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|Posted: Tue Apr 29th, 2014 12:44 am||
|LOS ANGELES -- Donald Sterling donated money for years to the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, which honored the Clippers owner with a lifetime achievement award in 2009 and was planning to present him another in May until the controversy broke over his racially insensitive comments that went public over the weekend.
The amount Sterling has given to the L.A. NAACP branch was not revealed at a news conference Monday held by L.A. branch president Leon Jenkins.
"It's an insignificant amount of money, and we're going to return it," said Jenkins, who added the NAACP and Sterling have had a relationship for "maybe 15-20 years."
Sterling's award from the NAACP in 2009 came just before he agreed to pay a $2.765 million settlement in a case that alleged he discriminated against African Americans, Latinos and others at apartment buildings he owned in Los Angeles County.
The NAACP no longer plans to honor Sterling at its event next month, at which Rev. Al Sharpton and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti will receive awards as Persons of the Year.
"There is no place in my town for any racist company," Garcetti said Monday on CNBC. "We don't want to see leadership of any company here that's not welcome in Los Angeles. And we absolutely won't tolerate it. Those comments were despicable. I hope that the very strongest sanctions are levied by the league against the owner if it is proven that that indeed is Donald Sterling."
Jenkins, however, said he won't ask Sterling to return the 2009 award.
"This is not like the Heisman Trophy, dude," he said. "He has the award. We're not going to ask him to return an award that he got years ago."
Jenkins said the NAACP decided to honor Sterling because of "a body of work. Mr. Sterling's organization has on a consistent basis brought in the minority community. He has also over the years contributed to a number of minority charities. Compared to other L.A. franchises, his organization gave more money than the others."
The president of the California branch of the NAACP was stunned when she got an invitation recently from the L.A. unit to its May gala honoring Sterling.
In an interview Monday with ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd, Alice Huffman said she was surprised Sterling was being given another lifetime achievement award.
MORE: Sterling not likely to be ousted as owner
"I thought to myself, 'A second lifetime award? That's kind of unusual. He hasn't died and come back to life. He already has one lifetime award. Why the second one?' And then this story broke," said Huffman.
Huffman said it is not unusual for local chapters of the NAACP to receive donations from corporations and individuals and then hand out awards to those people.
"The local branches of the NAACP can choose people they have a close relationship with and if their executive committee agrees, they can give that person an award," Huffman said.
"As I recall, the (L.A.) branch took a little heat for that award in 2009. The branch president pointed out that the litigation was going on and was not conclusive, and therefore he did not want to prejudge. They went ahead and gave him the award.
"What the world doesn't know about an organization like the NAACP is that we are all volunteers. We don't have a funding stream to support our activities across this country. Every local unit has to go and raise its own funds. We sort of have to work with corporations.
"But you have to have integrity. You can't let the color of the money taint what you should be doing. I tell people who contribute to me, 'If we can support you, we will. But you cannot buy the NAACP. We are not for sale. But we appreciate your support, because we make America a better place.' "
Garcetti, on CNBC, said the city is behind the Clippers players.
"Let me first say to the players that are the clippers, I want to tell them that this city is behind them. They are welcome in this town and that we are rooting for them. I think they have been lost in themix of all of this. And this is a fabulous team of great, bright stars. And this city is 100% behind you, especially as you prepare" for playoff games.
Other than Sharpton and Garcetti, NAACP honorees in May include Charles Patton, a retired attorney, who is to receive a lifetime achievement award; Shannon Brown, Federal Express executive; Javier Angulo, Wal-Mart executive; Leland Spencer, restaurant owner and Hester Watkins, retired educator.