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Crisis in Ukraine; Donald Sterling Allegedly Caught in Racist Rant; Tornado Outbreak Kills 16 In Central U.S.; Interview with Kevin Johnson

Aired April 28, 2014 - 06:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Half past the hour. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Let's take a look at your headlines right now. And we start with breaking news.

A night of heartbreaking weather in the nation's heartland. At least 18 people dead, 16 in Arkansas where a tornado half a mile wide wiped out neighborhoods and triggered scores of rescues overnight in the suburbs of Little Rock. Fatalities also reported in Iowa and Oklahoma. A tornado ripping up the town of Quapaw near Oklahoma's borders with Kansas and Missouri.

We also have breaking news out of Eastern Ukraine, the mayor of the city of Kharkiv reportedly shot in the back by unidentified gunman earlier this morning. We're told he's fighting for his life.

Let's get the latest from Phil Black. He's live in Kiev -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, really significant breaking news here in the east of Ukraine this morning, in the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, where the mayor of that city is now in hospital, fighting for his life after he was shot in the back while running through the streets of the city this morning.

He's an important figure in the ongoing future of this country. He's a former ally of the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, when he was driven from power, this mayor put his support quickly behind the new government Kiev. And since then, he's been quite successful at suppressing the pro-Russian separatist movement which has been gaining movement across the east.

In the city of Kharkiv, there have been rallies, there have been occupations, but through determination, this mayor and the local authorities have been able to keep a lid on it really. Now, we don't know whether or not the shooting is directly connected to the ongoing struggle between the pro-Russian and the pro-Ukrainians.

But his shooting is really significant because in the event that he has driven from office through a serious injury or even worse, it could potentially open up the possibility for the pro-Russians to gain a foothold in Kharkiv and that could be a major blow to the government in Kiev, which is really struggling to hold this country together, Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Phil Black in Ukraine, thank you so much for that.

Meantime, President Obama says there will be new sanctions against some individual Russian officials, in an effort to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. The sanctions would include the freezing of assets and travel bans. This announcement coming after he arrived in the Philippines in the last stop of his four-country Asian tour. The U.S. and Philippines just signed a ten-year defensive pact that allows for a larger U.S. military presence on the Philippine soil.

Those are your headlines at this hour -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Talking about sanctions, they play into the next story as well.

It's being called a defining moment for the NBA. Leaked audio recording set to be the L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments and it overshadowed the playoffs and spark a new discussion about race.

Let's bring in Greg Anthony, CNN political commentator and Turner Sports NBA analyst.

Hey, Greg, it's good to see you. Sorry about this. Boy, oh, boy, social media has lightened up, my brother. People are so angry about this.

You've played in the league. You've been around ownership. Is this a wow moment for you?

GREG ANTHONY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's not a wow moment for me. And quite frankly, it's not going to be a wow moment for a lot of people within the infrastructure of the NBA. But it's become a wow moment for the league now because it's public. And the fact that these comments have come out, it's significant, and I think it's also going to put the league in a position where they're going to have to do something that's probably unprecedented.

And it's not that it's illegal for the comments, the alleged comments that Donald Sterling has made. He's long been thought to be somewhat of a bigot. But the issue now is the fact that everybody around the country knows. And there say bit of a hypocrisy with it. Because sports in American culture, is one of the few areas where we're pretty progressive and open.

You've just seen in the NBA where we had the first openly gay athlete come out and still be able to play. And it's been a non-issue. And it's typically a non-issue for race, ethnicity, for gender, when you talk about sports in America.

So there's a bit of hypocrisy when you have an owner who seems to have a view that Donald Sterling has. And the league, while they can't force him to sell, while there's backlash from a sponsor's standpoint, from a fan's perspective, it's going to put him in a very difficult position where they're going to do something significant and where the public feels like it's justified in their actions and also Donald Sterling pays a significant price.

CUOMO: I think that's the shock, when you think of the NBA, I can't think of another example where African-American athletes have been more empowered. We saw with LeBron and Wade and Bosh putting their own team together. You have Chris Paul, the head of the players organization. You have just great moves into management and leadership with African-American players.

Then you hear, oh, we've always knew this guy what was a bigot. How has he been allowed to exist with someone with racist views?

ANTHONY: Well, first of all, this is still America. You still have the right to your own views and values. The question is, are you going to support those.

