Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling says he's sorry but feels he was "baited" to make racist comments, nearly two weeks after the NBA fined him and banned him for life for his remarks in a recorded conversation.
"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," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an exclusive interview set to air on Monday.
"You're saying you were set up?" Cooper asked.
"Well yes, I was baited," Sterling said. "I mean, that's not the 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, an 80-year-old married lawyer and billionaire real-estate investor, hasn't spoken publicly about the accusations since celebrity gossip website TMZ posted a 10-minute audio recording of him that drew widespread condemnation from fans, players and the league.
In that audio clip, Sterling chastised friend V. Stiviano for posting pictures online of her posing with African-Americans, including basketball Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
The recording triggered a firestorm that led to Sterling's lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has asked the other 29 owners to force Sterling, the longest-tenured owner in the league, to sell the Clippers.
"I'm not a racist," Sterling told Cooper. "I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I'm here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I've hurt."
Asked by Cooper why he took so long to say he's sorry, Sterling said he was "emotionally distraught."
"The reason it's hard for me, very hard for me, is that I'm wrong. I caused the problem. I don't know how to correct it," he said.
Sterling said he doesn't want his comments to eclipse his lengthy tenure with the NBA.
I'm a good member who made a mistake and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," he said. "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."
Now, Sterling said, his fate is in the league's hands.
"If the owners feel I have another chance, then they'll give it to me," he said.
Read full story at CNN.