LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Controversial new remarks by Donald Sterling, disgraced owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, provoked fresh outrage Tuesday despite his apology for earlier racially-charged comments.
In a rambling interview with CNN, Sterling apologised for advising his girlfriend in a secretly recorded phone call to avoid her black friends in public - particularly when attending Clippers games.
Sterling's first lengthy response to the scandal that broke two weeks ago was aimed at salvaging his reputation and making the case that he should be allowed to retain his coveted basketball franchise.
But, far from quelling the controversy, the embattled real estate mogul ignited a new firestorm by attacking basketball great Magic Johnson, a beloved figure throughout the US sports world.
Speaking to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Sterling called Johnson a poor role model because he had contracted HIV and suggested he had not used his fame or fortune to help fellow African Americans.
"He acts so holy," the 80-year-old billionaire said of Johnson. "He does nothing. It's all talk."
The attack provoked fresh condemnation from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who said in a statement that the league was pressing ahead with efforts to remove Sterling "as expeditiously as possible."
Silver also apologized for Sterling's attack on the basketball legend.
"While Magic Johnson doesn't need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologise to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack," Silver said.
The Clippers' popular coach, Doc Rivers - who like most players on the team roster is African American - also spoke up for Johnson.
And, responding to Sterling's expression of regret for his racist comments, Rivers told USA Today: "Whatever it is, that doesn't sound like much of an apology to me."
For his part, Johnson vowed to stay above the fray. "After this week, no more Sterling talk," he wrote to his Twitter followers, a sentiment retweeted hundreds of times.
Johnson, now a successful businessman, is among a handful of prominent figures whose name has been mentioned as a possible successor to Sterling as owner of the Clippers.
The controversy has been a distraction for the team, who have their best opportunity in years to fashion a deep playoff run.
The team is tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final series against Oklahoma City and are scheduled to take the court again later Tuesday.
Already banned for life by the NBA for the bigoted comments to his girlfriend that prompted the league to attempt to strip him of ownership of his club, Sterling called the remarks a "mistake."
"I'm not a racist," he told CNN. "I made a terrible mistake. I'm here to apologise."