Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has broken his silence over his racist comments but made a further slight on Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Sterling came under fire on April 25 when the website TMZ posted an audio recording of him chastising a female friend for publicly associating with black people, including retired NBA great Magic Johnson.
The recording sparked a torrent of outrage from fans, NBA players and commercial sponsors, several of which have severed ties with the Clippers.
Four days later, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from pro basketball for life in an unprecedented rebuke that bars Sterling from any further association with the NBA or his team.
Silver also called on the league’s 29 other owners who make up the NBA’s governing board to strip Sterling of team ownership, a first-time use of such a sanction that would require a three-quarters vote by the board.
Sterling said he waited two weeks to apologise because he was “so emotionally distraught” by the episode.
“I’m not a racist. I made a terrible, terrible mistake,” he said. “I’m here with you today to apologise and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I’ve hurt. When I listen to that tape, I don’t even know how I can say words like that. I’m so sorry.”
Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million while they were still based in San Diego. He moved the team, now worth at least $575 million, according to Forbes magazine, to Los Angeles in 1984.
However, despite the apology, Sterling, in further misguided comments, claimed that Johnson should not be seen as role model.
“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.”
“What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV?” said Sterling.
“Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”