Listen, Chris, you and I both know a lot of people who have views that we may not agree with. But that should not abstain them from having an opportunity to pursue their livelihood. The question, though, when it becomes public and it starts to significantly impact the brand. And that's where the issue now lies.

CUOMO: So what do you think they can do, Greg?

ANTHONY: Well listen, it's not just going to be the league. It's going to be how fans react. And also now your corporate partners react. How your network partners relate to this. And we've seen backlash before in those who are homophobic and how they reacted.

You know, our society is not tolerant of those not accepting people who are different. So I do think this thing has legs and it's going to continue to be a significant issue for Donald Sterling, for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Also there's a bit of hypocrisy. We're talking about this being in L.A. probably as liberal a major city that we have in America with an owner with these views if what is allege said true. I don't want to go out and say it's definitive, because I don't know. I don't have the ability to verify what I've heard and what millions of other people around the country have been able to hear from what's been released.

But if those things are true, something significant has to be done. And if you're Adam Silver, this is a moment for him as the new commissioner of our league, to make a really strong statement how we're not going to allow this type of behavior be a part of our sport, and also set an example, not only for other sports, but society in general, how we're going to deal with these types of issues. CUOMO: You know, generally, you try, you try in the media not to hype things beyond their relevance. And I know we don't get it right all the time.

But this is one of those situations where I feel like playing the opposite way. I hope this doesn't stay in the league if the allegations stand up, and it seems like it will. Do you think they should be bigger than the lead? When we say defining moment, what K.J. has been saying, Kevin Johnson, do you think this is a watershed moment for how we deal with this type of intolerance?

ANTHONY: It is. I think your point, it isn't just about the league. But it's an opportunity for the league to not only make a statement, but then to move society in a different direction.

Listen, we can make all the laws we want about how we act in public, and the things we do. You can't create laws that are going to change how people think. The mind-set of a Donald Sterling, if this stuff is true, is such no matter what we do, we're not going to change it.

But what we can change is the fact that we're not going to associate ourselves with people of the like. And I think our league, to your point earlier, of the fact that so many other player, significant players, are of African-American decent, I think it's vital that they do come out with a severely strong statement that we're not going to tolerate and allow for this type of bigoted behavior to exist. And it still will. But we don't want to ever have it rear its ugly head with the extent we've seen with this audio tape that's been released.

CUOMO: And what is good is that it's been separated from the team itself. You know, the players made a strong show. It's unfortunate that they have to be the ones taking a stand in this station. But hopefully, it brings them together. They need it in the playoffs right now, splitting that with the warriors. But, obviously, the concerns are way beyond the playoffs.

Greg, thank you very much. This is a continuing conversation. I think it has to be, otherwise, these things tend to get forgotten too fast.

ANTHONY: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. I'll see you again soon.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY, violent tornadoes take a deadly toll in several states. The number of fatalities still rising this morning.

Coming up, we're going to talk to a storm chaser who was there when a tornado touchdown in Arkansas.


PEREIRA: Welcome back. We're following breaking news now. At least 18 people would be killed by tornadoes in the nation's heartland, 16 of those deaths reported in Arkansas where a tornado half a mile wide wiped out community it's in northern suburbs of Little Rock.

Take a look at the damage in the town of Mayflower. Look at that, virtually everything obliterated in a twister's path.

Joining us right now, Brett Adair is a storm chaser. He actually witnessed where that tornado touched down.

Brett, I'm so glad you're here to talk about it, because if you have been any closer to it, that might not have been the case. Talk us through the moments when that tornado touched down in Mayflower.

BRETT ADAIR, STORM CHASER: We watched a tornado from highway 365 which is just southwest of Mayflower. We saw the tornado coming west of town. Fortunately, we were just south of the storm as it came across I-40 here. It hit some neighborhoods, and luckily, we were south of it and had a visual to relay the warning to the National Weathers Service.

PEREIRA: I'm so glad that was the case. We have images come out of that area. We know the mayor of Mayflower said it was chaos. Give us an idea, you guys had -- your crew had a chance to drive through the town. Tell us what you saw there.

ADAIR: There were several neighborhoods completely destroyed. However, a lot of those were mobile home parks. A lot of those mobile homes were tossed and torn apart. Unfortunately, some of my guys were involved in search and rescue, and we ended up assisting the medical personnel and dealt with a couple of those fatales ourselves trying to help save those people. But the damage here is severe. And looks like we might are more of that to deal with later today, unfortunately.

