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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Sterling Words Ignite Discussion on Race; Spike Lee Talks Sterling, NBA; Australian Company Says Found Plane Parts; Severe Weather Threatens 75 Million.

Aired April 29, 2014 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. The repugnant, offensive words attributed to L.A. Clippers Donald Sterling ignited this discussion now about race in basketball and in some ways race in America.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Want you to listen to these words from the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Quote, Donald Sterling is just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. Racism is the true enemy. He's just another jerk with more money than brains."

Let that sink in for a second.

Joining us from Atlanta, Terrence Moore, columnist for mlb.com, and CNN.com sports contributor. Good to have you. David Cornwell is a prominent sports attorney.

Gentlemen, a pleasure to have you here to discuss this.

It's interesting. John and I have been spending a lot of time off air discussing this whole mess. The best word we can use for it. In this mess maybe Donald Sterling has done something positive by opening a discussion about race in pro sports and race in America. What are your thoughts?

We'll start with you, Terrence.

TERRENCE MOORE, COLUMNIST, MLB.COM & CNN.COM SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: There's no doubt about that. This has been going on forever, racism in life, racism in sports. And it always gets me. People talk about Donald Sterling is treating his players like they are commodities. This has always been the case. Major league baseball had the reserve clause which was legalized slavery where this didn't have anything to do with just black players but white players were bound to a team forever more. That's always been the case. You look at the racism part of it. You know, people think of the '60s and '50s on back when it comes to racism and baseball or sports pre-April 15th, 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, let's look at the 1980s. Executive of the dodgers came out and said the reason there are not black executives during that time is because they lacked the necessities. You come to the 1990s after tiger woods won his first master. Fuzzy Zeller, a fellow golfer, saying that tiger at the champions dinner the next year shouldn't serve greens or fried chicken or whatever they serve. This has always been the case. When this stuff comes out, it's great. It exposes the fact that it is still there and is hidden away from the public but still there.

BERMAN: Let me ask you, David. The question now is what to do about it or what should the NBA do about it. I want you to listen to something that Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, said about this. I want to get your reaction. Cuban said, "I think you have to be very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think as opposed to what they do. It's a very, very slippery slope." Now, Cuban called the comments that Sterling allegedly made abhorrent but he says you have to be careful of suspending him or punishing for them. How slippery is this slope? I'm not sure I see that.

DAVID CORNWELL, SPORTS ATTORNEY: I agree with you. I understand what mark means. We're nowhere near the point at which the slippery slope is dangerous. There are certain issues in sports that I call the kryptonite issues. Initially, it was gambling going to integrity of the game. Over the last two decades it's become steroids and performance-enhancing substances. Today we have a third item to add to kryptonite in sports. It's racism. Mark is right if we talk about someone speeding or expressing views about taxation and things like that. We shouldn't take their franchise away. But racism is a kryptonite issue in sports because what Donald Sterling is saying is that he will never recognize players as partners in the business. This man is delusional. He said that he feeds them. He buys them houses. His franchise has been at the bottom of the barrel for a majority of the time that he's owned it. Consequently, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Shaquille O'Neal, John Stockton, players like that, have fed Donald Sterling through revenue sharing. He hasn't earned the revenue that he's collected from his own efforts. He's earned it because players have performed at an excellent level and increased the revenues that basketball has enjoyed and - he's gotten his cut. He deserves to be taken out of basketball.

Let me make it clear. We are not outraged that he's a racist. We're outraged that he can enjoy the fruits of the excellence and commitment of black men and then hold those racist views. He can be a bigot. He just can't be a bigot in the NBA.

PEREIRA: David and Terrence, we want you to stay with us. We have some sound from Spike Lee. He made some comments about Sterling and we're going to have you sound off on that after the break. But I want to give you a sneak peek at what Spike has to say. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPIKE LEE, ACTOR: He's tainting the other 29 partners. He's tainting the league and he's tainting America. When you hear something like that, that is a mentality of a slave master.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Spike Lee, no stranger to the discussion of race in America. He's become an important voice.

BERMAN: He certainly has. I want you to listen to what he said about Donald Sterling and the allegedly racist comments he made and what league commissioner, Adam Silver, should do it. Spike said this on "A.C. 360."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, A.C. 360: You know this new commissioner.

LEE: I have known Adam for a long time. He's a good guy.

