NEW YORK — Magic Johnson said it’s “ridiculous” to suggest that David Stern is racist, saying it’s OK to disagree with the NBA commissioner but that you “can’t attack the man and what he stands for.”

Johnson was responding to comments made by attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NBA players’ association, who told the Washington Post that owners are treating players like “plantation workers” during the ongoing lockout.

That was similar to the comments Bryant Gumbel made last month on his HBO show, when he said Stern “always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer treating NBA men as if they were his boys.”

But Johnson said Stern has always done right by players, noting the number of blacks such himself, Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas who have followed their Hall of Fame playing careers by going into management or ownership positions.

“This league is more diverse than any other league and has more minorities in powerful positions than any other league,” Johnson said during a phone interview. “That’s all about David Stern and his vision and what he wanted to do. He make sure minorities had high-ranking positions from the league office all the way down to coaches and front office people.”

Stern did not comment, though told the Washington Post that Kessler’s conduct “is routinely despicable.”

However, players such as Johnson and Bill Russell called the league office to support Stern, who is leading owners in a bitter dispute with the players but who has not lost their support, according to Johnson.

“It was David Stern who took this league worldwide. And so those guys know it was because of David Stern and what he was able to do,” Johnson said.

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