Sterling asks for forgiveness in first interview since fallout

LOS ANGELES - Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling said he was baited into making "a terrible mistake" and asked for forgiveness in one interview reported today while his wife, Shelly Sterling, said in another that she will fight to retain her 50 percent ownership stake in the NBA team and plans to divorce her husband.
Donald Sterling unleashed a firestorm when recorded racist comments he made were leaked and widely publicized, leading NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ban him from the league for life, fine him $2.5 million and move to force him to sell the team.
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Sterling called his comments asking associate V. Stiviano to refrain from bringing black men to Clippers games and chastising her for posting a photo of her and Lakers legend Magic Johnson online "a terrible mistake and I'll never do it again."
Sterling said, however, that he felt he was "baited," by Stiviano, who recorded his comments but denied leaking the audio to the media.
"When I listen to that tape, I don't even know how I can say words like that. ... I don't know why the girl had me say those things," the 80-year- old real estate magnate told Cooper in an interview at Sterling's Los Angeles home.
When Cooper asked Sterling if he was saying that he was set up, Sterling said, "Well yes, I was baited. I mean, that's not they way I talk. I don't talk about people, for one thing, ever. I talk about ideas and other things. I don't talk about people."
Sterling believes he should be forgiven by fellow NBA team owners, he told Cooper, whose full interview is due to air Monday night.
"I'm a good member who made a mistake and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," he is quoted as saying. "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."
Shelly Sterling told ABC's Barbara Walters that she will battle to retain her half of the team.
"I will fight that decision," she said in the interview, portions of which aired today. "I've been with the team for 33 years, through the good times and the bad times. It's my passion and I love it."
She also said she has never heard Donald Sterling "say racial things" and doesn't consider him a racist, but expressed disgust for his comments.
"It was just degrading and it made me sick to hear, but as far as a racist, I don't think he is a racist," she said.
Insisting she should not be punished for the actions of her estranged husband, Sterling said has been on the verge of filing for divorce for the last 20 years.
"Eventually, I'm going to," she told Walters, whose full interview was also scheduled to air Monday.
She also said she believes her husband is suffering from the early effects of dementia.
In response to her comments, NBA spokesman Mike Bass issued a statement today saying that if Donald Sterling loses his ownership stake in the team, Shelly Sterling will also lose hers.
"Under the NBA Constitution, if a controlling owner's interest is terminated by a 3/4 vote, all other team owners' interests are automatically terminated as well," he said. "It doesn't matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team."
But Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly Sterling's attorney, dismissed that stance in a statement of his own.
"We do not agree with the league's self-serving interpretation of its constitution, its application to Shelly Sterling or its validity under these unique circumstances," he said. "We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation."

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