Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday that he spoke to Clippers owner Donald Sterling and has encouraged him to apologize for racist comments that resulted in him being banned for life by the NBA, but he still expects Sterling to resist pressure to sell the basketball team.
"I think that he thinks that he's going to be the owner for a long time, that he wants to stay the owner. And I said, 'This will be a long, protracted fight and a painful thing for our city that is a great city, great American city,'" Garcetti said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation."
His conversation with Sterling offers some of the only insight into what the Clippers owner is thinking as the controversy unfolds. Sterling has largely remained silent in the aftermath of his comments being leaked in an audio recording. He allegedly gave just one quote to DuJour, an online version of a magazine geared toward the ultra-wealthy, allegedly telling a reporter, "I wish I had just paid her off."
The "her" is V. Stiviano, his former girlfriend who recorded the remarks but insists that she believes he is not a racist.
"I think Mr. Sterling is from a different generation than I am," Stiviano told ABC News' Barbara Walters last week. "I think he was brought up to believe those things, segregation, whites and blacks ... but, through his actions, he's shown that he's not a racist."
Garcetti told CBS' Bob Schieffer that Sterling should be part of the healing process for the country and the city, and that a protracted fight over the team's ownership will only result in a decrease in its value. He also suggested that an apology from Sterling is the only thing that can put the debate to rest.
Still, it will not be easy given Sterling's own perception of his views.
"I think he believes in his heart that he's a very good person," Garcetti said. "I think he is very proud of his journey. It's kind of part of the American dream to come from nothing and to suddenly be a billionaire. But I don't believe he realizes what the sting of those remarks are, that for folks who have overcome so much, to be African-American in this country and still face similar racism."
CBS News Special Correspondent James Brown, who hosts "The NFL Today," told host Bob Schieffer that the big question that remains in the Sterling case is whether the NBA has the legal authority to force Sterling to sell the team. He said the league has the votes to make it happen, but there still may be a question as to the legality.
Garcetti said that he will continue to put "pressure" on Sterling to help him "move forward," particularly by recognizing the impact of what he has said. The owners' comments do not represent Los Angeles, a city that has historically been on the cutting edge of civil rights in sports, Garcetti said.
He believes it will be "very tough" for the Clippers to continue playing as long as Sterling remains the owner of the team because he will profit from the revenue generated by their games. As for encouraging a boycott if Sterling refuses to sell the team, Garcetti said, "I would certainly keep that arrow in my quiver."
"We're a great sports town. I mean, we have two basketball teams, but we're certainly feeling like one team these days, all behind the Clippers. And we want to see a representation of our city in the best light, not one individual who would besmirch who we are," he said.
Brown said he hopes the controversy will "force meaningful conversation, not in homogeneous groups, but with inclusive and diverse groups to really get the core of this."
"This really continues to be the third rail of American politics from my humble perspective and its sickening that this has been going on this long and prudent folks, intelligent folks, mature folks, can't have a meaningful dialogue objective," he added.
Brown said he believes that real progress will have been made when the country begins to see more minorities becoming the owners of sports teams across the country.
"Many people, I think -- and I use this word advisedly -- are colored by the fact that there are so many African-American players who are making humongous salaries and people use income as maybe the most weighty factor to determine whether racism exists. That's not the case. Its in the heart," he said. "Until we see more representation across the board at the decision-making levels, ownership levels, we truly haven't made the progress that we'd like to make."