The website Radar Online released an audio recording of a man identified as disgraced NBA team owner Donald Sterling, in a phone conversation where he defended his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, saying he is not a racist.
“You think I’m a racist? You think I have anything in the world but love for everybody? You don’t think that! You know I’m not a racist,” he said in a recorded phone conversation obtained by Radar Online. NBC News could not immediately verify the authenticity of the recording.
Sterling has been publicly silent in the days since the NBA banned him from the league for life, fined him $2.5 million and urged him to sell the team over racist remarks he made about African-Americans.
“How could you think I’m a racist knowing me all these years,” Sterling said in the recording to a man identified by Radar Online as a “life-long friend.”
“How can you be in this business being a racist,” he went on. “Do you think I tell the coach to get white players? Or the best players I can get?”
The controversy erupted roughly two weeks ago after a separate phone recording was released to the public, capturing Sterling ranting at his girlfriend, who is black and Hispanic, for appearing in public with blacks. He assailed her for also posting pictures on Instagram with NBA legend Magic Johnson.
“It breaks my heart that Magic Johnson … a guy I respect so much, wouldn’t stand up and say well let’s get the facts, let’s get him and talk to him,” Sterling allegedly said in the recording. “Nobody tried.”
Sterling said he was in his house in Beverly Hills at the time of the call, and that he had not spoken to anyone, even Clippers star Blake Griffin.
The NBA and owners of the league’s 30 teams are moving forward in efforts to force Sterling to sell the team. Earlier this week, team president Andy Roeser took an indefinite leave of absence over the controversy, and the NBA assigned an interim CEO to oversee the franchise while the league restructures Sterling’s ties to the team.
It may not, however, be a clean break – Sterling’s estranged wife and team co-owner, Shelly Sterling, said she has no intentions of leaving the Clippers. They own the team through a family trust.
“I have been co-owner since 1981,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “During those 33 years, I have been a diehard fan even when the team was in the basement of the league. Now that all of our hard work is paying off, I want to celebrate the success that we are finally achieving.”
According to the audio obtained by Radar One, Sterling acknowledged the threats to force him to give up the team, saying he’s not going anywhere.
“You can’t force somebody to sell property in America,” he said.
Asserting he is not racist, Sterling in the recording describes the neighborhood he grew up in East LA, where he said he was a student in a racially diverse school.
“I was the president of the high school there. I mean, and I’m a Jew! And 50% of the people there were black and 40% were Hispanic,” he said, according to Radar Online.
“So I mean, people must have a good feeling for me,” he said.