: And is that right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: First of all I don't know what he's talking about. But, Dave, why -- why do you think this tape would come out at this time during the playoffs?
ZIRIN: First of all, I say he's a Jewish American. He's talking about the reality that there is a lot of racism in Israel. Once again, discussion behind closed doors; get a glimpse of that.
Why is it coming out right now? Because now is when the tape was released. And the fact that it's coming out right now is also what makes it such political TNT for the NBA. Because this is that time of year when you have all of the soft fans begin to pay attention to what's called the second season, the NBA playoffs.
And this is where the argument of the owners are going to make their strongest argument that Donald Sterling is actually detrimental to the game. And I think it's going to be the lead argument for the owners -- and they are out there -- that want to actually wrest control of the franchise from him.
LEMON: Steve, here's a question from Twitter. It says, "Are people scapegoating Donald Sterling to mask their own complicity in keeping racism alive and well today?" Do you think it's part of the overall threat of racism in America?
STOUTE: No. You know, I think -- you know, again, I mean, I work with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Americans. I do believe that there has been a generation there that do see the world through similar values. Unless they wouldn't have voted for an African-American president, as evidence of such.
I think that he's an isolated incident. I think there's more of that. But you have these isolated incidents of people who have racism in their heart. And you know, fortunately, he got caught on tape, and he should be dealt with as a result.
LEMON: Michael, exactly what power does the NBA have in deciding to remove him as an owner or what have you? Because we saw the -- what the NBA can do. Right? They can fine him, according to the bylaws that I see, up to $2.5 million. And that they do have -- they can vote three -- vote 3/4 of the NBA board of governors, which you would know about, Paula, which is composed of all 30 owners, to get rid of him. So what options do they have here?
MCCANN: Yes, so it is true that he can be fined a certain amount of money; whether it's 1 or 2.5 million, there is some debate about. But he's worth approximately $1.9 billion, so I don't think a fine would likely send the kind of message that the NBA wants to send.
I think a suspension is probably the most likely outcome. A lengthy suspension. Maybe a year; maybe two years. And I say that, because if the league were to try to force him out, he would then likely argue, I think, that there's an antitrust violation. And it's this: The NBA and its team would have joined hands as competitors to force him to sell his team at below market value. I believe he would then argue that that's an antitrust violation. He would sue, and under anti-trust law, there are several damages.
LEMON: Let me ask you this...
MCCANN: He could also sue for breach of contract in terms of the franchise agreement. And even defamation. So my -- a suspension would likely avoid some of that.
LEMON: He is notoriously litigious. But they're saying, if you read the bylaws, Sterling is -- "can he go to court to stop Silver from punishment him? Not effectively. When Silver issues his punishment to Sterling, the decision is final. The constitution provides in paragraph blah, blah, blah, blah, blah the commissioner's decision shall be final and legal and binding and conclusive." And he really has no other recourse. He can't turn around and re-sue them.
MCCANN: Well, that would be with the suspension. To actually require him to forfeit his team takes it to a different level where he'd have to give up an asset. And he would likely argue -- not justifying what he's doing -- but that would be an extra step. A suspension, you're right. He's not going to be able to stop that. Requiring him to forfeit his team, he will be able to challenge that.
LEMON: OK, Isaiah, I'm going to give you the last word here and talk about -- let's begin where we started. Many people on this panel feel the same way. You heard Steve say the same sentiments. We have to bind together, and we have to somehow make a difference and rise to the occasion. What do you -- final thoughts?
THOMAS: Everyone's anxious to have this discussion. You see how excited everyone is and the participation around this discussion of race and racialization. Let's move it from the sports field and move it into society; and let's talk about these things and have this debate publicly and privately to make our country better.
LEMON: Right. And not just on television or when you see it on the news. You have to do it in your private life, as well.
Thank you to all my guests. I really appreciate all of you. And we're going to stay on this story and bring you the news from the NBA news conference -- remember, that is tomorrow -- on this scandal.
But next, missing Malaysia Flight 370. Are we starting from scratch?
LEMON: Now I want to turn to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Tonight, the search is expanding, and we're learning that private contractors may be hired. The whole thing could cost $60 million and may take months or longer.
Joining me now from Perth is Geoffrey Thomas, editor in chief of AirlineRatings.com.
Geoffrey, so many weeks officials were so positive about finding this plane. You were, too. What happened?
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Well, you're absolutely right, Don. And I mean, I guess we were all hoping that we would find it straight away to bring closure to the relatives, to the loved ones left behind. But sadly, this is not the case. And of course, I guess we must reference back to Air France 447. It took them an awful long time, an awful long time to find that.
And we do know, of course, that sound does strange things at those sorts of depths. And while we have looked at just one ping area, there are three other pings. And I guess our expectations need to be a little bit tempered by the fact that, you know, this is going to be a long search. But hopefully, you know, it could be a couple of days. It could be a couple of weeks. It could be a couple of months. It's just very hard to tell. LEMON: Geoffrey, I want you to stay with me, because I want to bring in now Commander Marks, U.S. 7th Fleet public affairs officer. He's aboard the USS Blue Ridge, and he joins me now by telephone.
Thank you, Commander. What will the role of the U.S. Navy be moving forward?
COMMANDER WILLIAM MARKS, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, U.S. NAVY 7TH FLEET (via phone): That's a great question. We're in a transition period right now. There are a lot of really intelligent people looking at the long-term approach for what is the best way to search this expanded search area.
So a few things we have to look at. First is, as the prime minister said, you know, we believe the value of these flights is diminishing. Most of any debris that would have been on the surface of the water most likely is sunk. And then you have this expanded underwater search area.
