It’s been a week since the world learned that Donald Sterling had made racist remarks on audio recordings, casting a cloud over the professional basketball team he owns, the Los Angeles Clippers.
On Saturday, the team had two wins to celebrate.
First, the NBA announced it will appoint a new chief executive officer to oversee the team’s operations. The appointment will be made in consultation with the Clippers management.
“The best way to ensure the stability of the team during this difficult situation is to move quickly and install a CEO to oversee the Clippers organization,” NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass said in a statement. “The process of identifying that individual is underway.”
Second, the team showed that it had truly shaken off the non-basketball distractions. The Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 126-121 to win its first round in the NBA playoffs.
The Clippers now advance to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.
But the Sterling story won’t go away any time soon.
After dodging the media for days, the woman who recorded Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks urged him to apologize.
In an exclusive with ABC’s Barbara Walters on Friday, V. Stiviano said Sterling is hurting after the scandal that turned him into a sports pariah.
“I think he feels very alone. Not truly supported by those around him,” Stiviano, 31, said. “Tormented. Emotionally traumatized.”
But, she told Walters, this is not the first time they’ve discussed race.
“There’s been a number of occasions where Mr. Sterling and I had conversations just like this one,” she said. “Part of what the world heard was only 15 minutes. There’s a number of other hours that the world doesn’t know.”
One audio of Sterling’s conversation released last month triggered a firestorm that led to his NBA lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine.
In the audio, Sterling tells Stiviano not to “promote” her relationship with black people or bring them to games after she posted a picture on social media with NBA legend Magic Johnson.
Stiviano said Sterling should apologize for the comments and has discussed it with him.
“God only knows,” she said when asked if he will apologize.
Whether or not he does, Sterling is already paying the price. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave him a lifetime ban, ordered he pay a $2.5 million fine and said he’d push to “force a sale” of the Clippers.
‘In the heat of the moment’
Despite their numerous conversations, including the ones that led to Sterling’s punishment, Stiviano does not consider him a racist.
“No, I don’t believe that in my heart,” she said. ” I think the things he says are not what he feels. Anyone can say anything in the heat of the moment.
“I think he comes from a different generation … he was brought up to believe these things … segregation, whites and blacks. But through his actions, he’s shown that he’s not a racist. He’s shown to be a very generous and kind man.”
She said he slammed her pictures on social media because of pressure from naysayers who criticized her and questioned why she’s always around him.
“I think he was generalizing,” she said. ” I think the focus of the subject at that time was just black people, but I think he referred to everyone, not just black people, when he made that statement.”
‘His silly rabbit’
During the exclusive, Stiviano also addressed the nature of her relationship with the Clippers owner.
“I love him just like a father figure,” she said, adding that she plays a crucial role in his life.
“I’m Mr. Sterling’s right-hand man, arm/man,” she said. “I’m Mr. Sterling’s everything. I’m his confidant, his best friend, his silly rabbit.”
She said she calls herself his “silly rabbit” because she does not take things seriously and makes him laugh.
She said the two are not involved romantically and have a financial arrangement.
“He at first started paying me as an employee, and then he started paying me off the books,” she said.
NBA owners, players and others called for swift, firm punishment after TMZ posted the audio featuring the racist comments purportedly made on April 9.
The league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, heeded their call, issuing sweeping sanctions against Sterling on Tuesday.
He fined the Clippers owner $2.5 million and banned him from any association with the team for life.
Under the lifetime ban, Sterling is prohibited from NBA games or practices, stepping foot inside any Clippers facility, taking part in business or personnel decisions or having a role in league activities such as attending NBA Board of Governors meetings.
If Sterling does sell the team, he’d profit considerably. He bought the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, and the team is now worth $575 million, according to Forbes magazine.
Stiviano’s attorney has said she did not leak the audio tape.