NAACP Los Angeles President Leon Jenkins said Clipper owner contributions to group were insignificant
Saying the racial comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers basketball owner Donald T. Sterling uncovered the ugly scars of Jim Crow and harkened back to the days of segregation, Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins defended his organizations near 15-year relationship with a man at the heat of a storm that has rocked the nation.
Asked how bad the insensitive allegations were, Jenkins told a packed room at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City on Monday April 28th, “On a scale of 1-10, 11. If you look at the content — and the one thing you do have to consider is that it was a private conversation, but notwithstanding that fact — the words used were very Jim Crow-ish. It goes back to a segregation system and a time that nobody in America is proud of. And I think when you say things like that, you have to pay a price for those things.”
However, Jenkins who became president of the local chapter of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations in 2008 claimed that Sterling gave more money to his group than any other professional sports team.
“Mr. Sterling has given a tremendous amount of scholarships,” he said. “He has invited numerous African-American kids to summer camps. His donations to charities probably outnumber any of the other sports entities.”
It was on the bridge of those donations that Jenkins chimed were “insignificant” that under his direction the NAACP presented Sterling with the NAACP’s prestigious Life Time Achievement Award ion 2009.
Furthermore, the group planned on honoring Sterling again with a “humanitarian award” at its’ 100 anniversary on May 15.
After Sterling’s ugly condemning comments of Blacks and minorities to his mistress were recorded and went viral on April 26, sparking outrage from President Obama, NBA owner and legend Michael Jordan and local icon and NBA Hall of famer and Dodgers owner Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, the NAACP was forced to rescind the honor.
Jenkins, a former lawyer and judge, struggled with whether to defend or distance himself and the NAACP from Sterling who is on the cusp of being fined and or suspended from ownership of the Clippers.
When asked why the branch might consider forgiving Sterling, he said: “Because it’s biblical. God teaches us to forgive. And the way I look at it, after a sustained period of just proof to the African-American community that those words don’t really reflect his heart, I think there’s room for forgiveness. I wouldn’t be a Christian if I said there wasn’t.”
He vowed the organization would return money received from The Donald Sterling Foundation, but stated that he was working on additional donations.
“We are negotiating with him about giving more moneys to African American students at UCLA, and so we are in preliminary discussions,” Jenkins said. He also noted, however, they had not spoken since the scandal broke.
Jenkins said the organization had no plans to take back the 2009 award.
“This is not like the Heisman Trophy,” Jenkins said. “We gave out an award. He has it. We’re not going to renege on it. … We’re not going to ask him return an award that he got years ago.”
Although Jenkins said that over the years, Sterling has been very supportive of the NAACP, his reputation as a known bigot and racist was well documented in a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit that detailed he singled out blacks and Latinos as non-desirable tenants.
Moreover, Jenkins stated that if Sterling “denies making the comments being attributed to him, he needs to spend a sufficient amount of time … in the African-American community to prove he is not the person those words portray him to be.”
Sterling’s comments were harmful on a mega scale and Jenkins suggested Sterling “should spend a sufficient amount of time that’s necessary in African-American communities to prove that he is not the person those words portray him to be or suggest he may be.”
A suggestion that at the least is not welcomed in the Black community, or perhaps anywhere else for the matter.