LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Sunday broke his silence, apologizing for racial comments that prompted the National Basketball Association to ban him for life.
“I’m a good member who made a mistake and I’m apologizing and I’m asking for forgiveness,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “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.”
He added: “I’m not a racist. I made a terrible mistake.”
Sterling said he was distraught over the scandal, telling Cooper: “The reason it’s hard for me, very hard for me, is that I’m wrong. I caused the problem. I don’t know how to correct it,” he said.
Sterling’s comments came two weeks after a recording was released to TMZ in which the billionaire tells a female friend not to associate with black people, including Magic Johnson.
Excerpts of the CNN interview, which will be broadcast Monday, were released hours after Sterling’s wife, Shelly, spoke with ABC’s Barbara Walters.
Shelly Sterling said she may eventually divorce Donald Sterling and will fight efforts to force her to sell her share of the Clippers.
In the ABC interview, Shelly Sterling also suggested Donald is suffering from dementia, which she said could explain comments caught on tape. (Donald Sterling did not address his health in the interview material CNN released Sunday.)
“I was shocked by what he said,” she told Walters. “But I don’t know why I should be punished for what his actions were.”
The NBA responded to the recordings by banning Donald Sterling for life and saying it would seek to force him to sell the team. But Shelly Sterling said she sees the Clippers as part of her family legacy.
“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?” she said.