After a torrent of criticism rained down on the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP for its plans to present a lifetime achievement award next month to LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the organization announced by Twitter yesterday that it had rescinded the award.
The planned award by the NAACP threatened to make the group a laughingstock, particularly since Sterling has a history of racism that predates by years his shocking and offensive comments to his girlfriend that landed him in the most recent national scandal.
In 2009, Sterling was forced to pay $2.725 million to settle a housing discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department, which accused him of systematically driving African-Americans, Latinos and families with children out of the apartment buildings he owned. He was also sued by the Clippers’ former longtime general manager, Elgin Baylor, over accusations of racial discrimination. Baylor, who lost the suit, said Sterling created a workplace that was a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure.”
Ironically Sterling also received an award from the NAACP that year as well, with Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles branch of the civil rights organization, saying, “He has a unique history of giving to the children of L.A.” At the time, Jenkins said the owner donated from 2,000 to 3,000 tickets a game to youth groups for nearly every Clippers home game.
The latest scandal erupted after TMZ released an audio recording in which Sterling appears to be pulled into a conversation by his girlfriend V. Stiviano, who is half African-American and half Mexican, after she posted a picture on Instagram with NBA legend Magic Johnson. The posted photo angered Sterling.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with Black people,” the voice alleged to be Sterling is heard saying on the recording. Later in the recording, Sterling says “you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with Black people.”
“Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games. Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you’re associating with Black people. Do you have to?”
Last month, Stiviano was sued by Sterling’s wife, Shelly, who was asking for the return of cash, property, cars and other items that Sterling had given to Stiviano. In response, Stiviano reportedly said she would “get even.”
The first signs that the NAACP may be backing off from giving Sterling an award at its 100th anniversary celebration came from L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, who is also scheduled to be honored with a Person of the Year Award — as is activist-minister the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Yusef Robb, the mayor’s spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, “In light of recent events, we will be discussing the event with the Los Angeles NAACP.”
The NBA announced Saturday it was trying to determine if racist comments heard on the audio were indeed from Sterling. In a statement, Clippers President Andy Roeser, said of the recording that the club does “not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered. … Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.”