In an extraordinary television interview that deepened the anger over his ownership of the
Sterling's attempt to show contrition in his first public comments since he was banned from the
Alternatively apologetic, defiant and seemingly on the verge of tears, Sterling said he believed he can maintain his hold on the team he has owned for 33 years.
Although small portions of the interview had been released Sunday, the bulk of the conversation that aired Monday on CNN redoubled calls for Sterling to be expelled from the pro basketball league, just as the team is in the midst of its most successful season.
"He's in a hole and he won't quit digging," Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said.
Civil rights activist and commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson said Sterling had denigrated an iconic figure in the black community, adding, "It's almost attacking Mt. Rushmore."
Sterling's wife, Shelly, chimed in from New York, where she is expected to appear on
The controversy began April 25, when the gossip website TMZ posted an audio recording of Sterling telling a frequent courtside companion,
Days later, Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned him from the league and called on other owners to force Sterling to sell the team he bought in 1981. Last week, the league appointed an interim chief executive to oversee the Clippers. Dick Parsons, former chairman of
Sterling touched on many subjects, and although he expressed remorse, he suggested that Stiviano, 31, had provoked him. "I was baited," he said. "I mean, that's not the way I talk."
His harshest comments were aimed at Johnson, whom the Clippers owner also accused of setting a poor example for children and of recently misleading Sterling, perhaps in a bid to buy his NBA team.
"What does he do for the black people? He doesn't do anything," Sterling said in the CNN interview, conducted in the billionaire's Beverly Hills home. At another point, he added: "Can you tell me, big Magic Johnson, what has he done?"
"Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people," said Sterling, who is Jewish. "And some of the African Americans — maybe I will get in trouble again — they don't want to help anybody."
Sterling said that Johnson had urged, just after the recording became public, that the Clippers owner not say anything. "I think he wanted me just to do nothing, so he could buy the team," Sterling said. "He thought maybe the whole thing would be resolved in two weeks."
Sterling attacked Johnson for being promiscuous during his playing days in the NBA. "Here is a man who is — I don't know if I [should] say this. He acts so holy," Sterling said. "I mean, he made love to every girl in every city in America. And he had
Johnson announced in 1991 that he had the virus that causes AIDS, but never contracted the disease. He previously apologized for having unprotected sex with many women, which he said led to his illness. He subsequently has been heralded by HIV activists for using his celebrity and his wealth to help enhance efforts to control the disease.
Johnson, part of the group that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers, founded the Magic Johnson Foundation in 1991. It has granted about $20 million to organizations that work on HIV-related issues, providing scholarships and technology to community centers, among other things.
Johnson has been praised for bringing businesses like
More recently, Johnson teamed up with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, a Century City investment fund, to develop properties in urban neighborhoods. The Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds targeted $8 billion for development and revitalization in major U.S. metropolitan areas, managers said.
Sterling said that reports of players, fans and sponsors hating him were concocted or exaggerated. "The media hates," he said. "The media — it's all the media pushing it."
Cooper responded: "You really believe that it's just the media?"
"I believe it 100%," Sterling said.
He said he based this on feedback he had received: "People call me by the thousands and give me support."
Sterling, 80, made a fortune estimated at $1.9 billion in the apartment rental business.
He said he did not think the other 29 NBA owners would vote to strip him of the Clippers, as Silver has asked them to do.
Sterling said he loved and respected the other owners and felt remorse for dragging them into the scandal. "I have — I embarrassed the league," he said. "I humiliated them. I don't know how, why I did it. I mean, it's so terrible."
He was vague about whether he would go to court to try to stop the owners if they voted to oust him, though he suggested he did not want to oppose their will, adding: "I don't want to fight with my partners, you know?"
Sterling became most emotional when asked to discuss his feelings for Stiviano. He described her as a "street person" who helped raise a family of 15 and whom he admired for that. He said he remained confused why she had recorded their argument about Johnson and blacks. "I mean … an 80-year-old man is kind of foolish," he said. "And I'm kind of foolish. I thought she liked me and really cared for me. I guess being 50 years, 51 years over — older than her, I was deluding myself."
Sterling denied that he was a racist and said that a quarter of the team's fans were African American and that he appreciated them. He said he only raised the issue of blacks coming to games with Stiviano after she told him, "I'm going to bring four gorgeous black guys to the game."
Sterling said that somehow triggered his "stupid, uneducated remarks." He added: "I was a little jealous, I have to admit."
Meeting with Clippers employees and the media for the first time since being named interim CEO, Parsons said at
He said advertisers should begin to return to a team that many spurned after Sterling's remarks.
He also expressed confidence that Coach
Parsons said the determination in the eyes of Commissioner Silver persuaded him that the Sterling era would come to an end.
"My goodness," Parsons said. "There's so much momentum for doing the right thing and so much support for doing the right thing that at the end of the day, I believe ownership will change."