One thing that stands out in the Donald Sterling story is his relationship with the NAACP. How did somebody so allegedly racist earn three NAACP awards? Well, two — a President’s award in 2008 and a Lifetime Achievement award in 2009. The NAACP, in light of recent events, has rescinded his second Lifetime Achievement award. But, still. Until this audio recording surfaced, the NAACP was honoring Sterling for two lifetimes’ worth of achievements.
The NAACP was well aware of the controversy surrounding Sterling in 2009, but brushed it off. The Los Angeles Times, however, noticed the contradiction. From May 2009:
Something’s out of whack. . . .
Clippers owner Donald Sterling, accused of racism and embracing a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure” in a lawsuit filed in February by Elgin Baylor, will be given a lifetime achievement award next week by the NAACP. . . .
Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles branch of the civil rights organization, says of the much-maligned Sterling, “He has a unique history of giving to the children of L.A.,” revealing that the owner donates anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 tickets a game to youth groups for nearly every Clippers home game. . . .
Noting that the NAACP had made plans to honor Sterling before Baylor filed suit, Jenkins says, “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.” . . .
Baylor didn’t mention that. . . .
And a few weeks later, ESPN The Magazine wrote a big piece on Sterling and his legal problems and was on hand at the NAACP award ceremony. ESPN’s reporting raises the obvious question, “what the hell was the NAACP thinking?” Here’s the opener:
For more than two years, Sterling has been staring down federal civil rights charges related to his real estate holdings and rental practices. According to the Justice Department, Sterling, his wife and three of his companies have engaged in discrimination, principally by refusing to rent to African-Americans. In February, Elgin Baylor, the Clippers GM from 1986 to 2008, filed an age and racial discrimination suit against his old boss alleging, among other things, that Sterling repeatedly expressed a desire to field a team of “poor black boys from the South … playing for a white coach.” Sterling’s attorneys have denied the accusations. And even as these controversies swirl around him, Sterling is here tonight to receive a lifetime achievement award from the local chapter of the NAACP.
The man of the hour ushers two black guests over to talk to the reporter.
“Donald Sterling is a prince among men,” says Leon Isaac Kennedy, who starred in the Penitentiary series of movies in the ’70s and ’80s. “I’ve been his friend for 25 years.” At dinner, the emcee updates the crowd on the Lakers, who are losing to Houston in a crucial playoff game. With Sterling in attendance, guests aren’t sure whether to boo or cheer. But when the Clippers owner rises to speak, he is gracious. “I really have a special feeling for this organization,” he says. He’s a major donor, contributing $10,000 to $15,000 this year alone, according to chapter president Leon Jenkins.
Sterling doesn’t stay to hear all the speakers — his entourage is at the hotel bar watching the game — but while speaking, he holds his two-handled trophy cup aloft. And he smiles that smile, the almost smirk you see in photo after photo of the man associates call The Donald. It’s smooth and self-satisfied and says not just that the guy behind it makes his own rules but that he’s won yet another round. Tell him he can’t move his team, and he’ll move it anyway. Complain that he’s a cheapskate, and he’ll spend just enough to maintain the profit margin he wants. Sue him for sexual harassment or housing discrimination, and he’ll buy your silence with a hefty cash settlement. Call him a racist, and he’ll show you an eminent civil rights organization lauding his accomplishments.
Fast forward to 2014, and the NAACP, based on everything that’s in the public record, decided to honor him again? I hope they, at the very least, insisted he stay for the entire award ceremony this time.
But it’s not just the NAACP that held their tongue on Sterling. NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in a much cited piece for Time, is “outraged” that people didn’t speak out sooner:
Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.
So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident.
Abdul-Jabbar is not the only one outraged. The perpetually outraged Al Sharpton had this to say:
According to the Reverend Al Sharpton, if the NBA does not come forward with a decision, he will begin calling on advertisers to withdraw starting tomorrow. On Meet the Press today Rev. Sharpton shared:
“Well, I think that clearly the National Basketball Association must suspend him,” said Reverend Sharpton. “Or must say that, ‘We’re going to remove any kind of imprimatur we have on this team if he’s the owner.’ You cannot have someone own an NBA team in this country and have these kind of attitudes.”
Sharpton said this of Sterling: “You must remember, he settled multi-million dollar discrimination lawsuits in the past, so he has a background. So what we said in National Action Network is the NBA ought to move right away. Let’s not play games. They say they’re going to investigate.”
Sharpton is, of course, a giant hypocrite. He and Sterling were both receiving awards at the 2014 NAACP gala. If Sharpton was so angered by Sterling’s past legal troubles, he certainly never mentioned it nor did he boycott the NAACP over Sterling’s second honor.
Reverend Sharpton says we can’t “have someone own an NBA team in this country and have these kind of attitudes,” yet there’s no outrage that the NAACP honored a man –three times –with these kind of attitudes.
The good news is the media is starting to cover this strange relationship between the NAACP and Sterling, and I don’t think the racial-grievance industry is going to like what gets reported.