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Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Dies; Mindy McCready Found Dead; Nurse Sues Over Racial Request; Man Charged For Slapping Toddler On Flight; New Developments in Oscar Pistorius Case

Aired February 18, 2013 - 13:00   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: He's known, of course, for overcoming many obstacles but can Olympian Oscar Pistorius overcome this? He's accused of murdering his girlfriend. New details straight ahead.

And a discussion about race. A father asks a hospital not to let a black nurse care for his white baby. And get this, the hospital agreed. Now, the nurse reassigned is suing.

Plus Hadiya Pendleton was shot in a Chicago park days after taking part in celebrations around the president's inauguration. Now, she has become a symbol of the president's message about gun violence. Her parents joining us live in about 30 minutes.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. The man credited for making basketball entertaining for the masses well he has now passed away. Lakers owner Jerry Buss was 80 years old. The Lakers won 10 NBA titles under his tenure. He's showcased some of the biggest names basketball has ever seen, including Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant. Buss had been suffering from cancer. Former L.A. Lakers player Derik Fisher, he's joining us on the phone from Los Angeles. "Sports Illustrated" senior writer Jim Trotter joining us on the phone from San Diego. First of all, Jim, let's go to you. What were the -- what were the circumstances around this death? Was this is a surprise?

JIM TROTTER, SENIOR WRITER, "SPORT ILLUSTRATED" (via telephone): No, it had been rumored for a while that he was in bad health. But, you know, to me, Jerry Buss was one of those beloved figures. He was one of the three greatest owners of my generation I would say, along with George Steinbrenner and Eddie DeBartolo in that it was always about the end result. You know, he would spend whatever it took win. It was about creating an atmosphere of excitement and giving fans more than just sports. He understood that he was selling entertainment and not just basketball. So, I think this is a great loss in the sporting community.

MALVEAUX: Derek, I understand we have you on the phone as well. The last time I saw you, you and Kobe Bryant and myself, we were hanging out in Washington after a game. Give me a sense what it was like just to be around him?

DERIK FISHER, FORMER PLAYER, L.A. LAKERS (via telephone): Well, Dr. Buss was an incredible person, you know, in addition to an extremely successful, you know, sports owner and businessman. I think that, you know, he obviously revolutionized basketball in the sporting world in terms of that fine line between sports and entertainment. He conquered it. He perfected it. But I think in his private time the conversation that you could have with him one-on-one about politics, about business, about family, that's what really impressed me. And his level of humility that someone with his level of accomplishment and success could have.

MALVEAUX: Derek, what did you learn from him, either professionally or personally?

FISHER: Well, I think the biggest lesson, you know, that you learn from someone as great as Dr. Buss is how important family is. And you have seen it over the years in his time and ownership of the Lakers, you know, family members from, you know, sons, daughters, extended family, you know, making that concerted effort to keep them involved and truly what was archively one of the greatest family businesses of all time. And so, that was one of the biggest lessons that you learn. And then from there, I think like Jim said so well, understanding the customer, understanding the fan, you know, creating a rabid Lakers fan following. That would be hard to duplicate and hard to follow as he's now gone and not with us anymore.

MALVEAUX: Jim, what does this mean for the sport --

FISHER: Suzanne, if I could tell you back on that. Think about --


FISHER: -- this. He -- his group purchased the team back in 1979. In 1980 and 1991, the NBA was so down that its finals were being shown on tape delay. I mean, they weren't even live. You think about the year that he bought the team, you know, those four seats that we all know, you know, back at the forum and now it's staples center. They were $15 when he purchased the team. Now, in the regular season, they're $2,700. So, you know, I don't think it's a reach to say that in some ways, he helped save the NBA because the NBA was on a downward spiral at that time.

And so, I think when Magic and Byrd came in, you know, as players, you know, they were focal points in the renaissance of the MBA. But I think from an ownership standpoint, you have to have vision. And I think he saw that to attract fans, to attract T.V. networks and more, you had to have more than just basketball, and I think he created that atmosphere.

MALVEAUX: And, Derek, how do you feel about that, the fact that a part of his legacy as well was about the game, but it was also about making it entertaining for the fans, for bringing more people, drawing them into the game, not just those who were basketball enthusiasts?

FISHER: I think that's what will separate him from all the other sports owner -- and sports owners in the history of possibly all sports. To understand the dynamics of not just sports, but business, to understand the human mind, what fans want to experience when they spend their hard-earned money to come out to a basketball game or to a sporting event. He was before his time, in that regard. And he, essentially, created a blueprint for how to be successful on the court, but also be successful off the court by understanding what the Los Angeles customer wanted to experience when they showed up for a game, what the television audience wanted to see when they caught the Lakers on T.V., and there will never be another like him.

