Updated: Friday, 23 May 2014 07:44 | By Agence France-Presse

Cuban comments on bigotry stir debate

With the NBA in turmoil over racially charged remarks by Donald Sterling, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was finding Thursday just how tricky even discussion of bigotry can be.


Cuban comments on bigotry stir debate

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban before NBA game against the New York Knicks February 24, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York - by Stan Honda

Cuban's interview with Inc. magazine in which he acknowledged his own "prejudices and bigotries" went viral on Thursday, sparking debate on social media even as the NBA pursues efforts to expel Los Angeles Clippers owner Sterling from its ranks.

Speaking to Inc. on Wednesday at the GrowCo convention hosted by the magazine in Nashville, Tennessee, Cuban said the United States has "really come a long way in putting any type of bigotry behind us, regardless of who it's toward".

But he acknowledged that he still falls prey to stereotyping.

"If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face -- white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere -- I’m walking back to the other side of the street," Cuban said.

"I know that I'm not perfect," he added. “While we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we have to learn that it's an issue that we have to control, that it's part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it, not just to kick the problem down the road."

- 'I stand by the words' -

Cuban said Thursday he stuck by his comments, although upon reflection he apologized for using the example of a black youth wearing a hooded sweatshirt, which recalled the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

The unarmed 17-year-old, wearing such a sweatshirt, was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who said he acted in self-defense, and was acquitted by a jury in a 2013 trial.

The racially charged case transfixed the United States, and Zimmerman's act was condemned by LeBron James and his fellow Miami Heat players in a photograph in which they posed together in hoodies.

"In hindsight, I should have used different examples," Cuban said on Twitter on Thursday. "I didn't consider the Trayvon Martin family, and I apologize to them for that.

"Beyond apologizing to the Martin family, I stand by the words and substance of the interview," Cuban said.

Cuban's comments come at a particularly sensitive time for the NBA, which on Monday released a summary of the charges it plans to use to force the embattled Sterling and his wife, Shelly, to part with the club they have owned since 1981.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has already banned Donald Sterling for life from league activities and fined him $2.5 million over remarks to a woman friend chastising her for associating with black people in public and bringing black friends to Clippers games.

In the weeks since the audio clip of Sterling talking to V. Stiviano was released on gossip website TMZ, the scandal has hung over the Clippers and the league, with players around the NBA demanding Sterling's departure.

Silver set a hearing on the matter for June 3, when both parties will be able to provide evidence to support their cases.

He has given Sterling until next Tuesday to respond to the charges, which include damaging the league by making racist comments against African Americans.

When the Sterling scandal broke, Cuban condemned Sterling's comments as "abhorrent" and "obviously racist."

Even so, he initially cautioned that to ban Sterling from the league would be a "very slippery slope" although he has since pledged his support to Silver.

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