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Donald Sterling in new recording: 'I'm not a racist'

In a newly released recording, embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling defends himself, saying he's not a racist.
May 8, 2014 4:53:03 PM PDT
In a newly released recording, embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling defends himself, saying he's not a racist and he's not giving up his team without a fight.

"How could you think I'm a racist knowing me all these years?" Sterling says to an unidentified man during a recorded telephone conversation that was posted Thursday on the website, RadarOnline.com. "How can you be in this business and be a racist. Do you think I tell the coach to get white players? Or to get the best players he can get?"

Sterling goes on to say that he will fight to keep his team, even though the NBA has taken steps to force a sale.

"You can't force somebody to sell property in America," said Sterling.

Sterling also references Lakers legend Magic Johnson, saying that Johnson should have reached out to him when the scandal broke.

"It breaks my heart that Magic Johnson, a guy that I respect so much wouldn't stand up and say, 'Well, let's get the facts,'" said Sterling.

In the first leaked audio recording that sparked the outrage against Sterling, the 80-year-old is heard urging V. Stiviano, his archivist, not to bring black people to Clippers games or to post photos of herself with black friends on her Instagram account. One of the photos was reportedly of Stiviano and Johnson.

In the two weeks since Sterling's rant went viral, several high-profile celebrities have announced their interest in buying the Clippers. But Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, says she would like to own the team outright.

"I have been co-owner since 1981. During those 33 years, I have been a diehard fan even when the team was in the basement of the league. Now that all of our hard work is paying off, I want to celebrate the success that we are finally achieving," she said in a statement.

On Thursday, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers had a lukewarm reaction to news that Shelly Sterling wants to take control of the team.

"I think it will be a very hard situation, I'll say that much. I think it will be very difficult. I guarantee you every person wouldn't be on board with that. Whether I would or not, I'm not going to say," said Rivers.

On a local radio show Thursday morning, some members of the African American community in Los Angeles spoke out against Shelly Sterling.

"I would say 'absolutely not.' I think the NBA players and fans would say 'absolutely not.' She is part of those housing discrimination lawsuits. She is on the record for 50 years supporting this man," said Dominique DiPrima with KJLH-FM.

In a 2006 lawsuit, tenants accused Shelly Sterling of making disparaging comments about Hispanic and black people. She denied the claims. The suit was eventually settled without the Sterlings admitting any wrongdoing.

Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, released a statement Thursday, saying people are rushing to judgment about his client.

"I do not doubt the sincerity of those calling for Mrs. Sterling to relinquish her legitimate co-ownership interest in the Los Angeles Clippers based on allegations and rumors that she supposedly exhibited racial animus in the past. But they are doing so in a rush to judgment and in error. These claims are based on allegations lifted from legal proceedings, none of which resulted in a finding of discrimination against Mrs. Sterling or the Sterlings' companies," said O'Donnell.

O'Donnell says his client does not share the same attitudes as her estranged husband. He says Shelly Sterling has been separated from her husband for a year and is considering divorce.

"They may share the same name but they don't share the same values on race. Despite all of the furor during the past week, Mrs. Sterling still has property rights. She has worked tirelessly over the years to build up a franchise that was once a cellar dweller into a sports powerhouse. She has the same right as anyone else in America to enjoy and control the fruits of those labors, and that includes deciding whether to keep or sell her 50 per cent interest in the team," said O'Donnell.

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