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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bluefin Damaged; Syria at War; Donald Sterling Under Fire Again

Aired May 13, 2014 - 18:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he has -- he's a businessperson. He...

STERLING: He's got AIDS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Plus, a blow to the Bluefin -- the underwater drone suffers serious damage during a difficult new phase for the search for Flight 370. Can the mission recover? We're going to find out soon.

And this -- Syria's civil war exploding with new fighting and a desperate warning to the United States that al Qaeda is thriving in the chaos.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Magic Johnson tells CNN he's going to pray for Donald Sterling after the owner of the L.A. Clippers unleashed a new tirade against the basketball legend, much like the racist rant that got him banned from the NBA for life.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is standing by. He just wrapped up an exclusive interview with Magic Johnson.

Anderson, I want to listen to a clip of your interview with Sterling first and his verbal attack against Johnson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STERLING: What kind of a guy goes to every city, he has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV and -- is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? Doesn't do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Anderson is joining us now.

You just came from an interview with Magic Johnson. Tell us a little bit about it, Anderson. What did he say about Sterling's remarks?

COOPER: Well, just factually speaking, the thing that's so bizarre about Donald Sterling's remarks is that Magic Johnson for 20 years has had the Magic Johnson Foundation, which has given millions of dollars to HIV/AIDS awareness and education, to educational programs for underserved communities, for community outreach, and his business life is also focused on bringing businesses to urban communities that have traditionally been underserved.

I talked to Magic in an extensive, wide-ranging interview that we're going to have tonight on "A.C. 360" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, and he really takes the high road in all of this and has some very strong reaction to the things that Donald Sterling said. Let's listen to some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EARVIN "MAGIC" JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: My whole life is devoted to urban America. So, you know, I just wish he knew the facts when he is talking. But he is a man who is upset, and he is reaching. He is reaching. He is trying to find something that he can grab onto to help him save his team.

And it is not going to happen. It is not going to happen. The Board of Governors now have to do their job. Adam Silver, our commissioner of the NBA, did a wonderful job, of banning him for life.

Now the Board of Governors got to do their job. And, again, I'm going to pray for the man, because, even if I see him today, I'm going to say hello to -- hello to Donald and his wife as well. I'm not a guy who holds grudges and all that.

Yes, am I upset? Of course. But, at the same time, I'm a God-fearing man. I'm going to pray for him and hope that things work out for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He also responds to allegations Donald Sterling made to me that somehow Magic Johnson is trying to get the Clippers away from him by using underhanded tactics. Magic responds to that. He talks about whether or not he is, in fact, interested in purchasing the Clippers, if and when they come up for sale. It is a very wide-ranging interview, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm looking forward to it, but I want you to hold on for a moment, because Michael Sam, the defensive end of the Saint Louis Rams, speaking out now about becoming the first openly gay player in the NFL.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MICHAEL SAM, NFL DRAFTEE: You know, depending on what you want to do with it, I wanted to get it out. I wanted to do some great things, so I played sports, I got better at football.

I got better at my grades. I went to college. I was the first person in my family to graduate. And now I'm the first person in my family to go to the NFL, so I'm just keep on fighting. Keep fighting the good fight.

QUESTION: You have overcome a lot of adversity already, but you're facing a lot of tough competition on this team. Will you make the cut?

SAM: Will I make the cut? You want to find out in a couple months, huh?

QUESTION: Michael, what is your thought of being the first gay athlete to play in the NFL?

SAM: I guess it's great. I don't know what you want me to say.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Michael, when the process was unfolding Saturday and you're still sitting there and you haven't been taken by a team, how are you rationalizing or explaining things to yourself as you're waiting there, or did you even go there?

SAM: I was just, you know, praying and had faith in God and I believed in my talents. And Mr. Kroenke and coach Fisher and Mr. Snead, they all believed in my talents, and here I am.

QUESTION: Michael, have you had a one-on-one conversation with your father?

SAM: No, I have not had a one-on-one conversation with my father.

QUESTION: Michael, I know in a lot of ways you're being drafted and playing in the NFL is going to validate, you know, some things for a lot of people that we can look past certain things here and there, but you have already had one NFL player disciplined for his comments on Twitter.

You may very well hear things face to face or see things elsewhere, some comments from other players. How are you preparing yourself for that?

SAM: When -- when you see me, like I said earlier, I'm determined to be great. I'm determined to make this team. And I have every confidence in myself that I will make this team, so when I do make it, and when I put my pads on, and if somebody wants to say something, then you will see number 96 running down that field and making good, big plays with his team.

