MEDIA
05/04/2014 11:16 am ET Updated May 05, 2014

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 'More Whites Believe In Ghosts Than Believe In Racism'

Speaking on the controversy surrounding Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racist remarks caught on tape, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said Sunday that racism still persists in America even though white people are more likely to believe in ghosts.

"I did a little bit of research. More whites believe in ghosts than believe in racism," Abdul-Jabbar said on ABC's "This Week." "That's why we have shows like Ghostbusters and don't have shows like Racistbuster. You know, it's something that's still part of our culture and people hold on to some of these ideas and practices just out of habit and saying that, well, that's the way it always was. But things have to change."

Host George Stephanopoulos asked Abdul-Jabbar about his time working with Sterling as a Clippers coach in 2000. Abdul-Jabbar said he had no inkling at the time that Sterling might be a racist.

"I didn't see a racist then," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Mr. Sterling for the most part was gracious. [He] invited me to his daughter's wedding. I didn't feel that there was any racial animus in the man. But when I saw what was just portrayed there, you know, how he discriminated against blacks and other minorities, it started to bother me."

In the leaked recording, Sterling tells his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, how displeased he is that she associates with black people such as Magic Johnson and brings them to Clippers games. Last week NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling would be banned for life from the NBA and the league would move to force a sale of the team.

Abdul-Jabbar said Sunday that the league has a responsibility to address racism "when it's appropriate."

"What the NBA has to do now is just keep the issue in people's minds when it's appropriate," he said. "It's not something you can constantly be harping on, but when it's appropriate and they see people doing things that don't line up with how we're supposed to be feeling about things, then people have to speak up."

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