So what was also to be searched with one side-scan sonar, the Bluefin in a couple of weeks, well, now you expand that to this 400-by-50 mile-or-so box, and that's much greater or much more than one side- scan sonar can search.
So the factors you need to the look at re what assets can you bring in and where do you place them for the expanded search? So there are a lot of commercial solutions out there. There are a number of side- scan sonars. You have to look at the depth of the area, the -- whether you want to tow them or whether they're remotely operated. If you do tow them, you need support and logistics to support that.
So a lot of variables in place. But this week is when those discussions are going on for the way forward. Like was mentioned before, it will be a long-term effort. It's not -- it's not like this is going to take just a few weeks. This is a much -- a more expanded area. So you have to look at the entire spectrum of solutions, from government to commercial, all the way through these various options of side-scan sonar capability.
LEMON: All right. Commander Marks, thank you very much. We appreciate your time.
I want to bring in now my aviation expert, Jeff Wise, the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind and Danger"; David Soucie, former FAA safety inspector and author of "Why Planes Crash"; and Les Abend, aviation analyst and triple-7 pilot; and of course, Geoffrey Thomas back with us from Perth.
Jeff Wise, the entire first phase is complete. Were they looking in the wrong place or did they just not find it?
JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it's a really baffling turn of events. I mean, as you noted, the Australians have been promising in very strong terms that the pings -- that these pings came from MH-370 and that, once we went down and looked, we'd find MH-370 again or at least the black box. And so, to go down there to search an area, quite a large area in terms of these -- the towed pinger locators are only supposed to detect something within a mile. And so to search a circle are of six miles is a very generous search area unless you believe that this pinger has some kind of magical properties that can essentially be detected at any distance. It should have been there if it came from MH-370.
And so the fact that the plane wasn't there, the black box wasn't there, indicates that this ping which they described as the best ping, must have come from something else or just been an outright false positive altogether. So that really indicates that these pings, which are really touted as being from the black boxes, was not. And that really puts us at a dead end.
And so any -- any behavior that you engage in after this, you really have to ask why is this being done? It's very extraordinary to search the ocean bed when you have no real strong indication that the plane is anywhere in the vicinity.
LEMON: And Les, do you think that the Bluefin was a failure?
LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No. I think the Bluefin was a positive result. It's saying to us it's not here. I don't -- I don't know the technology. It's not my area of expertise, as well, there, but I think that -- I think it was with the best asset that they had at the time. They contracted with a company. The Navy did fulfill their contract as did this particular company. And I think they did their job.
It's not an asset that was probably the best. But it was what available at the time with the best information that we had.
LEMON: David, you know, they're bringing in private contractors to help with the search. Are you concerned that this could sort of confuse matters?
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Certainly, it can. I mean, the concern I have is that each one of these contractors has different capabilities. You have a towed pinger locator -- not towed pinger locator but a towed side -- sorry, side-scan sonar; and so that's one capability and that does a large area quickly. But the quality is not good.
Then you have the Remus 6000, which is designed to get down lower and take a look at some of these more -- areas where there's more crevices and more areas to look at.
So there's a lot of different capabilities. I'm concerned that it's not being coordinated properly.
But quickly, back to Jeff's point, about the pings, remember, there are other pings there, and I think there's better pings there. What they said this was the best ping, best opportunity they had to find it based on the fact that they had the Bluefin. The best opportunity I see is the first ping, which was two hours long, and that ping hasn't been researched yet, because they didn't have equipment good enough to go that low. The Remus 6000 can and some of these contracting equipment can. So I'm not giving up still, Jeff, on the pinged locator.
ABEND: And the fact that those are coming from the aircraft.
LEMON: And by the way, for our viewers, that "phbbt," that is a technical term by David Soucie for aviation experts.
All right. Coming up, my experts will answer more of your questions.
LEMON: We have time to answer some of the many questions that you have been sending, as many as possible. And I want to start with David. One of your tweets says, "It's only worth the expense if we know the crew and passengers are alive. If not, whose purpose are we serving?"
SOUCIE: Well, by finding this aircraft, remember, the purpose of finding the aircraft itself is to find out what happened, why it happened, perhaps, and to prevent it from happening again. Can you put a value on that?
ABEND: I can't.
LEMON: Yes, well, I think that's obvious. Les, another tweet: "Will a scaled-back search with less assets decrease the possibility of the plane being found?"
ABEND: That would be my gut feeling. Yes, absolutely.
LEMON: But you have some issues about the air search?
ABEND: Well, no, I thought it was a good strategic decision to discontinue the air search, because our original purpose of the air search was to find the location of the wreckage by virtue of where it floated to but we decided that there are so many currents, apparently, we're not successful at that. So that later in the search, the air search, we were doing this for the families so that we had something concrete. At this point, it's pointless to spend that kind of money in the air for that particular strategic decision.
LEMON: Jeff Wise, will raw Inmarsat data be included, attached, in the initial Malaysian report coming out this week?
WISE: Boy, I'm dying to find out. You know, I'm on tender hooks. I hope that that report does get released. That would be -- that would be like Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled into one if it was really in it, the Inmarsat data.
LEMON: Geoffrey Thomas, this is another tweet. This is a question. Why hasn't the flight been replicated, the route, the elevation, the radar, the ACARS and pings?" To be fair, we've heard this question a couple times.
G. THOMAS: Look, in many ways, it has. Because they have actually looked at Malaysian triple-7s traveling on various routes after the disappearance, and they have taken data from them, Inmarsat data from them; and in many ways they have, in fact, replicated it for the purpose of the calculations that have been done.
LEMON: So it has been done but just not specifically in a way that many people would think.
All right. Thank you everyone. I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thanks to all of my experts. That's it for us. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for watching. "AC 360" starts right now.