'I’m not a racist,' says apologetic Donald Sterling
Banned Clippers owner says years of good behaviour should count towards his future
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has apologised for racist comments captured on tape, saying they were a “terrible mistake”.
“I’m not a racist,” Sterling told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in excerpts posted from an interview taped on Sunday and set to air on Monday. “I made a terrible mistake. I’m here to apologise.”
In his first public comments since being banned for life from the NBA, Sterling said years of good behaviour as an owner should count towards his future.
“I’m a good member who made a mistake,” Sterling said. “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 came nearly two weeks after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling, fined him US$2.5 million and urged the other league owners to force him to sell the team.
Sterling said he waited to make a public apology because he was “emotionally distraught”.
“The reason it’s hard for me, very hard for me, is that I’m wrong,” Sterling said. “I caused the problem. I don’t know how to correct it.”
He later added: “If the owners feel I have another chance, then they’ll give it to me.”
Sterling’s comments came on the same day ABC News posted excerpts of an interview his estranged wife gave to Barbara Walters.
Shelly Sterling said she would fight to keep her 50 per cent ownership stake of the team.
“I will fight that decision,” Shelly Sterling said. “To be honest with you, I’m wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there’s 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband? Or would they leave the husband in?
“I don’t know why I should be punished for what his actions were.”
NBA spokesman Mike Bass responded to Shelly Sterling’s comments.
“Under the NBA constitution, if a controlling owner’s interest is terminated by a three-quarter vote, all other team owners’ interests are automatically terminated as well,” Bass said. “It doesn’t matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team.”
Shelly Sterling also said she “eventually” will divorce her husband, and that she hadn’t yet done so due to financial considerations.
“For the last 20 years, I’ve been seeing attorneys for a divorce,” she said. “In fact, I have here – I just filed – I was going to file the petition. I signed the petition for a divorce. And it came to almost being filed. And then, my financial adviser and my attorney said to me, ‘Not now’.”
LeBron James said on Sunday after the Miami Heat practised for game four of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Brooklyn Nets that NBA players believe nobody in the Sterling family should be able to own the Clippers if he’s gone.
“As players, we want what’s right and we don’t feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team,” James said.