Nearly two weeks since the NBA banned him for life, Donald Sterling is apologizing and asking for forgiveness in his first public comments, pleading “I’m not racist.”
Sterling recorded an exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper – which will air at 8 p.m. Monday on CNN – where he said “I’m a good member who made a mistake and I’m apologizing and I’m asking for forgiveness.”
The much-anticipated interview comes in the wake of leaked recordings that showed Sterling making racist comments in a phone call with his reported girlfriend, V. Stiviano.
“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,” 80-year-old Sterling said.
His problems are hitting home, too.
Sterling’s wife, Rochelle (Shelly) Sterling, told ABC News that she will eventually divorce the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“For the last 20 years, I’ve been seeing attorneys for a divorce,” she told Barbara Walters in an ABC News exclusive set to air Sunday evening. Shelly Sterling said she had previously signed divorce papers but never filed them, claiming her lawyer and financial adviser urged her not to at the time.
Donald and Shelly Sterling both own the team, which is valued at around $575 million dollars. In addition to banning Donald Sterling and issuing him a $2.5 million fine, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said late last month that he would urge team owners in the league to force a sale of the Clippers.
Oprah Winfrey tops the list of potential buyers to take over the NBA team.
But Shelly Sterling told ABC she won’t forfeit her stake in the team without a fight, adding that she was “shocked” by her husband’s comments, but doesn’t feel she should be “punished for what his actions were.”
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass responded to Shelly Sterling’s comments Sunday night.
“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.”
Miami Heat star player LeBron James also weighed in Sunday, stating that NBA players won’t stand for any Sterling family member owning a part of the team.
“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 after practice.
“At the end of the day, this is going to be a long litigation when it comes to that. This guy who’s owned the team since the ’80s is not going to just give the team up in a day. So we understand it’s going to be long, but we want what’s right,” James said.
Donald Sterling faced a swift wave of condemnation after TMZ released a recording of the conversation with a woman, V. Stiviano. Donald Sterling said in the call that it bothered him that Stiviano associated with black people and promoted it on social media.
Both NBA officials and players excoriated the comments.
President Obama weighed in on the controversy at the time, calling it evidence that the U.S. “continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation.”
Another recording surfaced last week, in which a man identified as Sterling said he was not a racist.
The NBA appointed Richard Parsons interim CEO of the Clippers on Friday, following a decision by the team’s previous chief executive to take a leave of absence. Parsons is the former chairman of Time Warner and Citigroup.
Shelly Sterling said in the interview she believes Donald Sterling may be experiencing “the onset of dementia.”