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Donald Sterling in CNN exclusive: I'm not a racist, I'm a giver

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
  • Donald Sterling doesn't think racism is a problem in the United States
  • He says his wife has begun divorce proceedings, she should keep her half of team
  • Sterling thinks players will still take the court even if he remains owner of the Clippers

(CNN) -- Donald Sterling wants a second chance.

While most people want him to take his ball and go home, the embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner told CNN that he hopes for forgiveness from his fellow NBA owners -- and the people he has offended.

But why not walk away from a league that has banned him and is trying to force him to sell his team?

"I want to show all of the people that are associated with basketball and the world I'm not a racist," he told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" in an exclusive interview, the second part of which aired Wednesday evening.

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In Wednesday's portion of the 80-minute interview, Sterling also touched on the subject of racism, saying he doesn't think that it is that bad in the United States. He thinks Americans deal with race relations better than other countries.

"I don't see it. I'm not an African-American," the 80-year-old lawyer and billionaire real estate investor, said. "You know, take Judaism ... I don't think the Jews have any problem. I mean there's a couple of people that they killed that are Jews coming out of a synagogue." He apparently was making a reference to the shootings at two Jewish centers near Kansas City, Missouri, last month.

Sterling used working with other lawyers as an example of when he doesn't think race is a barrier. He judges other attorneys by their work, he told Cooper.

"I wouldn't think he (a black attorney) was any different than a white lawyer. ... I think America has worked well with that. Maybe not as well as the African-Americans would like, but I'm a Jew. I watch what's going on with us, too.

"I think it's better than it's ever been. Doesn't mean there isn't anti-Semitism, there is ... a lot of it, especially in the South. But it doesn't matter."

Sterling repeatedly apologized and denied accusations that he's racist, claiming he'd been "baited" into making what he called "terrible" remarks by his friend V. Stiviano.

In the recording, which drew widespread condemnation from fans, players and the league after it appeared on TMZ, Sterling chastises Stiviano for posting pictures online of her posing with African-Americans, including NBA legend Magic Johnson. He tells her not to bring Johnson to Clippers games.

Sterling insists he's no racist, still slams Magic Johnson

"Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f**k him, but don't put (Magic) on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me," he said.

Sterling told Cooper he has pledged millions to minority causes.

"I support minorities, God has been so good to me," he said. "I'm so lucky, and so I want to give, and that's what my life is all about. Giving and helping wherever I can."

The man who has owned the Clippers since 1981 told Cooper that he is taking a wait-and-see approach as a committee of 10 NBA owners meets each week to discuss forcing him to sell the team.

Sterling wants to convince all his fellow owners he is sorry for making racist remarks to Stiviano that were posted on TMZ, a celebrity gossip website.

"I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," he said. "Am I entitled to one mistake? After 35 years. I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. ... It's a terrible mistake, and I'll never do it again."

He called his punishment -- a lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine -- "a little bit harsh," but wondered if one day he could be back as an active owner of the Clippers.

Cooper asked him how that could happen.

"I don't know. I guess I have to, you know, look into the heart," Sterling said. "You know and maybe give me a chance. Give me another chance."

"Maybe it's fair," Sterling said about the punishment. "I mean, for all of the aggravation, all of the embarrassment, all the humiliation I caused them."

Magic Johnson: I'm going to pray for Sterling

Player walkout not a concern for Sterling

Sterling said he thinks that if he is able to keep his team, he won't have to worry about an NBA players strike next season.

"That's talk, the media pushes that," the banned owner told Cooper. "Why would they do that? If they get their salaries, they're going to play."

The idea of a league-wide walkout gained traction for a few hours Wednesday when the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, Roger Mason Jr., told a Showtime cable network show that LeBron James might lead a strike if Sterling is still the controlling owner of the franchise when the new season begins in the fall.

Mason clarified his earlier statement, telling CNN: "I was using LeBron as an example as I talk about many of our players in our league. We unified and we're united, and we want to do what's right."

Sterling's claims vs. reality

Mason said he was referring to remarks by James that people like Sterling have no place in the league.

James himself told Rachel Nichols of CNN and TNT that the players are pleased with the league office.

"The direction Adam (Silver) is going and the NBA is going, there shouldn't be a need for (a strike)," he told Nichols. "We trust those guys, and we know that they're going to take care of what needs to be done for our league, and we understand that it's not going to be tomorrow."

The NBA advisory committee is still discussing the matter of a forced sale and no vote has been taken. Three-quarters of the league's Board of Governors, representatives of each of the other 29 ownership groups, would have to vote to terminate the Sterlings ownership.

Sterling told Cooper that people have the wrong impression of him. He's not a monster who deserves to lose his team, he said.

"What am I, a Frankenstein? What am I, some kind of an ogre?" he asked. "I'm a good person, I'm a warm person. I say hello to everybody who comes to the team."

Sterling, who told Cooper in Monday's portion of the interview that he is still loved by the players and fans, wondered why people turned on him so quickly.

"One day, they all love you, and the next day, you make a mistake and say something, and suddenly they hate you -- is that the way it is? " he said in part two on Wednesday. "What if a player said, 'I don't like working for that Jew.' What would we do?

"I wouldn't do anything. I would ask him, 'Why? Why?' I want to make you happy. If you want more money, more attention, more love?"

What has Magic Johnson done? Quite a lot, actually

Sterling contemplates end of marriage

Sterling believes his long marriage is near its end. He said he thinks his estranged wife, Shelly, has filed paperwork to begin divorce proceedings.

"I've destroyed her life," he said. "I like her attorneys. They are all very good. They all want to be separate. They want her to divorce me forever and sever the relationship."

Sterling, who said Magic Johnson should be ashamed for being promiscuous and contracting HIV, tried to explain his own behavior.

"I guess I was bad committing all of those terrible ... I don't even want to say it," he said. "But you know, people say, 'How do you commit adultery?' You justify things.

"You say, well, every man in Paris or France has a mistress. I mean, it may make you smile, but when you're so old, you don't think it's wrong anymore if you have a little bit of fun."

He said he wanted someone to love him.

"You want to be cared for. Everybody wants to be cared for," he said through tears. "I made such a mistake. I thought that woman (Stiviano) really cared for me."

He thinks Shelly should keep her 50% stake in the team.

"One wife, 58 years," he said. "And she loved the team and always helped me with everything. If for some reason I can't have the team, I think that she should have her interest. She didn't do anything. I brought all of this on her."

Opinion: The 5 apology rules that Sterling broke

Opinion: Sterling apology was an epic fail

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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