COOPER: What do you think he should do?

LEE: I don't know the bylaws of the league. But he has to go.

COOPER: This guy Donald Sterling should not own a team?

LEE: He has to go. Because he is tainting the other 29 partners. He's tainting the league and he's tainting America. And when you hear something like that, that's the mentality of a slave master. He sees his players as slaves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining us from Atlanta to discuss this, Terrence Moore, columnist for mlb.com and also a CNN.com sports contributor; and David Cornwell, a prominent sports attorney.

David, I want to start with you.

Treats his players like slaves. Those words from Spike Lee. We heard language like this before in the NBA. Brian Gumball described the former NBA commissioner as a plantation overseer. Does this language apply to the NBA universally?

CORNWELL: I think it's difficult to make the analogy between the suffering that slaves endured in America and the position of black athletes in America. Black athletes have a choice to impact their role, their position in the business. It's a label that resonates. I'm comfortable with stopping with fool and ignorant. I think that describes him pretty well too.

PEREIRA: Terrence, let's bring you in. We're looking forward now to this press conference that's happening at 2:00 p.m. eastern. I know many eyes will be on it including ours. We know that many call this a defining moment for the NBA for the sport. A defining moment for America. I wonder what your thoughts are if the sanctions, the reaction from the NBA is strong enough. What does the league risk? What then?

MOORE: Let me tell you what's going to happen here. This is very much like the racist owner of the Cincinnati Reds in the mid 1980s and 1990s is she was loose with her tongue, saying Hitler was good in the beginning but just went to far, calling her star black players her million-dollar "N"s. And what baseball did back then was very similar to what will happen here. They suspended here. They couldn't take away her club but they could make it very difficult for her. This is a good-old-boy network. The NBA as it was in major league baseball so it was sort of like that water torture. Drip, drip, drip. They pressuring her, pressuring her through suspensions and she was forced to sell.

Mark Cuban is thinking about himself. The reason he doesn't want language to be part of this equation is owners think that if they're going to go after Donald Sterling and force him out because of what he's saying, they may go after them because the reason Donald Sterling has been allowed to last as long as he has since 1981 is because his fellow owners allowed that to happen, which tells you about fellow owners also.

BERMAN: We were talking about the fact that for so long Donald Sterling got away with it because Clippers were so bad and no one cared what happened there.

PEREIRA: They haven't been bad for a while. Clipper fan over here.

BERMAN: Terrence Moore, David Cornwell, thank you for joining us. Really interesting perspective here.

We do expect to hear what the NBA will do. That's at 2:00, an important news conference. Watch it right here on CNN.

PEREIRA: You'll have to move your nap time today.

A company claims in Australia to have found plane wreckage they think from flight 370. But the head of the search committee remains skeptical because this area where they found it is thousands of miles away from the current search area. We'll talk with an aviation correspondent, Richard Quest, the man, the myth and legend is here, about whether that is even possible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Through the morning here on CNN, we've been talking about this new potential find in this ongoing search for flight 370.

BERMAN: The head of an Australian exploration company says his firm has found signs of a Boeing plane. A lot of metal, actually signs of metal, mostly aluminum, about 100 miles off the coast of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal.

Aviation correspondent, Richard Quest.

Richard and our guest earlier, Jeff Wise, say he and other aviation experts are quite skeptical of this find. They say it's outside the parameters of the search area that they're looking at right now.

PEREIRA: We should point out the leaders of the search are dismissing it as saying, quote, "The location specified by the company, GeoResonance report, is not within the search arc derived from this data. The JICC, the joint international team, is satisfied that the final resting place of the missing aircraft is in that southerly portion of the search arc."

OK, Richard, break this down for us. What does this mean? In terms of the Inmarsat data, we find out this information, we know where the pings were. What do you glean from all of this information?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: All right, they say they have found something. They say, by their resonance, methods, it is something that resembles an airplane. They say it is consistent with the shape, the consistency and the metallurgical qualities of the plane.

PEREIRA: Sure.

QUEST: They're saying they've not found 370, they merely say they've found something that needs to be looked at.

PEREIRA: Right.

