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Dangerous Weather and Wildfire; Interview with Kareem Abdul- Jabbar; Clippers Owner Banned for Life; Who Should Take Over Clipper Ownership?; Donald Sterling, It's Complicated; Dying While Waiting

Aired April 30, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, 8:00 p.m. here in New York, nearly 60 miles an hour winds in Southern California, more than a foot and a half of rain on the Gulf Coast, and breaking news from shore to shore tonight.

Out west the wind is fanning a wildfire that began in the San Bernardino National Forest, but is now taking aim at a residential area north of Rancho Cucamonga, forcing more than 1500 homeowners to flee. Back east, heavy rain up and down the coast in Baltimore which has seen an inch and a half the last 24 hours. The earth gave way. Opening up, swallowing a line of parked cars, dumping some of them on to railroad tracks below.

And take a look at this rescue from floodwaters in Mobile, Alabama.

Emergency worker reaching the man, helping him there. They get a life preserver. Watch as both of them let go of the tree. And just look at how fast the waters carry them down stream, thankfully back to safe ground.

A real mess out there. We'll take you to California fire line shortly. But first, Ed Lavandera is in flooded out Pensacola, Florida.

So this is the worst flooding Pensacola has had in decades, Ed. What have you seen?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are on a street called Piedmont Road, and this was a street that neighbors literally see at 3:00 in the morning that pieces of the roadway started popping up and flapping on to people's front lawns. As long as you can see down this stretch of road, the floodwaters were so intense. Hours and hours of rainfall that descended on these neighborhoods. And several people had about two and a half feet of water in their homes in this neighborhood.

We've made our way through various parts of this Pensacola area throughout the day today, Anderson. And some neighbors, the good news is, much of the floodwaters have already receded to a point where neighbors were able to get inside their homes and assess the damage and start cleaning up.

But we saw some neighborhoods that took as much as five feet of water inside their homes today.

COOPER: Wow. Ed, we're going to come back to you a little bit later on the program tonight.

Well, Donald Sterling, the disgraced and banished owner of the NBA Clippers, maintaining the team is not for sale. An all-star trio of would-be buyers are stepping up. A spokesperson for Oprah Winfrey saying she is talking to music and movie mogul David Geffen and software billionaire Larry Ellison about a possible joint bid for the Clippers.

Meantime, Sterling's wife, Rochelle, was at the Staples Center last night, watching the Clippers beat Golden State. She went with the blessing of Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who said after the game he did not expect Donald Sterling to transfer ownership to her.

There is breaking news as well on what players whose protest helped oust Sterling will accept. A top player and union official telling Yahoo! Sports they want a totally clean slate and not a Sterling family member running things. A complete change in ownership.

That and a lot more tonight.

First one of the all-time legends of the game, a six-time NBA champion, former Lakers star, former Clippers coach and writer of the basketball documentary "On the Shoulders of Giants," Kareem Abdul- Jabbar.

Kareem, you've been very critical obviously of the comments made by Donald Sterling. But you also have a really interesting take on it. You've also been critical of how those comments came into the public sphere. How they were secretly recorded by -- by this former girlfriend. And also of the -- the kind of the role played by the media and kind of the finger wagging. You said that, quote, "The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of extreme finger wagging, not to mention the next strain from Olympic tryouts from morally superior headshaking."

Explain what bothers you about the way this whole thing had played out.

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBER, FORMER NBA PLAYER: There were indications, at least a decade ago, Anderson, that Mr. Sterling had some really disturbing views. There was evidence that was given in depositions for some of the trials that he had to go through where he was being sued for refusing to rent some of his properties to minority people or people with large families. And we should have had an indication of much earlier time. That he is not the type of person that should represent the NBA.

COOPER: In terms of the woman's role who made this recording or apparently made this recording, V. Stiviano, you said that she basically tried to cajole Sterling into revealing his racism. You describe her as, quote, "A sexy nanny playing pin the fried chicken on the Sambo." But do you think she had to dig far to expose -- you know, expose these comments. I mean, I listened to the whole tape and she is kind of going at it several times.

ABDUL-JABBAR: She might be doing that. But it comes out of him so easily.


