Donald Sterling (middle) has apologized for making a series of racist remarks. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sport)
It took more than two weeks, but disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling has finally issued a public apology for making a series of racist remarks that were caught on tape.
"[I] made a mistake and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," Sterling told CNN. "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. ... I'm not a racist. I made a terrible mistake. I'm here to apologize."
Sterling's apology, which is set to air on May 12, comes 16 days after TMZ released audio of a conversation in which Sterling can allegedly be heard scolding V. Stiviano, his girlfriend, for bringing African-Americans to Clippers games and for posting photos of herself and African-Americans, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson, to her Instagram account. Those comments led to the threat of possible boycotts from multiple NBA teams.
The 80-year-old Sterling, who has owned the Clippers for 33 years, told CNN that the delay in his apology was due to the fact that he is "emotionally distraught."
NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from attending NBA games, practices, the Clippers' facilities, and all personnel decisions, and the NBA's 10-member advisory/finance committee voted unanimously to pursue Silver's plan to oust Donald Sterling and complete an ownership change.
The apology amounts to a drastic change in tone from Sterling's first statement, which was released by Andy Roeser, the former Clippers president who has since been put on leave. In that statement, issued one day after the audio tapes were released, Roeser questioned the legitimacy of the audio tape and accused Stiviano of embezzling nearly $2 million from Sterling, while failing to confirm that the voice on the tape was Sterling's.
“We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered," Roeser's statement read. "We do know that the woman on the tape — who we believe released it to TMZ — is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would 'get even.'
"Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them. He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him– both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter.”
Silver told reporters on April 29 that the league had authenticated the audio and that Sterling admitted that the voice on the tape was his during a league investigation. Nevertheless, Sterling maintained a public silence.
In subsequent audio recordings that leaked out this week, Sterling was heard admitting that jealousy had prompted his comments towards Stiviano.
Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling's wife, told ABC News this weekend that she plans to "fight" the NBA's plans to remove her as Clippers co-owner. She also said that she will "eventually" divorce Donald Sterling and suggested that her husband might be suffering from the "onset of dementia." Reports have also indicated that Donald Sterling is battling cancer.
A three-quarters majority vote of the league’s owners — 22 out of the other 29 — is required to force out Donald Sterling. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said he expects unanimous support for the ouster from his colleagues. There have been repeated demands from the National Basketball Players Association to remove Shelly Sterling as well.
The NBA has moved quickly to place distance between the Clippers and owner Donald Sterling. Following Roeser's leave of absence, the league appointed former Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons
as the new CEO of the Clippers.