MALVEAUX: I want you guys both to stay with me. I'm just getting a statement from the mayor's office, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, issuing a statement saying that Dr. Jerry Buss was a cornerstorn of -- cornerstone, rather, of the Los Angeles sports community, his name will always be synonymous with his beloved Lakers. It was through his stewardship that the Lakers brought showtime basketball and numerous championship rings to this great city. And you can't overstate it, really, Derek. I mean, just the power of this one individual. And, of course, the championships, yes?

FISHER: No question about it. And I think to really follow on what the mayor just articulated in his statement. For those of us that live here in Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles county, it is hard to explain to people that live outside of this region how passionate Lakers fans are and the connection between the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles. There's a pride. There's a toughness. There's a confidence that the people actually experience through the success of the Lakers over the years. And so, Dr. Buss not only created great sports, great entertainment, but I think he also helped to vitalize and revitalize the city, at times, where the fans sand the people really became part of the Lakers and helped kind of drive the success that happened on the court.

MALVEAUX: And, Jim, do we have any information -- do we know where we go from here? How is the family going to be celebrating, how are they going to be mourning, and how do they include this huge community that really wants to be a part of it?

FISHER: No, I don't have that information as of now. But I don't think there's any doubt that the family is going to -- going to ensure that there is a way for the community to be involved (INAUDIBLE), you know, in part of that community. As Derek said, the Lakers were -- if you were a basketball fan, they were part of your family, you know, and you lived and died with them. And, you know, even today, (INAUDIBLE) the passion about the Lakers now, and, obviously, the team is struggling this year, but, you know, you hear fans around the country who aren't Lakers fans, this is their time to pounce and they are, in part, because they know the legacy and the greatness that that organization has had. So, I can't see any way that the family won't involve the community in some sort of memorial service.

MALVEAUX: All right. Jim Trotter, Derek Fisher, thank you very much both of you. We really appreciate it. And, of course, we'll be getting more information when it comes to the memorial and some of the celebrations of his life, a man who had so much impact, not only on the sport, but also entertainment and the community of Los Angeles.

The country music world is also mourning the death of one of its stars. Police found the body of singer Mindy McCready on her porch yesterday. It appears that she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Mindy McCready was 37 years old. And she rose to fame in the mid-1990s with this song.


MINDY MCCREADY, SINGER: So I had some beers with the girls last night, guys to do it all the time.


MALVEUX: While her music made her famous, in recent years, she has struggled with addiction to drugs as well as a mental illness.


MCCREADY: But I have made a lot of mistakes. I've done a lot of things the wrong way or the hard way, both the hard and the wrong way. And there are going to be things for a while that are going to come back from my past to haunt me.


MALVEAUX: So, I want to bring in NischelleTurner in L.A. Michelle, we know that McCready, she was pretty open about her problems.


MALVEAUX: She didn't hide things. She was on, of course, "Celebrity Rehab" with Dr. Drew. What followed that?

TURNER: Well, Suzanne, in the last few weeks, she had been seeking some help. She went into rehab earlier this month, but, reportedly, she checked herself out early on the condition of continuing outpatient care. Now, yes, she did have a long history of battling her demons. But HLN's Dr. Drew, whom she first met while appearing on his show, "Celebrity Rehab." As far as he knew, she went into the psychiatric facility to try and get better. Now, he spoke to CNN's Don Lemon last night, listen. Listen.


DR. DREW PINSKY, "CELEBRITY REHAB": She'd actually been doing very well. Things were looking up for her. She had children with a boyfriend who ended up killing himself a few weeks ago. She was struggling after that. Actually was -- admitted herself to a psychiatric facility. And there's a cautionary tale here about the stigma of mental illness and the way in which the public attacks celebrities who take care of themselves. She became so fearful of the stigma and the way people were responding to her being hospitalized, that she actually checked herself out prematurely and now we have what we have.


TURNER: Now, during her time on "Celebrity Rehab" we saw her have an on-camera seizure as she detoxed from drugs and alcohol. Now, McCready is the third person from her season alone on "Celebrity Rehab" to die. Mike Starr of "Alison In Chains" died in 2011 of a reported overdose. And former "Real World" cast member died last August of Opiate intoxication. But, Suzanne, at the heart of McCready's struggles, her kids, I mean, she ultimately leaves two boys, six years and 10 months old without their mother. And if you're wondering where those boys are today, we just received a statement from McCready's rep who tells CNN, quote, "Zane and Zander are loved, cared for, and comfortable with foster families at this time." So, they are safe but they are with a foster family.