ABDUL-JABBAR: It's not like she has to pull them out of him. These feelings it seems were right at the surface and he shared them freely. And it is really disturbing when you realize that he was very comfortable saying these things.

COOPER: It's also interesting that, you know, in our society this is a form of racist speech, which is -- you know, everybody can kind of point to and see and identify. But more institutional forms of racism. More, you know, unfair lending to minority groups by banks and other things. Those are harder to see and sort of more deniable.

ABDUL-JABBAR: These things have to be eliminated. Our nation is about equal opportunity and fairness. It should be. And what Mr. Sterling was all about was discrimination. It is a very ugly face to turn to the world. And I'm glad he is no longer in a position to be seen as the face of the NBA.

COOPER: Do you think somebody like him can learn to think differently?

ABDUL-JABBAR: You know, I don't know. He has not asked for any forgiveness, he hasn't apologized. He seems to be very content with the way he feels about things. It's sad. But it seems to be true.

COOPER: Right.

ABDUL-JABBAR: So I'll let him deal with that as he sees fit.

COOPER: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it's great to have you on the program. Thank you.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Nice talking to you, Anderson. Take care.

COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with former Chicago Bulls Jay Williams, currently he's at ESPN, and Steve Stoute who is the leading voice in the advertising pullout that really accelerated events. He's also the author of "The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a culture That Re-wrote the Rules of the New Economy."

Steve, let me start with you. Where needs to happen now? I mean, where does this go from here?

STEVE STOUTE, AUTHOR, "THE TANNING OF AMERICA": Well, I think the healing process begins. You know, I think there is -- everybody is really excited, the quick decision that Adam Silver made. He showed true leadership here. I think the African-American community and the community as a whole realized that justice was served. And now it is time to really get him out. You know, now we get to see how we get him out. It can't be shenanigans with him passing the team to his wife and, you know, still being involved through that marriage. It has to be what the players want, a clean slate.

COOPER: And as you point out you represent State Farm and obviously supported the pause of sponsorship on their part. But as far as you are concerned no member of the Sterling family should continue to have a role in the team.

STOUTE: No. No, I mean, now when you look into it, the wife was involved in previous race cases that he had, specifically the civil suit with the apartments that he --

COOPER: She is quoted in various depositions.

STOUTE: Yes, she's quoted in depositions and apparently she was on tape disguising herself as a health inspector to go and, you know, get people thrown out of the apartment. So she is part of the enterprise, the racist enterprise that the Sterling family stands for. So no, I think it needs a clean slate. It's need to be put up and, you know, it shouldn't be a fire sale. You know, I think the value of the team is the value that they should get fair market value.

COOPER: He's just going to get away with a lot of money, no doubt.

STOUTE: He should come away with a lot of money, he did what he did, whatever. You can't begrudge him that. However, new ownership. Not any siblings or any family members or wives or anything like that.

COOPER: Jay, the other day on the show, you talked a bit about the slippery slope some owners might fear if they can get in trouble for comments they think are making in private. Given that, are you confident that at least three quarters of the owners will vote to force the sale?

JAY WILLIAMS, ESPN BASKETBALL ANALYST: Am I confident? I don't know. You know, through the bylaws of the constitution of the NBA there is no standardized format on how they go about voting for this. Yes, they do need 22 out of 30 votes. But at the same time there could be anonymity. You know, and Mark Cuban said it during his press conference. He said, you know, once you start infringing upon personal space and confidentiality calls, you know, throughout the comfort -- the comfort of his own home then that starts to embark upon some territory that is really undiscovered.

And now for all of these owners, all of these owners are going to somewhat question, OK, if I were to say something or if I would, you know, partake in a particular situation that may have happened in the confines of my own home, can I be judged for that and can I lose my franchise for that? So that's going to be something the committee is going to have to talk about.

Now something else that nobody really talks about. Last night I was at home watching the game, Anderson, and granted I love the fact that the fans came out and they supported the players. And everybody was there. There was a packed house. But what we're doing by doing that is by saying pretty much to Donald Sterling, it's OK, you made these comments and we're moving on. But we're still packing the house. We're still providing -- we're still increasing the revenue for his franchise for him to sell it. And the more he drags on this process, the more of the value of the franchise will be increased.

