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May 29, 2017

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Sterling insists he isn't racist in newly released recording

LOS ANGELES -- Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, banned for life by the NBA for racist remarks, insisted "I am not a racist" in comments on a recording made public Thursday.

Celebrity website RadarOnline posted what it called a "secret audio recording" of Sterling reacting to the scandal, which erupted last month and created a firestorm of outrage that led to his unprecedented punishment.

"You think I'm a racist?" Sterling asks a friend in a telephone call. "You think I have anything in the world but love for everybody? You don't think that! You know I'm not a racist."

In his original comments revealed on celebrity website TMZ, the 80-year-old billionaire real estate tycoon told his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, that he did not want her to bring black people to Clippers games or post photos of herself on social media with black people.

That prompted NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban Sterling from the league for life, impose the maximum allowable fine of US$2.5 million and start the proceedings needed for the other 29 NBA club owners to strip the Clippers from Sterling.

In the latest recordings, Sterling indicates that he will not surrender control of the Clippers without a fight.

"You can't force someone to sell property in America," Sterling says on the RadarOnline recordings. "I'm a lawyer. That's my opinion."

While the threat of losing the Clippers could be enough to push Sterling to sell a team that is valued at nearly US$600 million, he could also take the NBA to court.

Sterling has won several past real estate court cases, showing no fear of pursuing legal fights to defend his positions.

RadarOnline said its source for the recording produced an affidavit declaring the voice in the phone call was that of Sterling, who defended himself after being vilified.

"I grew up in East L.A. I was the president of the high school there. And I'm a Jew," Sterling said. "And 50 percent of the people there were black and 40 percent were Hispanic ... so I mean, people must have a good feeling for me."

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