Clippers owner apologises, says was baited into racist comments

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Two weeks after he was banned by the NBA for racist comments, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling broke his silence with a televised apology for his "terrible mistake" while insisting he was "baited" into making the remarks.

In an interview to be aired in full later on Monday by CNN, Sterling, 80, also seemed to express resignation about moves by the National Basketball Association to force a sale of the team he has owned for more than three decades.

"What's at the end of the road? What's the benefit, especially at my age?" he told CNN when asked if he intended to fight the NBA for his team, according to excerpts from the interview.

Sterling came under fire on April 25 when the website posted an audio recording of him chastising a female friend for publicly associating with black people, included retired NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

The recording sparked a torrent of outrage from fans, NBA players and commercial sponsors, several of which have severed ties with the Clippers.

Four days later, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling US$2.5 million (S$3.12 million) and banned him from pro basketball for life in an unprecedented rebuke that bars Sterling from any further association with the NBA or his team.

Silver also called on the league's 29 other owners who make up the NBA's governing board to strip Sterling of team ownership, a first-time use of such a sanction that would require a three-quarters vote by the board.

The woman on the tape is a 31-year-old model who goes by the name V. Stiviano and whose lawyer has acknowledged Sterling lavished with expensive gifts.

Asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper whether he felt he had been "set up," Sterling replied, "Yes, I was baited." "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."

He called himself "foolish," and without referring to Stiviano by name, added: "I thought she liked me and really cared for me. I guess ... I was deluding myself."

Sterling said he waited two weeks to apologise because he was "so emotionally distraught" by the episode. "I'm not a racist. I made a terrible, terrible mistake," he said. "I'm here with you today to apologise and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I've hurt. ... When I listen to that tape, I don't even know how I can say words like that. I'm so sorry."