Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling says he's sorry, nearly two weeks after the NBA banned him for life and slammed him with a $2.5 million fine for making racist comments.
"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 in an exclusive interview set to air on Monday. "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."
Sterling, an 80-year-old married lawyer and billionaire real-estate investor, hasn't spoken publicly about the accusations since celebrity gossip website TMZ posted a 10-minute audio recording of him that drew widespread condemnation from fans, players and the league.
In that audio clip, Sterling chastised a woman for posting pictures online of her posing with African-Americans, including basketball Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
The recording triggered a firestorm that led to Sterling's lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has asked the other 29 owners to force Sterling, the longest-tenured owner in the league, to sell the Clippers.
"I'm not a racist," Sterling told Cooper. "I made a terrible mistake. I'm here to apologize."
Asked by Cooper why he took so long to say he's sorry, Sterling said he was "emotionally distraught."
"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 told CNN that his fate is in the NBA's hands.
"If the owners feel I have another chance, then they'll give it to me," he said.
Last week, another audio recording surfaced online, allegedly showing Sterling trying to add context to the racist comments that got him banned from the league.
In that recording, Sterling purportedly explained that his comments were driven by jealousy.
"The girl is black. I like her. I'm jealous that she's with other black guys. I want her. So what the hell, can I in private tell her, you know, 'I don't want you to be with anybody'?" the man purported to be Sterling said in that recording, according to RadarOnline.
The matter of the team's sale is 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 news release. The committee will meet again next week, the statement said.
If the case proceeds to a full vote, 75% of the owners would have to approve the forced sale.
However, an attorney for Donald Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, told CNN Friday that she wants to keep her 50% stake in the team.
"She wants to remain a passive owner," said attorney Pierce O'Donnell. "She's not going to want to manage the team. She's going to want a very skilled, professional, well-heeled new owner to come in and replace Donald," O'Donnell said. "She only wants to own the team in her lifetime. She's 79 years old. At this point, she's earned it. She's been an owner for 33 years, and she's an avid fan."