COOPER: Steve, do you -- do you believe the owners will vote to get him out?

STOUTE: Yes, I think the owners will get him out. They can't have and they cannot have an owner in the league that the players don't want to work with, stand for. He's a black eye to the league. You know, if a player did something that was that disparaging, they'd throw him out. They would treat him the exact same way.

What I found out in the process here, with the corporations, sponsoring teams is there are no clauses in a lot of contracts with these teams that ever speak about what happens if the owner does anything. We see the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, what he just went through, right? With the driving and speeding and drunk driving and history of drugs.

COOPER: Right.

STOUTE: And now we see the racist remarks that he said. There is nothing in these corporate contract that addresses what happens if the owner or an executive does anything --


COOPER: Often for employees or for players --


COOPER: -- there's morality clauses. There's a formality clause in there.

STOUTE: Of course. With the players. But no one ever talks about the owners. And I think, well, I'm certainly going to urge partners and people that I work with to really start to look at broadening the language to include owners and executives of senior management, as well. Because apparently, you know, they're getting loose, as well. People point at the players all the time and now we're seeing examples of owners and senior managers making very bad mistakes and really pushing the moral issues far. Causing issues.

COOPER: Jay, were you surprised? I know you're watching the game last night. Were you surprised that Shelly Sterling showed up at the game? I mean, Doc Rivers said it was OK for her to come.

WILLIAMS: No, I wasn't surprised. Look, she's going to try to play both sides of the card and I'm fine with that. You know, back to visit the point that Steve had just spoke about. I think that is the issue. I think that there has been a broad language due to the bylaws of the constitution of the NBA. And I think, look, the owners run the NBA. And as Adam Silver made a very swift move and I thought it was the right move, like I said yesterday on the show, this is the first steps in the process of a series of steps that will need to forego in order for, you know, the NBA to remove Donald Sterling from this capacity as owner.

COOPER: Jay Williams, good to have you on. Steve Stoute as well. Thanks so much.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Anderson.

STOUTE: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, appreciate it.

A quick reminder to you, make sure you set your DVR so you can watch 360 whenever you like.

Coming up next, the women in Donald Sterling's life. His reputed mistress and her ambitions. His wife and their -- well, I guess, complicated role in all of this. New details coming to light. She is suing her. Anyway, it's a mess.

That's -- also waiting months for badly needed care at one of VA hospital. This is just an outrageous thing. We have been investigating now this multiple times. We recently had our Drew Griffin report. Including some vets who actually died waiting, according to one doctor. Reports of a secret waiting list. Our reporting got answers reassuring words from President Obama but got this from one of his VA officials. Watch.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Director Helman, can you talk to us, please? Can you please talk to us, Director? Director Helman? Director Helman?


COOPER: These people, they're running away like cockroaches, like do you remember when Mike Wallace showed up on "60 Minutes" he said people run away like cockroaches? That's what people are doing, reacting to this. People at the VA not talking to Drew Griffin for months, refusing to answer questions, very basic questions, very fair questions.

Drew is "Keeping Them Honest" ahead tonight.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight, a top Players Union official Roger Mason Jr. telling Yahoo! Sports that the players would not be satisfied with anyone in the Sterling family assuming ownership of the Clippers. A complete change is how Mason put to Yahoo! Sports.

We'll talk to our Jeffrey Toobin in a second about whether the players have the power to stop a transfer to someone like Donald Sterling's wife or son-in-law, as has been suggested.

Meantime, we've got some newly discovered video of L.A. Clipper owner Donald Sterling in better times. Take a look.


DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: Should we give away some of the Clipper girls?


COOPER: By Clipper girls, he means the L.A. Clipper cheerleaders. Tonight, though, all attention is on the women in Sterling's life, neither of whom is doing much cheering. It's complicated to say the least as Randi Kaye explains.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No doubt, V. Stiviano had dreams of making her mark one day. Listen to this.

