Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling showed up to a Sunday service at a largely African American church in South Los Angeles last weekend.
Surrounded by handlers, a smiling Sterling told NBC Los Angeles he came “to support this wonderful group.”
The senior pastor of Praises of Zion Baptist Church, Dr. J. Benjamin Hardwick, met 80-year-old Sterling two weeks prior and invited him to worship. Hardwick told NBC that he does not believe Sterling is a racist.
“I want you to know, my friend, we pray for you,” Hardwick told Sterling.
His sermon Sunday focused on forgiveness and moving forward.
“You forgive Donald Sterling?” NBC4’s Jane Yamamoto asked a female churchgoer.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I can’t have hate in my heart for nobody. I love everybody because Christ loves me.”
When asked if Sterling was there simply to improve his image, the woman disagreed.
"No, I don’t believe that,” she said. “I believe that he did the right thing by coming here.”
Another church member was less forgiving.
"I feel sorry for him because, first of all, he’s a slum landlord,” said another woman. “And second of all, I don’t think he really cares for people as he should.”
Sterling would not comment Sunday on the lawsuit he filed Friday seeking $1 billion in damages from the NBA after he was forced to sell his team.