Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling says he is sorry and emotionally distraught nearly two weeks after being banned for life from the NBA over racist comments that surfaced in a recorded conversation.
In a yet-to-air interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, the 80-year-old billionaire said he was not a racist, calling the remarks a "terrible mistake."
- Full Coverage: Sterling Firestorm
"I'm a good member who made a mistake and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," he told Cooper, as reported on CNN's website Sunday. "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."
The interview marked the first time Sterling has spoken publicly since TMZ Sports released the audio recordings on April 25.
"When I listen to that tape, I don't even know how I can say words like that," Sterling said, according to CNN's report.
When Cooper asked if he was set up, Sterling replied, "Well yes, I was baited," according to CNN.
The audio tape has not been authenticated by NBC News.
Recordings of Sterling telling a woman named V. Stiviano he didn't appreciate her publicly associating with blacks or bringing them to Clippers games surfaced amid a lawsuit in which Sterling's wife, Shelly, is demanding Stiviano turn over several fancy cars and a duplex the billionaire gave her.
Sterling's wife also gave her first interview since the NBA banned her estranged husband, saying she doesn't think her husband is a racist, but believes he is in the "onset of dementia" because he could not remember making the remarks.
Shelly Sterling also said she would fight to keep her share of the Clippers and plans one day to divorce Sterling.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling, fined him $2.5 million and urged owners to force him to sell the team. Silver added that no decisions had been made about the rest of Sterling's family.
"I will fight that decision," Shelly Sterling said, according to a story ABC News posted Sunday with excerpts from her conversation with Barbara Walters. "To be honest with you, I'm wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there's 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband? Or would they leave the husband in?
"I don't know why I should be punished for what his actions were."
Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, has said she will fight to retain her 50 percent ownership stake in the team.
In response to Shelly Sterling's comments, NBA spokesman Mike Bass released a statement saying, "Under the NBA Constitution, if a controlling owner's interest is terminated by a 3/4 vote, all other team owners' interests are automatically terminated as well. It doesn't matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team."
Sterling also said that she "eventually" will divorce her husband, and that she hadn't yet done so due to financial considerations.
"For the last 20 years, I've been seeing attorneys for a divorce," she said. "In fact, I have here — I just filed — I was going to file the petition. I signed the petition for a divorce. And it came to almost being filed. And then, my financial adviser and my attorney said to me, 'Not now.'"
The Associated Press contributed to this report