V. STIVIANO, DONALD STERLING'S GIRLFRIEND: One day I will become president of the United States of America.

KAYE: Yes, that's Stiviano telling the paparazzi about her plans to be president. For now, she will remain the other woman in the Donald Sterling saga. She reportedly first met Sterling at the 2010 Super Bowl. She claims to be his archivist, but it's unclear exactly what that means. Whether on Sterling's arm at a Clippers' game or on her own, she is tabloid fodder.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you surprised about all the attention that you've been getting?

STIVIANO: I'm trying to walk my dog.

KAYE: On this Instagram account where she posted this picture with Magic Johnson that set off Sterling's racist rant, she writes, "I do it all." Describing herself as an artist. Lover, writer, chef, poet, stylist and philanthropist.

Her photos include this one posing as an angel, another in a bathing suit. Plus photos of cars with personalized license plates, alleged gifts from Donald Sterling. The plates read, "I heart you,. V.," and "V. Hearts you." Which brings us to another woman in Donald's life, his wife, Rochelle Sterling. She's been married to the Clippers owner for more than 50 years. A relationship that's also a bit hard to explain given that Rochelle is well aware of Stiviano and her relationship with her husband.

So aware that Rochelle filed this lawsuit against Stiviano in March to protect and recover community property. Sterling alleges that Stiviano's conduct was designed to target, befriend, seduce, and then entice, cajole, borrow from wealthy older men. The lawsuit claims the cars and money Donald Sterling gave Stiviano were community assets, given without the knowledge, consent or authorization of his wife. (On camera): Those include at least $240,000 in living expenses, plus a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover worth more than $500,000. Also, Stiviano was allegedly given another $1.8 million to buy a duplex in Los Angeles.

(Voice-over): As far as her husband's comments, on Sunday afternoon, Rochelle Sterling called them despicable. Telling TMZ, "Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband," but later that night a different story. Caught leaving a restaurant with her husband, she defended him. Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you a racist, Mrs. Sterling?

ROCHELLE STERLING, DONALD STERLING'S WIFE: No, of course not. Forget it. It's not true.


R. STERLING: No, of course not.

KAYE: Whatever the real story is and whatever their relationship, one thing we know for sure. Neither of these women will be cheering on the Clippers alongside Donald Sterling anymore.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: A charming bunch, safe to say.

V. Stiviano will not be running the Clippers anytime soon. Perhaps she'll be too busy running for president. The questions is, who will run the Clippers? Can the Sterling family actually hang on to the team? Could the highly litigious Donald tie things up in court for years. Might Rochelle get half in the settlement if she decides to divorce him or the Sterlings ride off into the sunset counting their hundreds of millions of dollars all the way.

The scenarios are endless. Here to talk about some of them, former NBA great, Greg Anthony, who's now basketball analyst for Turner Sports, and senior legal analyst as well Jeff Toobin.

Jeff, Sterling was very clear yesterday, saying that the NBA's ruling pertained to only Sterling himself, not his family. What happens if Sterling's wife files for divorce before any sale is made? Under California law, half his assets are hers, right? So would that mean she could own half the team?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Silver said that she is not barred from the facility. But I have zero doubt that the NBA is going to prevent anyone from the Sterling family from controlling this franchise. Remember, the NBA, once they get the 3/4 votes they are in charge of this franchise. And they decide who gets to buy and who doesn't. There is a formal process in the constitution in every professional league where they get to approve or disapprove of new purchasers of franchises. There is no way. Adam Silver is one of the most popular men in America today. If he were to authorize turning this franchise over to anyone in the Sterling family, all that would be gone. The players would revolt, there is not a chance in the world that they're going to allow this -- the Sterlings, anyone, to get this franchise.

COOPER: And, Greg, as was talked about earlier, Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the players, they said they would not accept a situation where any member of the Sterling family is left in charge of the team. You're a former player yourself, you know a lot of current players. What do you make of that?

GREG ANTHONY, NBA ANALYST, TURNER SPORTS: Well, listen, and I'm not an attorney. I'm glad that Jeffrey is here. But I have stayed in the Holiday Inn before, and I can tell you this much that every possible, plausible scenario had already been exhausted before Adam Silver took to the podium in that press conference. And to that point it was about the Sterling family.

