The head of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People resigned Thursday night amid criticism of his organization’s decision to honor Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
“Please be advised that the legacy, history and reputation of the NAACP is more important to me than the presidency,” L.A. chapter President Leon Jenkins wrote in his letter of resignation. “In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused the NAACP, I respectfully resign my position as President of the Los Angeles NAACP.”
Sterling was scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award from the chapter in May, but the organization decided to no longer honor him after a recording surfaced of Sterling telling his girlfriend not to take pictures with blacks or bring black people to his basketball games.
That recording led NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban Sterling from associating with the Clippers or the league for life.
“There is a personal, economical and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn on racial relations,” Jenkins said in a press conference the day before Silver’s decision. He also announced that the chapter would return Sterling’s donations.
But as TPM has noted, Sterling’s cozy relationship with the Los Angeles NAACP under Jenkins’ leadership extended beyond that one award and a few donations. The branch gave Sterling another award back in 2009 for what was described as either lifetime achievement or humanitarian work — the same year Sterling was sued by a former Clippers general manager for wrongful termination on the basis of race and settled a $2.73 million lawsuit with the Justice Department for allegedly refusing to rent apartments to blacks and Hispanics.
The NAACP’s national office told TPM on Monday that it’s developing a better vetting process for awards given out by local chapters after the Los Angeles branch was forced to reverse its decision to honor Sterling.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.