Along with claiming he isn't a racist and slamming Magic Johnson, banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling made an unlikely claim about his team's players during an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper: He insisted they still love him.
"The players don't hate me," Sterling told Cooper in a conversation that aired on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° on Monday. "The sponsors don't hate me. The fans don't me. The media hates. The media, it's all the media pushing."
Asked by Cooper if he truly believes that NBA players support him, Sterling expressed surprising certainty.
"I believe it 100%," he said.
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Cooper pointed to the Clippers players' protest as evidence that Sterling is not as beloved as he contends. Just days after the first recording of Sterling's racist remarks was released by TMZ, Clippers players staged a silent protest before a playoff game by warming up with their red T-shirts worn inside out to obscure any team logo.
"Well, if one does then the others have to do it," Sterling said of the protest.
In the recordings, Sterling told a woman, V. Stiviano, to not bring black people to games or share photos of herself with black people on social media. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver subsequently hit Sterling, 80, with a lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine.
"In response to today’s ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with his decision," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said in a statement released after the ban was announced, via the Los Angeles Times. "We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.”
Despite the apparent consensus among players that Sterling's racism is revolting and continued ownership of the Clippers is unacceptable, he suggested that the players were powerless to oust him.
"What do you think? You think they're all going to walk off the team? Can any of us just stop working? We all have to work," Sterling told Cooper. "We all have to earn a living. We all have bills. We may work for an employer we don't love. I contend that they love me."
Asked again by Cooper if he truly believes the players are behind him, Sterling again expressed surprising confidence.
"Absolutely," he declared. "They know I'm not a racist."
Sterling's interview with Cooper took place on Sunday, within hours of Miami Heat superstar LeBron James telling reporters that NBA players don't want Sterling -- or any member of his family -- permitted to own the team.
"As players, we want what's right and we don't feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team," James said after the Miami Heat practiced on Sunday, via The Associated Press.