MALVEAUX: Oh, tragic all around. All right, thank you, Nischelle. Appreciate it.


MALVEAUX: Here's what we're also working on this hour. This man is out of work after being charged of slapping a toddler onboard a Delta flight. The toddler's parents want him punished.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the evidence is sufficient enough to support what we're saying. And, you know, I think that we hope he's punished as much as he possibly can be.


MALVEAUX: And the gas, not cheap. So, when the price goes up, we all notice. We're going to explain what is driving up the costs.

And a new study says violent T.V. shows do alter your kid's behavior. This is CNN NEWSROOM and it's happening now.


MALVEAUX: We're going to talk about two separate rather shocking allegations involving race. A nurse in Michigan is suing the hospital. She says she was reassigned after the parent of an infant patient requested that no black nurses care for his baby. That is one case. And then another case, an I Idaho man is accused of slapping a 19-month-old baby and using a racial slur that happened earlier on a flight this month. A lawyer for the parents talked about how this happened.


JOHN THOMPSON, LAWYER FOR BABY'S PARENTS: She was in complete disbelief. He then essentially fell over on her. Kind of sloppy drunk. His head hit her cheek and his face kind of slid down towards her ear and directly into her ear, he repeated the racial epithet, at which time, Jessica basically pushed him back upright, so he wasn't, you know, leaning on her anymore. And that's the time that he lashed out and slapped Jonah.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: This is pretty awful here. I want to talk about this. Two people who really have been watching this very closely. Boyce Watkins, professor at Syracuse University, editor of "" Michael Skolnik, he's the editor in chief of "," also the political director for Russell Simmons. Professor, let's just start with you. Does this shock you the way it shocked a lot of us when we saw these two stories?

BOYCE WATKINS, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Well, it's obviously shocking. Anytime, anybody slaps a baby, that's just not going to be acceptable. But what's really interesting to me, clearly alcohol was involved. And my dad told me a long time ago that a drunk will tell all secrets. Not to say that he's a drunk, but the fact is that the secret here is that there's a lot of latent racial anxiety that a lot of Americans have that they're afraid to express. And sometimes it slips out. And I think in this case, it did slip out because the baby wasn't just a loud baby to him it was a loud black baby which made it that much worse. He's going to pay a price for that, as it should.

MALVEAUX: Michael, what do you make of this, the "n-word" was used. I want to make that very clear. Do you think this comes from anger, rage, stress? Or is this downright some people who are still racist back in, now in 2013?

MICHAEL SKOLNIK, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "GLOBALGRIND.COM": Suzanne, I think that this country, we are certainly going through some growing pains. I don't look at it as a step back. I think there's growing pains in this nation, there are a lot of folks in this country who are trying to push forward, or trying to push past race in this country. Certainly, there are some who are going to walk, there are some who are going to run, there are some who are going to hide in their bunkers, and we got to pull out of the bunker to get to a place. They may wake up Groundhog's Day next year and not see their shadow of hatred. This spring awakening, this idea of this generation, young generation, trying to push forward, trying to get to a post-racial America is coming, and we're here. The fact that this man slapped the child, and used the "n-word" is horrific, but I certainly believe, I'm optimistic that this country can look past this hatred and know that a new day is coming.

MALVEAUX: Do you think, professor, you have to go through this. You have these public things that happen to wake people up, to deal with what Michael was saying, look, maybe these are things out of the closet, maybe they just got to come out and deal with it?

WATKINS: You know, I agree, there are going to be growing pains. As our country tries to advance, we're going to have those situations where some people aren't going to want to move as quickly as others. If you go farther south, you'll see a lot of this thing happening, I think it's important that we don't extrapolate one incident by one irresponsible person to mean that there are millions and millions of people who think the same way. This is one guy who did something really stupid. I think also the important thing to understand, when you talk about a post racial society, I don't think that's the goal. I don't think that's a possibility. I don't want a post-racial America, because my race, black is beautiful to me and I'm glad to be a black man. I want people to know I'm a black man. I don't want you to be color blind when you look at me, I just want you to see me as a black man and to respect me. And people like this guy don't respect me, but I think there are a lot of people who do.

MALVEAUX: Michael, what do you think about that? The notion that there's no such think as a post-racial society? That perhaps that's not the goal that we should be very much aware of our differences and celebrate our differences that we'll never get to that fact when we don't recognize race?