PEREIRA: Brett, you actually had a chance to try and help some people. You were providing some first aid to folks?

ADAIR: Yes. I have an Army medic that travels with us and he had to do CPR on a gentleman, and unfortunately, he didn't make it. That's part of it. That's part of the storm chasing and part of the reason we're here. We're here to help. We're not just here to see the storms. We were affected personally in Alabama. In April 27th, 2011, we were devastated. People came in to help us and we want to do the same for them.

PEREIRA: You have a very personal connection with it obviously. So tell us how this one that you just experienced and witnessed compares to the ones that you've seen, compared to the one that devastated your town in Alabama?

ADAIR: Well, this event was not quite as widespread. This one particular storm had several tornadoes that touched down along its path, unfortunately causing damage and fatalities and a lot of damage. This definitely was not something to take lightly. The National Weather Service had given these guys a lot of warning. Otherwise, this could have been a lot worse. PEREIRA: That's the key like you said, some warning gives people the chance to get out of the path. Get out of harm's way. We're certainly glad you were able to provide some level of comfort, we hope. Maybe even help some folks. Our thoughts are with you and our thoughts with the folks that lost everything and their loved ones.

Thanks so much, Brett Adair. Thanks for joining us. We're glad you there to see this and to help some people. We should point out if you'd would to help the victims of the tornado outbreak. There is devastation in the heartland. Please go to You can do so there.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the effort to find Flight 370, it continues. But it's going deeper and wider and it could go on for months in this new area. Will this more intense underwater search, though, bring any new leads on where the plane is?

CUOMO: Have you heard the audio tapes? Outrage in the NBA and beyond. Basketball legends, superstars lining up to slam this man, the owner of the L.A. Clippers after racist audio surfaces. This is a defining moment. Something big must happen. These are the words from a man with clout in the league and out. Kevin Johnson, NBA great, mayor of Sacramento, coming up on NEW DAY.


COUMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. We are following this outrage over alleged racist remarks made by L.A. Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. There's actually nothing alleged about them being racist. It's whether or not he made them. Right now, we want to bring in Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, obviously, former player, NBA star, and now an adviser to the NBA Players Union and again the mayor of Sacramento.

He has a list of five demands for the league in the wake of the controversy including sanctions against Sterling. The question is what will the league do? Will they comply, Mr. Kevin Johnson with us now. Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us. Let's get right to your key phrase that you've used, defining moment. Why is this that?

MAYOR KEVIN JOHNSON (D), SACRAMENTO: I think it's a defining moment because you have a new commissioner, Commissioner Silver. You have these remarks that were made by NBA owner in a league that's predominantly African-American in terms of players.

And, you know, those comments were reprehensible and unacceptable. It's very clear it represents the worst type of ignorance and intolerance. It's not representative of what the NBA stands for and the players are quite honestly are outraged and when Chris Paul called me and said, will you help us navigate through this. I said absolutely.

CUOMO: Chris Paul, star, point guard for the L.A. Clippers, also the player's representative at the union, so he has political clout as well. Now the question becomes what can you do? You have a list of demands. You are using the word "sanctions." What can they do? It's not a crime so how can you deal with it in a harsh way that sends the message you think is appropriate?

JOHNSON: Well, I think what the players wanted everyone to know is they wanted an immediate investigation to make sure due process took place and make sure these audio tapes were real. Number two, they want to make sure their voices are heard. They wanted to make sure that they're not looked at as passive participants. The NBA players wanted to have a dialogue with Commissioner Silver and that has taken place.

Number three, they want to make sure that Mr. Sterling is not invited and cannot participate in any Clipper games or any playoffs game throughout the duration of this playoff season. Number four, they want a clear understanding of what sanctions are available. When Commissioner Silver said he has a broad range, a broad power or broad discretion, we want to know what that entails because the players ultimately feel it needs to be swift and decisive, and it has to be the most severe sanctions allowable.

CUOMO: Not the most important thing in the overarching issue, but so many fans at the NBA, do you think this affects the team moving forward in the playoffs, not in terms of how well it plays, but is that on the table, that they might boycott?

