Race Recording Spurs Debate on Donald Sterling's Ties to NAACP

Image: Race Recording Spurs Debate on Donald Sterling's Ties to NAACP

Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 10:20 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Commentators are renewing their concerns about the NAACP's longstanding association with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after a recording emerged in which Sterling allegedly asked his girlfriend not to publicly associate with black people.

Sterling had been a donor to the NAACP for more than a decade, and received a lifetime achievement humanitarian award from the organization five years ago. But even at that time, the award was the subject of debate in the black community because the real estate magnate had just paid $2.73 million to settle a lawsuit alleging he refused to rent his apartments to Latinos and blacks in Koreatown, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Sterling had also been the target of a lawsuit by NBA legend Elgin Baylor who accused him of racism after he was ousted from the team, and the suit also claimed that Sterling rejected a coaching candidate because he was black, though Baylor later dropped the race allegations.

"The NAACP airbrushed this away and simply said that Sterling has been a gem in giving oodles of tickets away to needy inner-city kids and ladling out some cash to charities and sports camps for them," community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson said at the time on his website, according to the Times.

In May, the organization was set to give Sterling a second award at a gala marking the NAACP's 100th anniversary. Since the recordings emerged last week, the group announced it will not go ahead with awarding the honor, but the incident has reignited the debate about why the NAACP has sustained its relationship with Sterling for as long as it has.

"I don't want to see the organization marginalized or discredited over an issue like Donald Sterling," Jasmyne Cannick, a Los Angeles activist and political consultant said, suggesting he has done little for the black community "other than writing a check."

"I hope it's a wake-up call that it's time to do some things differently from how they communicate, to what they advocate, to who they decide to lift up in the community," she said.

But the president of the NAACP branch, Leon Jenkins, said the group didn't cut ties with Sterling earlier because it was reluctant to base decisions on "rumors."

"We deal with the actual character of the person as we see it and as it is displayed," he said, according to the Times, adding that his contributions show "there's a consciousness about the plight of African-Americans and Hispanics."

Jenkins also said that Sterling's was one of the few sports franchises that worked with his organization, and the group had recently been talking to Sterling about making more donations to black students at UCLA.

Jenkins said the NAACP would be refunding the money Sterling donated but would not rescind the 2009 award.

"This is not a Heisman Trophy, dude," Jenkins told a reporter, according to the Times.

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