Updated 7:12 a.m. ET on May 12
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling expressed contrition about racist comments that landed him a lifetime ban from the NBA, calling them a “terrible mistake” in his first interview since the scandal erupted.
“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,” Sterling told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview set to air Monday.
Sterling sought forgiveness during the interview, but also seemed to imply he had been lured into making the comments by his ex-girlfriend.
“When I listen to that tape, I don’t even know how I can say words like that,” Sterling said. “I don’t know why the girl had me say those things.”
When Cooper asked, “you’re saying you were set up?” Sterling responded: “Well yes, I was baited. 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.”
The remarks are Sterling’s first public comments since TMZ published a recording last month of him criticizing his ex-girlfriend for bringing black people to Clippers games and being public in her friendship with NBA legend Magic Johnson. That led NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million for the comments, which Silver condemned as “deeply offensive and harmful.” Silver has vowed to force a sale.
The NBA’s Advisory/Finance Committee met on May 1 to discuss how to force a sale. A bevy of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson, have been floated as possible owners.
When Cooper asked Sterling why he had dragged his feet on a public apology for nearly two weeks, Sterling responded that he was “emotionally distraught.”