JOHNSON: You know, I think it affects the team because it's very emotional. It's emotional for the Clippers. It's emotional for the Warriors. It's emotional for the NBA family. You know, we're one family. We have a commissioner. We have owners. We have players. This is a very emotional issue. Not to mention these comments were directed at Magic Johnson what better player that represents the best of the NBA than Magic Johnson.

It was hurtful to him so I think we are all sad. It's a very heavy moment and that's why we think the commissioner needs to act very quickly and forcibly so that this distraction can be put behind us. And we can talk about the great playoffs games that we're experiencing and viewing.

CUOMO: Right. So you don't want to put it on the players. There's no real talk of them boycotting right now. So the onus gets on management and then extends further, do you think Sterling has the ability, not Sterling, do you think that the commissioner has the ability to box out an owner from being around his own team?

JOHNSON: You know, that's what we're all trying to understand. This is, as I said, this is a defining moment for the league. For me, when I think about Commissioner Silver, he's got to make sure that the players are represented and that's taking place. He's got to do something that's very decisive and it goes as far as he possibly can take it. It's got to make a statement.

And ultimately for us, as players, we want to make sure is there something within his powers that allows him to say this owner is not fit to be an owner of the team. If that's not the case then we need to have ongoing discussions because we as players, we have character clauses in our agreements. We got to make sure there's two-way accountability and certain the owners should be held to the same standard.

CUOMO: Now you look outside the league, it should obviously have broader cultural implications. Luckily when someone says this type of stuff, it does matter culturally beyond the context of where it said. So you look at that next context. The NAACP was going to give this guy a lifetime achievement award. What does that mean if that supposedly wasn't a secret about this man's character? Politically, you're the mayor in Sacramento, is there something that can be done politically because of who is within the community? What do you think the options are?

JOHNSON: So number one, the NAACP has - obviously made the wrong decision and they're going to correct it going forward. There were a lot of rumors and allegations about this owner. I'm not sure everyone knew whether they were true or not. But going forward, everyone is clear, I've gotten calls from black caucuses in California and they are talking about boycotting. I asked them to hold off for a moment. Let's let the commissioner weigh in. Let's see what those sanctions are and then we can determine what the appropriate reaction would be.

CUOMO: So you're keeping that in the pocket, if this has to be taken outside the context of the league and you have some influence, you're willing to do that to make the right statement?

JOHNSON: Chris, we absolutely have the responsibility to do that. Again, I'm a big fan of Commissioner Silver. I think he's going to make the right decision. Ultimately, we have to understand what our legal up options are. Certainly when you talk about things like boycott and protesting and economic sanctions, we don't want to take anything off the table. We've got to make sure that justice is served not just for this league but for society.

There's a moral issue here and for players, there is also a business issue. Any owner or anybody that's a threat to the well-being of this league, of this brand, we embrace diversity. The NBA normally gets an "A" grade for diversity. And we're not going to let one person taint or tarnish the image and reputation of this great league.

CUOMO: Last, quick give me one quick answer on this, I don't want to throw anybody else's name into it because I don't want to put any stink on anybody, but there have been occasions when players have used insensitive words using, you know, racial slights and it's been discussed, but then it goes away. Why is this bigger than that?

JOHNSON: Because when you have an owner, they're in a position of influence and players are out there working very hard to be good at their craft, to win ball games, but every time we have a playoff game, there's dollars to be made. And if those dollars go into the pocket of an owner who doesn't value and respect players that is very problematic. Again, players, we want to be held accountable, on the court and off the court. It has to be two-way accountability and Mr. Sterling needs to be held accountable in real-time as well.

CUOMO: I hope it's not true, but I have a suspicion that it's going to be hard to drop the hammer here. It always seems that these things start very strong as a lot of outrage, but for whatever reason they fade. Everybody knows you're a man of your word and that you have great integrity. We will stay on the story. Mayor Johnson, if we can help in any way, let us know. We want to follow this to its conclusion.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Now, we're following the outrage of this situation, but first, we have those deadly tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest. We have new information about Flight 370. The search there is changing. Now they're saying eight months. A lot to tell you about. Let's get to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of damage is tremendous. Houses are just piles of brick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, we heard the sirens going off. We heard this cracking and breaking.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want everybody to know your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An intensified underwater search over a much larger area.

DONALD STERLING: Yes, it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people.

JOHNSON: I think he should step down.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. We want to welcome our viewers across the U.S. and around the world.