LOS ANGELES (AP) – The NAACP has decided against honoring Donald Sterling with a lifetime achievement award from its Los Angeles chapter after the Clippers owner allegedly made racist comments in a recorded conversation.
Donations made by Sterling, who has owned the team since 1981, will be returned, Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles NAACP, said at a news conference Monday. Jenkins would not say how much money was involved.
“There is a personal, economic and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn back the clock on race relations,” he said.
Sterling, 80, had been scheduled to receive the honor on May 15 as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Los Angeles branch of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
He had been chosen to receive the award because of his long history of donating to minority charities and giving game tickets to inner city children, Jenkins said. The NAACP has honored Sterling several times in the past.
The Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation gave $5,000 to the NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter in 2010, according to tax records, and Sterling was listed as his foundation’s only contributor. There were no records of further NAACP contributions in 2011 or 2012, the latest years for which records were available.
Sterling’s purported comments have overshadowed the NBA’s opening playoff round and prompted an NBA investigation. The league is planning a Tuesday news conference to discuss the probe.
There has been no official confirmation that it is Sterling on the recording, portions of which were released over the weekend by TMZ and Deadspin.
Sterling “is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings,” according to a statement from team president Andy Roeser on Saturday. Neither Sterling nor his representatives have since commented on the controversy.
Jenkins, of the NAACP, was asked how detrimental he considered Sterling’s alleged remarks.
“On a scale of one to 10? Eleven,” he said. “It goes back to a segregation system and a time that nobody in America is proud of.”
Members of the state Legislature’s black caucus joined those denouncing Sterling.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said lawmakers should not ignore the country’s history of discrimination.
“Once again we are reminded of the ugliness and sometimes what appears to be the pervasive permanence of hatred,” Weber said while speaking in support of a resolution declaring Holocaust Remembrance Week. “So I want to simply challenge us as we go forward to not think that, ‘Yes, we see the past,’ but recognize the past has a profound impact on the present. And if we are not conscious (of it), it will direct our future.”
Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton and secretary of the black caucus, blasted Sterling and compared him to a “slave master” looking down at his African-American players.
“It’s an utter embarrassment,” Hall said in an interview after the floor session, “not just to the NBA, but also to all the individuals who believe that at some point, in California at least, we have risen above that, and we obviously haven’t.”
Associated Press writer Fenit Nirappil in Sacramento contributed to this report.