Donald Sterling apologized profusely for the bigoted remarks that led to the league's efforts to force him to sell the Clippers in an exclusive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper that aired Monday night. But Sterling poured fuel on the fire he started by attacking Magic Johnson on several levels.
Emotional to the point of crying during the interview, Sterling apologized to his fellow NBA owners, to his estranged wife, Shelly, and even to Johnson, if only grudgingly. In one breath, the 80-year-old billionaire real estate developer described V. Stiviano, 31, the girlfriend who taped him expressing bigoted views, as a "special person," and in the next, he suggested she "baited" him into making racially charged remarks and called her a "street person."
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"I'm not a racist," Sterling said. "I made a terrible mistake, and I'm here to apologize to all the people I've hurt. I never dreamt this would happen. It's a terrible nightmare."
Sterling was taped by Stiviano expressing his concern that she posted pictures of herself and a girlfriend posing with Johnson on her Facebook page. During the course of the tape, he asked her not to bring African-Americans to his games.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver reacted by banning Sterling from the NBA for life and imposing the maximum $2.5-million fine. Silver also initiated a process to gain approval of three-fourths of the other 29 owners to force Sterling to sell the team.
The league installed former Citibank and Time Warner head Dick Parsons as interim CEO of the Clippers. He met with the media yesterday Monday in Los Angeles and expressed confidence that Sterlingwill have to sell, saying, "My personal belief is the league will prevail, which means there will be an ownership change."
Sterling insisted the Clippers' players "love me" and contended he has received support from fans and sponsors. But he added, "The media hates me."
Sterling said it was jealousy of Stiviano's friendships that drove him to make "stupid, uneducated remarks." Sterling then claimed Johnson called and spoke to him twice after the firestorm erupted, said he knew Stiviano and urged Sterling to wait before saying anything. "He lulled me into waiting a week," Sterling said. "I think he wanted me to do nothing so he could buy the team."
Sterling criticized Johnson as a poor role model because he contracted HIV and suggested he had not helped the African-American community in Los Angeles. "He acts so holy," Sterling said of Johnson. "He does nothing. It's all talk."
Sterling's comments about Johnson earned him a quick rebuke from Silver.
"I just read a transcript of Donald Sterling's interview with Anderson Cooper, and while Magic Johnson doesn't need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologize to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack," Silver said.
Stay tuned. Cooper announced Johnson has agreed to respond on air Tuesday night.