Wed | May 4, 2016

NAACP head in LA resigns over move to honour Sterling

Published:Sunday | May 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Clippers owner Donald Sterling. - AP


The president of the Los Angeles chapter of an African-American rights group has resigned following outrage over a decision he later reversed to give an award for promoting civil rights to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who last week was banned for life by the NBA after a recording surfaced on which he disparaged black men.

The NAACP's Los Angeles chapter was to honour Sterling later this month, but Leon Jenkins rescinded that offer last Monday after the recording made headlines over the weekend.

In a letter to the national leader of America's oldest civil rights organisation, Jenkins wrote that he resigned Thursday "to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused."

A telephone message and email seeking comment after business hours from the Los Angeles chapter were not immediately returned.

Even before the recording, the decision to give Sterling a "lifetime achievement award" May 15 at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Los Angeles chapter had been questioned by some civil rights activists, who cited allegations of discrimination in Sterling's past.

The United States Justice Department sued Sterling in August 2006, alleging housing discrimination in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles. In November 2009, Sterling agreed to pay US$2.7 million to settle allegations that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks.

Also in 2009, the year after Jenkins was first elected president in Los Angeles, the chapter first honoured Sterling with a similar achievement award.

Branches of the NAACP - there are more than 50 in California alone - operate with considerable autonomy. In a statement accompanying the resignation announcement, the national NAACP said it is "developing guidelines for its branches to help them in their award selection process."

Jenkins said that Sterling had been selected owing to his history of donating to minority charities and giving game tickets to inner-city children. The Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation gave US$5,000 to the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter in 2010, according to tax records. There were no further NAACP contributions in subsequent years for which records were available.

Last Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the league for life, fined the real estate magnate US$2.5 million, and said he wanted the league's board of governors to make Sterling sell the team.