QUEST: However, on the other hand, we have an entire body of flimsy tenuous and perhaps suspect evidence from Inmarsat. I'm not being deliberately flippant in saying this because all we have is the Inmarsat data, the 6.5 pings -- it's not pings -- it's satellite handshakes, that show the plane flew. Those satellite handshakes are all to do with the relationship where the plane was in relative position to the satellite. We'll be given details about that in Beijing today.

BERMAN: Worth looking at, worth checking out 100 miles off the coast of Bangladesh?

QUEST: It's not wrong direction. It may not be as far as 6.5 hours, and it may be entirely off the arc of satellite elevation. But in this scenario, nothing can be discounted and everything must be examined.

PEREIRA: So they don't rush all of their resources into the South Indian Ocean, which would take forever to get there and a whole lot of money, but instead maybe send somebody from Bangladesh, another resource, military, nearby?

QUEST: Well, we have the advantage -- look, you see this map here this is where the possible wreckage sighting. If we can show the animation that shows where the plane flew and goes from one to the other, you will see, rather grandly, just why this either -- now, according to the GeoResonance, at this point, the plane was still together, we are still together, and then we're still together, and then it would have to go there in exactly the opposite direction. Mix between the two and you'll see exactly --

BERMAN: We keep calling this a possible wreckage sighting. This isn't quite that exactly. This is a spectral analysis of elements found by a satellite which sees elements.

QUEST: Right, I'm not discrediting their science. Not that I'm qualified to anywhere. It would be imprudent of me to try to do so. But those who speak say yes, there is some legitimacy. It has been used before. It's used in mining. It's a well-recognized technique. And certainly that which they're saying they found needs to be looked at. But the body of evidence everybody else is working from has to be the one you're going to follow through.

BERMAN: Richard quest, stunning to have you here with us @ THIS HOUR. Really appreciate it.

QUEST: Thank you.

PEREIRA: All right. Another big story we're watching, keeping a very close eye on 75 million people are in the danger zone, all under threat of severe weather. We'll speak again to a storm chaser @ THIS HOUR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: @ THIS HOUR, some 75 million Americans are danger zone as storms range from the Great Lakes and to the gulf coast and from the Midwest to the east coast. These storms have already killed 29 people in six states.

PEREIRA: 13 people in confirmed dead after tornadoes ripped through Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Now, that is on top of the 16 people killed a day earlier, in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa. The greatest risk is once again now in the Deep South.

And you can help people that have been affected by the storm. You can impact your world on our website, CNN.com.

BERMAN: Let's bring in storm chaser, Michael Wilhelm. He joins us by phone from Huntsville, Alabama. Michael witnessed tornadoes in Alabama yesterday. These storms are moving so fast. We have some video Michael shot here.

Give us a sense -- this is from Alabama. Give us a sense of what we're looking at here, what you saw.

MICHAEL WILHELM, STORM CHASER (voice-over): What we're looking at here is the actual thunderstorm of the tornado that struck Mayflower, Arkansas, Sunday evening. What you're looking at, you can see the storm rotate. If you look very closely around the middle of that circular cloud, there's lots of ground to cloud lightning. There's been a lot of research that precedes the tornado when it ramps up like that. You can actually see transformers popping where the tornado was knocking down power lines and such.

PEREIRA: Michael, we know 29 people lost their lives. We know that the storm was predicted. We know that the media has been covering it. We know it is moving its direction and continues to. We know the storm's not done yet. Are people now, do you feel, getting out of the way? Are they preparing? Are they getting to safer ground?

WILHELM: I feel like a lot of people are, but then again, there's a whole lot of people -- you'll notice a lot of these vehicles are driving right into the storm. Now, I will say the National Weather Service and -- here in Huntsville -- and the Storm Prediction Center does an excellent job in getting warnings and outlets out there so if people will tune in and listen to what the weather service is saying and have a way of getting the warnings, they can be safe. That's the key, is the communication part. The warnings are out there.

BERMAN: Quickly, Michael, how does today look to you right now?

WILHELM: Today's going to be a rough day. There's a moderate risk. A big chunk of Alabama with the possibility of more strong tornadoes. So people do need to pay attention to the weather today.

BERMAN: This thing is not over yet. You be careful.

Everyone in that region, pay attention, be careful. Please heed these warnings.

PEREIRA: Don't forget, go to impact your world, you can go to CNN.com for a way to help these folks dealing with this.

That's it for us @ THIS HOUR. Thanks so much for joining us once again. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.