QUESTION: Any significance to 96? (OFF-MIKE) SAM: No. I wanted another number, clearly, but that number was taken.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Michael, over here. You -- the combine was just two weeks after your announcement and your workout wasn't the greatest. Was it a chance or a possibility that, you know, you had a lot weighing on your mind? Do you think that was a factor? It was just two weeks after.

SAM: You know, the combine was for to -- an interview to make an NFL team. Well, I made one, so I guess the combine doesn't really matter anymore.

QUESTION: Now that you have been picked, did your sexuality affect where you went in the draft, in your head?

SAM: I have no idea. I know that, by the seventh round, pick 249, Michael Sam's name got called, and here I am.

QUESTION: The pre-draft process is very taxing for every player.

SAM: You have no idea.

QUESTION: How taxing was it for you and is there anything you would do differently, if you had to do it over?

SAM: You know, I wouldn't do a thing differently. I waited and I waited and I waited, and I said long ago that, whoever picked me, whatever team that does pick me, they know about my sexuality, they know about everything about my past, and that's the team I want to play for.

Ironically, it's Saint Louis Rams, and actually the Saint Louis Rams, my very first college game was at the Dome, so it's just ironic that I'm here.

QUESTION: Michael, I don't know if you're aware there was a post on the Mizzou Facebook page about a man who told the story of watching the draft with a lot of military people.

And after you were drafted, his son, who was 15 years old, started crying and told his father for the first time that he was gay, and the man said, thank you, Mizzou, thank you, Michael Sam, for being a role model. Do you feel that -- how do you feel about that, and do you feel that can help other people?

SAM: I'm honored that I helped someone to be comfortable with who they are, gave them a little courage to speak to his father.

But, you know, I'm very honored to have had that happen to his son, and -- but right now I'm just looking forward to continue on my dream, and if it inspires other people, hey, I'm with you. And if anyone is not OK with that, like I said earlier, if someone disowned you, hey, be a part of my family. I will welcome you. Ram up. (LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Hey, Michael, welcome to Saint Louis, first off.

I just wanted to ask you, you seem like such a great ambassador for your community. Where do you get the poise? I mean, all eyes have been on you for a long time now, and that's a ton of pressure, so where does that poise and strength come from?

SAM: I have always had it. I mean, I always had it. This is just me. This is Michael Sam. You get the real deal right now.

QUESTION: Michael, would you mind just sharing with us an anecdote, a message, a story, a phone call that maybe you have received through this process that's really stayed with you, that's meant a lot to you?

SAM: You know, I guess, you know, all of my friends, family, all my friends and family who just been supporting me and are very proud of me, and I want to thank everyone.

I want to thank, like I said, the Saint Louis organization. I want to especially thank my alma mater, my school, Mizzou, and I want to thank my friends and family at Hitchcock. I'm very grateful and very glad to be a part of their lives.

QUESTION: Michael, two-part question. I'm just curious, number one, how the locker room, how you felt the locker room received you and what your nerves were walking into a new situation like this.

SAM: I have no nerves at all. They came to me, actually, like, hey, welcome to the family, let's get to work. And that's what we're going to do.

QUESTION: I think you said in one of your press conferences the Rams had a lot of guts or whatever words you used by drafting you. What does it say to you about the Rams organization to show the willingness to step up?

SAM: They see good potential in people, and they are ready to win a championship. And I hope I will be a part of this team to help them win a championship.

QUESTION: Michael, you said earlier if somebody would say something nasty to you on the field, you will make a play or you will react that way. Has that happened to you in the past on the field or in the locker room, and how did you react, if it did?

SAM: It has not happened -- clearly, it didn't happen last season, because no one knew.

But -- so I'm -- I use little things to motivate me and to make me a better player, and thank God for you guys for making this all a big deal, because it's just going to make me even a better player than I am now.

QUESTION: Coach Fish, can you talk to him about 15-yard penalties?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They always catch the retaliator.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a thing called the bench behind us, so, yes.

SAM: It will be -- coach, I will guarantee you, it will just be making great plays, especially sacks. So...

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Michael, I'm not sure if you know, but, in Missouri, people can -- people can be fired for their sexual orientation. What are your thoughts about that?

SAM: I have no idea where you were, but, oh -- can you repeat the question, please?

QUESTION: In Missouri, people can be fired for their sexual orientation. What are your thoughts, or does that give you pause?

SAM: No, it's sad that they can be, but, you know, I can't really do anything about that.

