The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) accepted multiple grants over a period of several years from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and publicly defended Sterling even after some in the African-American community complained about his alleged racism.
Sterling, whose racist remarks about black people were published this weekend by TMZ, personally awarded Leon Jenkins, president of the NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter, with multiple grants through his Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation and gained protection from Sterling in the press.
NAACP’s LA chapter was financially supported by Sterling’s foundation, records reveal. Jenkins, representing the NAACP, received a grant from Sterling’s foundation at the 2013 Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation Gala just four months ago, where Jenkins was photographed accepting his award from Sterling
Jenkins also accepted a grant from Sterling’s foundation in 2010 at Sterling’s foundation’s charity summit at the Sterling World Plaza. The Los Angeles NAACP was listed as one of the 25 charities supported by Sterling in promotional material for the event.
The NAACP’s national organization condemned Sterling’s alleged remarks Saturday, and the NAACP’s LA chapter ultimately decided not to present Sterling with the 2014 lifetime achievement award it planned to give him at an event also honoring Al Sharpton and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.
“If these allegations are proven true, we are extremely disappointed in Mr. Sterling,” said a spokesman for the NAACP California State Conference.
“As the investigation is in progress, we urge the LA Branch of the NAACP to withdraw Donald Sterling from the honoree list at its upcoming Gala. We also suggest that African Americans and Latinos should honor his request and not attend the games,” the NAACP stated after Sterling’s racist remarks were published.
But the organization’s statements reflect a major U-turn from the relationship NAACP shared with Sterling for years prior to the incident. After NAACP Los Angeles chose to honor Sterling with its 2009 lifetime achievement award at a major fundraiser marking its 100th anniversary, MSNBC contributor Earl Ofari Hutchinson strongly criticized NAACP’s decision, citing a Justice Department housing discrimination lawsuit against Sterling and alleged slurs against minorities including black Clippers players.
By that time, former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor had filed a February 2009 civil suit against Sterling alleging racial discrimination and racist attitudes on the owner’s part.
“We can’t speak to the allegations, but what we do know is that for the most part [Sterling] has been very, very kind to the minority youth community,” Jenkins said in May 2009. “Over the last ten years or so, 1000 to 2000 at risk youth have been able to come to live Clippers games, those who have never seen a pro basketball game before,” Jenkins said.
“The NAACP’s programs make a difference helping the underprivileged. Its new president, Leon Jenkins, an attorney is dedicated and committed to working with the NAACP. I’m happy and proud to support such an amazing organization,” Sterling told Beverly Hills Times magazine.
“Everyone I know is very supportive of the work that the NAACP is doing. I am grateful for this award and looking forward to helping them with their projects. What is important here and what we have to keep in mind is the incredible ongoing work that the NAACP is accomplishing. They are in need of financial resources and community support from everyone in order to reach their goals,” he continued.
Other organizations that have taken grants from Sterling’s foundation include the Black Business Association, 100 Black Men, the Special Olympics, and the United Negro College Fund.