Weeks after being issued a lifetime ban from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Donald Sterling broke his silence to CNN’s Anderson Cooper about racially driven comments made in a private recording. Once again comments made by the 81-year-old come on the eve of another important Clippers playoffs game.
The recording, originally reported by TMZ led to Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine. Silver has asked the other 29 owners to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. Sterling is the longest-tenured owner in the league.
“I’m not a racist,” Sterling pleaded with Cooper. “I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I’m here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I’ve hurt.”
In the attempt to paint himself as a jealous boyfriend as opposed to being a racist, Sterling used Cooper’s format to beg public forgiveness and to remind us all that “his players” still love him, all while berating a celebrated hero like Magic Johnson and throwing him under the bus.
Without any mention of what kind of guy remains married while dating a woman 50 years younger than him, Sterling continued to attack Johnson.
“What kind of guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then catches HIV, I think he should be ashamed of himself.”
Sterling also questioned whether Johnson has made a positive contribution to the African-American community in Los Angeles. He then mentioned his own charitable work.
“Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people,” he said.
His attempt at achieving empathy as the victim of an elaborate setup was a lost cause before engaging in the interview with Cooper. With every defensive and emotional response given he prevailed in digging himself a bigger hole. Certainly attacking Johnson for a second time didn’t paint a brighter picture for Sterling either.
“If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry,” Sterling responded. “He’s a good person. I mean, what am I going to say? Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don’t think so. But I’ll say it – he’s great. But I don’t think he’s a good example for the children of Los Angeles.”
In familiar temperament displayed on the original audio recording, Sterling’s attempt to deflect attention from his habitual racist behavior failed, and with every response to Cooper further exposed himself to be the vile human being many were originally exposed to weeks prior.
And if there was any compassion to be had from any of the other 29 NBA owners, it’s gone now.
In response to Sterling delivering additional careless remarks on national television, and further driving the nail into a publicly disastrous wound the NBA has taken extreme measures to heal in short order, Commissioner Silver responded in a statement, “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 continued, “The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible.”
Magic Johnson replied with a simple Twitter message
I’d rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling’s interview.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 13, 2014
Clippers coach Doc Rivers responded to the interview via CNN’s Rachel Nichols as well:
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers on Donald Sterling’s @CNN interview: “That doesn’t sound like much of an apology to me.”
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) May 13, 2014
The issue of the team’s sale currently sits with the NBA’s Advisory/Finance Committee, which met Wednesday in a conference call. Members discussed the “termination of Mr. Sterling’s ownership of the team,” the NBA said in a press release. According to the statement, the committee will reconvene again next week.
When asked by Cooper if he would fight the decision from the other 29 team owners to remove him from ownership, Sterling responded, “We aren’t there yet so why should I address that issue? I don’t want to fight with my partners,” he said. “We all do what we have to do. I love them and I respect them. Whatever their decision is with regard to my terrible words, then I have to do it, I think.”
However behind the scenes, it’s been reported that Sterling and his estranged wife (Shelly Sterling) have been rejected by at least eight law firms. Their intention to sue the NBA hasn’t gone over too well, as his closet of skeletons has been finally been aired on the national stage.
In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Shelly Sterling said she was prepared to fight any attempt by the NBA to take away her stake in the team. The NBA has insisted that a vote to terminate the ownership stake of Donald Sterling would also prompt termination for the other owners.
“I will fight that decision,” she told ABC’s Barbara Walters. “To be honest with you, 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?”
And as much as the NBA is eager to remove Donald from the Clippers helm, as this situation furthers itself – it’s apparent Shelly Sterling needs to be handed her walking papers in matching speed.
ESPN The Magazine’s Peter Keating wrote a feature on Sterling five years prior, bringing to light his scandal checkered past, focusing on the fact that in 2009, Sterling paid close to $3 million in settlements stemming from a housing discrimination lawsuit. A record amount settled out of court and paid to the United States Department of Justice for housing discrimination.
I repeat… Donald Sterling was sued by the United States Department of Justice, and while settling out of court is by no means an admission of guilt – it’s not the most exonerating action either.
Shelly Sterling was also implicated in that lawsuit. Former tenants testified to her use of racial slurs against tenants in addition to posing as a health inspector to enter tenants apartments illegally.
Former employee Elgin Baylor also sued Sterling. Baylor claimed Sterling exercised a “plantation mentality” during his employment with the Clippers, and in Baylor’s court filings Sterling was accused of bringing women into the locker room while the players were showering and saying, “Look at those beautiful black bodies.”
Allegations against a man who also decided to celebrate Black History Month in March.
Although the Sterling’s have made every intention to gain public approval and denounce racism, their track record speaks for itself. They’ve become wealthy on the heels of lawsuits, unethical business practices and controversy. All of which had been kept under the radar until now.
It’s been another visceral example of the state of race relations in America, and an inside look into the minds of wealthy elitists who in all of their shame would prefer to drag an issue out instead of showing remorse and removing themselves from possibly the worst scandal in NBA history.
Somewhere Tim Donaghy is thanking Donald and Shelly Sterling.
With every day that passes, and as the league faces the culmination of its entire season in a few weeks, the NBA will seek to rectify this issue and remove the Sterling’s completely and for good. It’s inevitable and there are no other options.