QUESTION: Michael, you were alluding to poise before. Is it true you were calling yourself ice man when you were in grade school, and what was that all about?

(CROSSTALK)

SAM: That was a long time ago.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where the past haunts you, right here.

SAM: Yes, that was a long time ago. That was just -- I was just trying to be cool.

QUESTION: Did it work?

SAM: It got me here.

QUESTION: For Kevin or Les, just curious what you guys have heard from people toward the organization over the last couple of days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we have heard...

BLITZER: All right, so there you see Michael Sam, the defensive end, now drafted by the Saint Louis Rams playing at the University of Missouri. He was an all-American, explaining the historic moment. He is about to become the first openly gay player in the NFL, very impressive statements.

Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper are with us.

Don, first to you. What did you think?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: How could you not root for this young man?

I mean, he's -- he's a fascinating young man. He's amazing. He, apparently, you know, wants to just be a great football player. Now he has all this -- imagine the pressure he's dealing with, having all of this thrust upon him. I think he's amazing and I don't care if you believe in gay rights or whatever it is. I can't help but root for this young man and I don't see how other people can't.

And, Wolf, if I can just convey a little story when they asked him about his father. The reason they asked him about his father is because he's pretty much estranged from his family. His family does not accept his sexuality, and so he has created around him a base of people who have become his family, and that includes his boyfriend, with the infamous kiss from the other night, his managers, and his agents.

And he had all but given up on being drafted when he got the phone call. He was upstairs and his -- one of the people closest to him said he was almost inconsolable. And at the very last moment, he got the phone call from the Rams. He rushed downstairs. His boyfriend was there and it was just a moment where they kissed.

And I also got the letter, too, from Mizzou on the Facebook page. And the gentleman who sent it is a combat vet. He says over 85 years of military service between combat tours in our family. He said: "When Michael Sam was finally drafted, my 15-year-old son started crying and told me he was gay. He said he didn't want to hide anymore or be embarrassed about who he was. Thank you, Mizzou, for embracing Mr. Sam and recruiting a young man of his caliber so that kids like my son have more positive role models to look to. And thank you for providing opportunities to students regardless of diversity. Your program is truly a class act from the players to the coaching staff. I will be pulling for you from Wentworth Academy -- Military Academy. Stay classy, Mizzou."

So, a lot of people are rooting for him. I think he's fantastic.

BLITZER: Yes, one of the final players to be drafted, but he was drafted.

Anderson, give me a final thought.

COOPER: It's -- one of the things I think that is so admirable about him is that he made this public before he was drafted. He made this public at a time he did not have to do that, at a time that was perhaps the riskiest thing for him possibly to have done. He could have very easily stayed silent and not in any way impacted his selection by the NFL.

And I think that shows a certain kind of courage, that he was willing to do this at this point in his career. And I also think the reaction to the fact that he kissed his boyfriend, his partner on camera, is kind of surprising.

It's very telling, but when you think about the amount of times that heterosexual people hold hands on the street or kiss on the street or kiss on television, and nobody says anything about it, the idea this has somehow raised so much questions and concerns and the fact we even had it in a moment on a lower font, the kiss, is kind of remarkable, that in this day and age, it gives you a sing of, a sense of how often gay people are expected to kind of edit themselves in public in terms of their behavior, their interactions with their loved ones.

BLITZER: He's going to inspire a lot of young people out there, there's no doubt about that. He's going to be a role model. His jersey, by the way, it's number 96, Saint Louis Rams, I think, is the second most popular selling jersey right now. So, congratulations to Michael Sam.

LEMON: It was 52, but number 52 is taken by Alec Ogletree. He already has...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's now going to be number 96 for the Saint Louis -- Saint Louis Rams.

Anderson, thanks very much. Don, thanks to you. Don's got a show 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We will be watching that.

You can see all of Anderson's exclusive interview later tonight with Magic Johnson, as well as more of his exclusive interview with Donald Sterling later tonight, "A.C. 360," 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Still ahead, Flight 370 search crews trying to recover from an alarming new setback. We're standing by as that Bluefin gets ready to dive again.

And there are new warnings about one of the worst catastrophes in the world, a Syrian opposition leader telling CNN terrorists are swarming his war-torn country and Americans are in danger.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Bluefin 21 is about to return to the water after suffering serious damage during the hunt for Flight 370. It's another blow to the search operation that's facing tough criticism, as a new phase begins.