SKOLNIK: With all due respect, I think that post-racial does mean that. I don't think it's not recognizing forces (ph), color of his skin, and celebrating diversity in this country. I think that's sort of the beauty of it. The idea of post-racial to me is at least we get to a place in this country where can celebrate our diversity. We 're not ashamed of who we are as a nation, we don't look at the black child and call him the "n-word." We don't look at a child in the delivery room and say you can't touch my child because you're black. I think we have to get to a place in this country, we no longer look at people for the color of their skin and judge them because of it.

MALVEAUX: Professor, I'm going to give you the last word. One of the things I noticed in the story, the mother, she said she was visibly shaking. She was so upset with what had happened. She just couldn't understand or believe that this was taking place. These were white parents with a black baby, they were shocked, they were surprised. They did not know how to handle it? Does that surprise you?

WATKINS: It doesn't surprise me at all. you know, racism is like the boogieman that black people talk about. Nobody believes that it exists. They think it's all a figment of our imagination. And then when people are sort of hit with it, they're always stunned and shocked that people think this way, but most black folks who live an authentic black experience, whatever that means, they know that racism is real. They know there are opportunities you won't get because you're black. Sometimes, you get that wake-up call and it does slap you in the face. I'm glad they had this awakening, I think everybody's better educated because of it.

MALVEAUX: I think so, too. Dr. Watkins, Michael Skolnick, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.

Olympian Oscar Pistorius is accused of killing his girlfriend at his home in South Africa. We're now learning some of the awful details.


MALVEAUX: Police in South Africa are revealing new details about their investigation into the death of Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend. Local media reports that police now are examining a blood-stained cricket bat found at his home. He is facing murder charges in Reeva Steenkamp's death. We're also hearing that the police believe that Pistorius shot her four times through a closed bathroom door and then carried her downstairs where she died. IN a bizarre twist, a reality show featuring the girlfriend premiered as scheduled over the weekend. Robyn Curnow, she is in Johannesburg. Robyn, first of all, I can't imagine what that is like, to see her as part of a reality show that will continue on for weeks, knowing that she has been killed.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't know how parents or friends or people who knew Reeva Steenkamp would deal with that. Really upsetting, I think. But also according to the producers, they say, hey, this is really a fitting tribute to this young woman because she's not just seen as the victim. She has a voice. You can hear how she speaks. You get a sense of her personality. She comes across as a nice person. The kind of person that you'd want to be friends with. In a way, that's good, isn't it? But on the other hand, people say this is purely exploitative, it's insensitive. It's in poor sense. Particularly in a country where a woman is murdered on average every eight hours by her partner.

MALVEAUX: Wow, that's unbelievable. Robyn, tell us what you've learned about Oscar Pistorius. I understand you've had occasion to interview him, there are some things when you look back at it now that are quite revealing.

CURNOW: Absolutely, I mean, Oscar has always fascinated me and fascinated people around the world. What a character to have no legs and to take himself to the highest levels of athleticism. And take on able-bodied athletes. I mean, it's an extraordinary discipline to get there. And I think a lot of it comes from his childhood, And the kind of person he was. He once told me the story about how his mom used to yell to his brother, hey, Carl, go put on your shoes. And used to yell to Oscar, hey, Oscar, go put on your legs. He was always told to be normal but he wasn't. He was severely and is severely crippled in a sense. When he was at boarding school, he told me a very telling story about how in the dormitories, the boys dormitories, they used to bully him essentially. Someone would kick off the fire alarm. The alarm would go off, of course, all the boys would have to be evacuated as the procedure. What they would have done is they would have hidden away his prosthetic legs. So Oscar would either be left alone in his bed or have to crawl out. That shows you the kind of duality between this man (ph). And obviously the complexities, the paranoia perhaps, and the vulnerabilities that he's had to deal with.

MALVEAUX: And Robyn, he remains in jail until this is all sorted out?

CURNOW: We'll get a far clearer sense of his fate tomorrow, Tuesday, he appears in a magistrate court. There's a bail, a bond hearing. And we'll get a sense of the state's case against him. Will he get bail? Will he be allowed out? We don't know yet. I guess that depends on the strength of the case against him I suppose, but either way he's in serious trouble. There's no doubt about that.

MALVEAUX: All right. Robyn Curnow, thank you. Appreciate it.

Hadiya Pendleton was shot in a Chicago park days after taking part in celebrations surrounding the president's inauguration. Well, now, she's become a symbol of the president's message about gun violence. And her parents join us next.