Disgraced owner Donald Sterling believes he still has the support of the Clippers players despite being banned for life from the NBA for making a series of racist remarks that were caught on tape.
Making his first public statements in the 16 days since the racially-charged audio leaked, Sterling apologized for his comments in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and said that he was “asking for forgiveness.”
Speaking about the team that he has owned for 33 years, the 80-year-old Sterling painted a strangely rosy picture.
"What do you think? They are all going to walk off the team? Can any of us just stop working? We all have to work we all have to earn a living we all have bills," Sterling said. "We may work for an employer we don't love. I contend that they love me."
Cooper pressed and asked Sterling again if he believes his players love him.
"Absolutely," he said. " They know I'm not a racist."
When asked about the Clippers' silent protest against Sterling, in which the players turned their warm-up shirts inside out during a first-round playoff game against the Warriors, the 80-year-old Sterling contended that he still has the support of his organization.
"I really didn’t pay attention to that," he said. "They are Clippers and they are mine, and I’m theirs. That’s how I feel. I would do anything for them. I made a mistake and I hope it’s in their heart to forgive me for the mistake."
Sterling also claimed that he had spoken to some his fellow NBA owners since his racist remarks became public and that "they support me," even if they "can't understand why I would say that."
"The players don't hate me, the sponsors don't hate me, the fans don't hate me," Sterling added. "It's the media, it's all the media."
Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have stated repeatedly that the league's players considered boycotting games if NBA commissioner Adam Silver had not severely punished Sterling for his comments. A number of Clippers sponsors suspended their agreements with the Clippers in the days after his comments first became public. Hundreds of fans brought signs and wore t-shirts to the Clippers' first home game after his comments became public that expressed their disgust for Sterling's comments.
"Whatever it is, that doesn't sound like much of an apology to me," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said in response to Sterling's CNN interview, according to ESPN.com.
Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA and is no longer able to attend Clippers games and practices or participate in their personnel decisions.
The NBA has placed former Clippers president Andy Roeser on a leave of absence and appointed former Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons as the organization’s new CEO.
Meanwhile, Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling’s wife, has pledged to “fight” to keep the Clippers. Lakers legend Magic Johnson said this week that the Clippers’ players do not want to play for either one of the Sterling.
“Those guys are not going to play for anybody [with the name] Sterling,” Johnson said, according to USA Today Sports. “It’s just how it is. It’s hard to separate the two. … It’s going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players.”
NBPA representatives have made similar comments regarding Donald and Shelly Sterling.