And let's take it a step further. Let's say that everything that's been alleged is true in terms of him being a racist and a bigot. How could you possibly not -- or possibly separate that his wife and his children would not have already had some indication of his philosophy of life? Of his value system? And I'm not saying that they've condoned it, but they have not necessarily done anything to separate themselves from that.

So I don't think there is any scenario where you're going to see the Sterling family, the children, the heirs or anybody, in any capacity that will have anything to do when it comes to the Los Angeles Clippers once that decision is made by the owners to then force the sale. So to me that scenario does not work.

And to Jeffrey's point, you know, I'd use the analogy of a country club, like the NBA is a private club. And in essence they determine who can be a member and who cannot. And they also determine what the rules are that are going to be put into place to determine who can be a member and who cannot. And in essence they've decided that Donald Sterling no longer can be a member of the club.

And so I think in some --


ANTHONY: -- near future you're going to see that ownership absolved and we'll figure out --


ANTHONY: -- who ultimately will own that team.


COOPER: Jeff, it's interesting, though, the article of the league's constitution that the NBA is using to get Sterling to sell, it's more focused on financial matters like if an owner weren't able to pay the team's bills. None of the conditions seem to apply directly to this particular situation. Does that matter?

TOOBIN: You know, I don't think so. I just want to call people's attention to a -- sort of a throwaway line in Adam Silver's news conference yesterday that most people probably didn't pay attention to. He said a lawyer from Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, one of the most prominent law firms in New York, had run the investigation.

This thing has been lawyered up from the very start. The NBA is not going to leave any loose ends in its resolution of this matter. And remember, the constitution also says, the NBA constitution says that members -- that owners can't sue. They --

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: That they simply cannot sue to undo decisions of the commissioner. Now there have been rare occasions when courts overturn those sorts of provisions but not in this circumstance.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, they -- they are going to have this thing tied up in a bow.

COOPER: We got to --

TOOBIN: And it is really not going to be before the court.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. Jeff Toobin, Greg Anthony, great to have you on. Thank you very much.

Coming up next, our other breaking news story tonight. We're going to go back to Ed Lavandera in Pensacola where people say they've never seen anything like the flooding that is going on right now.

And on the other side of the country a wildfire burning out of control. A live update on that as well.


COOPER: More breaking news on the historic flooding in the Gulf Coast, a part of the country that has seen more than its fair share of torrential rain. Nothing like this, though. Again here's what it looked like in the raging water. The man clinging to a tree in Mobile. He is OK.

Over in Florida, the State Highway Patrol has reported one drowning death because of the flooding. Rescuers are using boats, personal water craft that only used to patrol beaches. And the National Guard is on the way. The rain continues to fall.

Ed Lavandera has the latest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to the right. LAVANDERA (voice-over): The week started with tornadoes. And now it is the water and a lot of it. Around 20 inches of rain fell over portions of southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle in just 24 hours. It's the latest bout of severe weather from a violent storm system that began Sunday. The deluge was so heavy, sometimes at an astonishing rate of five inches per hour. It crumbled roads, stranded drivers and sent residents running for higher ground.

In Mobile, Alabama, a dramatic moment as floodwaters trapped this man barely able to cling to a tree. A rescue worker risked his life and braved the strong currents, bringing the stranded man safety back to shore.

The town of Orange Beach, Alabama, is almost completely flooded. Even its local marina now under water.

Pensacola, Florida, saw record-setting rainfall. The torrential rains washed out part of the scenic highway sending cars plummeting into a ravine. Entire neighborhoods in the city were inundated and roads turned into raging rivers.

BRADEN HALL, PENSACOLA, FLORIDA, RESIDENT: Water was coming in through our garage and then through the back doors and flowing in out this door. So we just had water in the house. The kids, we were getting a chair to perhaps get in the attic. We didn't know what exactly was going to happen.

LAVANDERA: The water level was so high at times that residents resorted to alternative forms of transportation to navigate the flooded streets. Twenty-six counties in that state are under a state of emergency and heavy rains continued to pour. Officials are urging people to heed their warnings.