Disgraced L.A Clippers owner Donald Sterling has finally made a rebuttal to the racist comments he was recorded saying that led to his lifetime ban from the NBA. He spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper in Los Angeles for the first time about his recorded conversation with “confidante” V. Stiviano that led to the ban.
“I’m a good member who made a mistake and I’m apologizing and I’m asking for forgiveness,” he told Cooper.
“Am I entitled to one mistake, am I, after 35 years? I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake? It’s a terrible mistake, and I’ll never do it again.”
The interview will air on CNN Monday night at 8 p.m. ET
Sterling, 80, \ a billionaire lawyer and real-estate investor is the longest tenured owner in the NBA. He has owned the Clippers since 1981. In that time, he’s been reviled for years for his cheap ways with the team, has settled two discrimination lawsuits, including a record $2.75 million dollar one with the Department of Justice, settled a sexual harassment case and was accused of age and race discrimination by his former general manager, NBA legend Elgin Baylor.
“I caused the problem. I don’t know how to correct it,” Sterling tells Cooper.
In the audio clip, Sterling is angered that Stiviano is posting pictures online with African-Americans, including basketball Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson and L.A. Dodgers star Matt Kemp.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has asked the other 29 owners to force Sterling, to sell the Clippers.
“I’m not a racist,” Sterling told Cooper. “I made a terrible mistake. I’m here to apologize.”
In another tape, acquired by Radar Online, Sterling says he said what he said in order to have sex with Stiviano.
“I don’t know. An 80-year-old man is kind of foolish, and I’m kind of foolish,” he told Cooper. “I thought she liked me and really cared for me,” he said. “I guess being 51 years older than her, I was deluding myself. … I just wish I could ask her why, and if she was just setting me up.”
For her part, Stiviano has said she doesn’t believe that Sterling is a racist, but that she also has more tapes of their conversations with similar subject matter. Stiviano has received gifts from Sterling in excess of $2 million, including four luxury cars and a condo and was being sued by Sterling’s wife for return of the gifts. She is the second woman Sterling’s wife has sued for the same reason.
But Sterling is not done putting his foot in his mouth, apparently. In the CNN interview, he was asked if he’d apologized to Magic Johnson, who he said he’s spoken to since the scandal broke.
“If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry,” Sterling said. “He’s a good person. I mean, what am I going to say? Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don’t think so. But I’ll say it, he’s great. But I don’t think he’s a good example for the children of Los Angeles.”
Though Shelly Sterling and her lawyer have both gone on record saying that she will fight to retain her ownership stake in the Clippers, she may have a battle on her hands. She told ABC’s Barbara Walters in a televised interview that she shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of her husband who she’s been married to for 58 years.
She told Walters she’s been considering divorcing Sterling for 20 years, but was advised by her lawyer and financial advisor not to do so. She has said she has no interest in running the team, and would support a management team to run it. Unfortunately for her, the NBA Constitution allows for only one controlling owner. (Sterling’s wife shares ownership of the team through a family trust.)
If the rest of the league’s owners votes that majority owner out, all secondary owners are out as well. Shelly Sterling has yet to be banned by the NBA and continues to attend playoff games, but several sources in the NBA have said that if she should retain an interest, it’s unlikely she will have the support of players or coaches.