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In latest alleged recording, Donald Sterling denies being a racist, says league can’t force him to sell

May 8, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

Donald Sterling Donald Sterling

Nobody thinks of themselves as a bad person. Even most people we would all agree are bad people don’t view themselves that way. Our ability as humans to compartmentalize and rationalize knows almost no limit. We can convince ourselves of anything.

So of course Donald Sterling doesn’t see himself as a racist.

And of course, as the league expects, he is going to fight the league forcing the sale of his team.

Another recording allegedly of Sterling has been released by Radar Online, one recorded since the scandal broke. In this one, allegedly taped by a long time friend of his, Sterling vacillates between sounding heartbroken and defiant anger.

Here are a few selected highlight quotes. Remember he is addressing a long-time friend who reportedly taped the conversation (some friend he’s got).

• “You think I’m a racist? You think I have anything in the world but love for everybody? You don’t think that! You know I’m not a racist.”

• “I mean, how could you think I’m a racist knowing me all these years? 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 player he can get?”

• “You can’t force someone to sell property in America.”

• “I grew up in East L.A…. I was the president of the high school there. I mean, and I’m a Jew! And 50% of the people there were black and 40% were hispanic.… So I mean, people must have a good feeling for me.”

• “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. Let’s get him and talk to him.’ Nobody tried. Nobody!”

I want to make two things clear. First, Sterling has turned down requests to tell “his side of the story” to multiple media outlets. If he wanted to “get the facts” out there he could. Second, a long history of court documents — and a federal lawsuit settlement (in which he had to admit no wrongdoing) — point to a man using his power to limit opportunities, evict and otherwise change the lives of people based on the color of their skin and his perception of them. That pretty much defines racism. That’s not even getting to Elgin Baylor’s lengthy list of stories when he was GM, like bringing his female “friends” into the locker room to admire the “beautiful black bodies” of his players.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver came down on Sterling after the leaking of a previous recording with a lifetime ban from the game, a $2.5 million fine, and the promise that the league would force him to sell the franchise. The league has already started steps on its end to have charges presented and eventually have the other owners vote on Sterling’s ownership. In addition, they have removed Sterling’s long-time friend and team president Andy Roeser and will appoint a new CEO to run the franchise.

Does this new tape hint at a future legal strategy in court by Sterling to block all this? SI’s legal expert Michael McCann thinks maybe.

On another front, Sterling’s long-time wife Shelly has said she wants to maintain control of the team, that what her estranged husband has said and done should not impact her. Under California law she does own half the team, something sources confirm.

If you don’t think this a coordinated effort, that she is serving as his proxy, you are naive. Both of them have for years tried to bully opponents through the courts and had great success, their modus operandi will not change now. The league is not falling for it, Adam Silver has said the team cannot remain in the hands of the Sterling family.

Sterling is battling cancer but his strategy here clearly seems to be to make this uncomfortable for the NBA to fight, to at the very least drag out this process. Maybe he thinks he can win. Either way it is going to get ugly.

That will be bad for all things Clippers. And the NBA. But the Sterlings care more about their egos.

 

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