Here's CNN's aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bluefin-21 smashes into the Australian vessel Ocean Shield, losing a day in the search, the underwater vehicle's propeller torn, tail ripped off and electronics day damaged on its first day back in the search zone, struggling with wind and three-to-five-foot waves, the damage happening as crews hoisted it on deck for inspection, the day's mission aborted, no data collected.

The Bluefin has been repaired and resumes its search within hours. Half-a-world away, the consensus is, never again. In a bid to prevent another Malaysia Flight 370, ICAO, the aviation arm of the United Nations, says all jetliners should be tracked continuously, especially in the most remote parts of the world.

By the end of the year, airlines with flights that go outside of radar coverage will voluntarily start global tracking. Some have already started, but there's no timeline for when binding standards and regulations mandating global flight tracking will go into effect.

KEVIN HIATT, IATA: We feel that it is a fairly important factor, that we will move as quickly as possible, because the flying public deserves to have even more safe conditions when they fly.

MARSH: The group's recommendations are advisory, but usually become law. The ongoing mystery of Flight 370 is fueling urgency to act now. The satellite tracking companies are jockeying for favor among airlines. Inmarsat, the British company whose analysis led crews to the search zone, says they will track planes for free. Competing companies like Globalstar are making a pitch, too.

JAY MONROE, CEO, GLOBALSTAR: You can continuously track one second at a time for continuously across any trip and know exactly where an airplane is.

That is invaluable, and in the case of 370, it would have told us whether the plane turned, whether the plane continued straight, and when it stopped emitting altogether.

MARSH: Still no concrete evidence about what went wrong on board Flight 370, but its disappearance is about to change the way all planes in the air are tracked.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: And we do expect that a special task force will release recommendations for global flight tracking in another four months.

BLITZER: Four months.

MARSH: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, Rene, thanks very much for that update.

Just ahead: a desperate plea to help the United States stop bombs like this one, brutal, indiscriminate killers, in one of the world's deadliest conflicts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An alarming new warning in the United States today, terrorists are swarming Syria. The president of the Syrian opposition telling CNN Americans are directly threatened right now. He spoke with our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, who's got the latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Ahmed al- Jarba just left the White House now. It was a two-hour meeting, the president joining that meeting for 30 minutes. I'm told that it was frank and productive, but the president of the Syrian opposition told us he needs more help and more attention for the crisis, and he's not getting enough of either.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Today's Syria is a living hell, 150,000 dead; 9 million refugees. Whole cities leveled. The president of Syria's opposition told us that help from the U.S. has been too slow and far too limited.

SCIUTTO: Are you frustrated, angry even, that it has not created a bigger response here in the U.S.?

AHMAD AL-JARBA, PRESIDENT, SYRIAN OPPOSITION COALITION (through translator): Of course we are angry. This is one of the biggest catastrophes in the world in this century.

SCIUTTO: Ahmad al-Jarba told us delays in U.S. help have vastly expanded the threat from thousands of al Qaeda-linked fighters swarming the country, fighters that U.S. officials say directly threaten the U.S. homeland. They call Syria a jihadi Disneyland.

AL-JARBA (through translator): Terrorism has developed and spread during this year. This crisis will explode, and if it explodes, it will reach the farthest play places in the world.

SCIUTTO: Jarba has asked the U.S. for antiaircraft missiles to fight this, barrel bombs, brutal indiscriminate killers dropped from Syrian war planes. The administration has refused.

AL-JARBA (through translator): What I'm asking is, is it prohibitive for Assad to kill the Syrian people with chemical weapons, but it is allowed for them to kill them with SCUDs, rockets, planes, and tanks? This is a strange logic.

SCIUTTO: Despite the widening catastrophe, the architect of the bloodshed, Bashar al-Assad, is now running for re-election, two years after President Obama said these words...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am confident that Assad's days are numbered.

SCIUTTO: A vow U.S. officials still repeat.

(on camera): Do you believe that the Obama administration underestimated Assad, his strength, and, therefore, made a serious policy error?

AL-JARBA (through translator): If al Assad had seen that the United States and the international community drew a red line, and if they held their promises like the threat the Americans made at the end of last summer, then he would never have dared to nominate himself. This shows his disregard towards the international community.

SCIUTTO: Jarba confirmed to me in a private meeting with his delegation the secretary of state, John Kerry, said the international community had, quote, "wasted a year," but looking forward now, al- Jarba says he's looking forward to building a strategic relationship with Washington.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto with that report. Jim, thanks very much for that.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's step into the CROSSFIRE right now with Newt Gingrich and Stephanie Cutter. Stephanie, welcome back.