A racially charged audio recording surfaced Saturday in which Clippers owner Donald Sterling purportedly told a female friend to stop posing for pictures with Johnson.
The NBA is investigating the remarks, which included numerous other derogatory references toward blacks, and has yet to rule on a punishment for Sterling that might include suspension.
“The Clippers aren’t for sale. It’s a non-story right now,” said a person familiar with Johnson’s business interests, who pointed out, however, that Johnson expressed past interest in owning an NBA franchise.
Lakers fans might have to deal with the concept of their longtime icon showing interest in the significantly less-heralded Clippers. It wouldn’t be the first time a revered NBA player joined a franchise different from the one on which he played.
Michael Jordan won six championships with the Chicago Bulls but purchased the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010. Closer to home, Jerry West has worked for Memphis and Golden State since leaving the Lakers’ front office in 2000.
Johnson has been an unpaid vice president for the Lakers since selling his ownership share of about 4% of the team to billionaire biotech investor Patrick Soon-Shiong in 2010. Johnson remains friendly with Lakers executive Jeanie Buss but has not been involved in the day-to-day dealings of the team since that transaction, if not before then.
Johnson is part of several real-estate ventures and has been a public face of the Dodgers since teaming with Guggenheim to purchase the team for more than $2 billion in 2012.
A former ESPN analyst, Johnson appeared Sunday on ABC to discuss Sterling’s actions. He did not directly address his own interest in the Clippers but was obviously unhappy with Sterling and implored new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to “come down hard” on him.
“He shouldn’t own a team anymore,” Johnson said. “And, he should stand up and say, ‘I don’t want to own a team anymore,’ especially when you have African Americans renting his apartments, coming to his games, playing for him and coaching for him. This is bad for everybody. This is bad for America. I’m really upset about it.”
The Buss family is committed to retaining control of the Lakers since patriarch Jerry Buss’ death in February of last year.
“We’re not selling the team. It’s not what we were raised to do,” Lakers executive Jim Buss recently told The Times. “People have to understand that my dad groomed us for basically 20 years to do what we’re doing, to be taught by the best, to understand the philosophy of this brand. This was not overnight.”
Four of six siblings designated in the Buss trust would have to vote to sell the team if such an event were to happen.
Johnson and Guggenheim CEO Mark Walter were part of a group that purchased the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks two months ago. Guggenheim executives have also acknowledged discussions with the NFL about building a football stadium in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium.