Donald Sterling finally came forward to talk about his racist remarks captured on audio that caused his ouster as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Sterling apologized, while saying he was “baited” to make racist comments.
“When I listen to that tape, I don’t even know how I can say words like that. … I don’t know why the girl had me say those things,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an exclusive interview set to air on Monday.
“You’re saying you were set up?” Cooper asked.
“Well yes, I was baited,” Sterling said. “I mean, that’s not the way I talk. I don’t talk about people for one thing, ever. I talk about ideas and other things. I don’t talk about people.”
Sterling, an 80-year-old married lawyer and billionaire real-estate investor, hasn’t spoken publicly about the accusations since celebrity gossip website TMZ posted a 10-minute audio recording of him that drew widespread condemnation from fans, players and the league.
In that audio clip, Sterling chastised his friend V. Stiviano for posting online pictures of her posing with African-Americans, including basketball Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
The recording triggered a firestorm that led to Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine. Silver has asked the other 29 owners to force Sterling, the longest-tenured owner in the league, to sell the Clippers.
“I’m not a racist,” Sterling told Cooper. “I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I’m here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I’ve hurt.”
Asked by Cooper why he took so long to say he’s sorry, Sterling said he was “emotionally distraught.”
“The reason it’s hard for me, very hard for me, is that I’m wrong. I caused the problem. I don’t know how to correct it,” he said.
“I’m a good member who made a mistake and I’m apologizing and I’m asking for forgiveness. 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 owners have yet to vote on his permanent banishment.
“If the owners feel I have another chance, then they’ll give it to me,” he said.
According to RadarOnline, a man purported to be Sterling has said in another recording: “The girl is Black. I like her. I’m jealous that she’s with other Black guys. I want her. So what the hell, can I in private tell her, you know, ‘I don’t want you to be with anybody’?”
On Sunday, Sterling told CNN that in the recording “I spoke to a girl that I was fond of.”
Stiviano told ABCNews earlier this month that the recorded conversation was similar to many she’s had with Sterling about race.
“There’s been a number of occasions where Mr. Sterling and I had conversations just like this one,” she said. “Part of what the world heard was only 15 minutes. There’s a number of other hours that the world doesn’t know.”
Sterling told CNN he’s not sure who released the recording.
“I don’t know. An 80-year-old man is kind of foolish, and I’m kind of foolish. 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.”