For years, the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter maintained a mutually beneficial but head-scratching relationship with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
But the civil rights organization was finally forced to confront Sterling's alleged transgressions this weekend when reports of racially charged remarks exploded from the gossip website TMZ.
Leon Jenkins, president of the chapter, gave a statement and fielded questions Monday at a press conference in California, attempting to explain why his branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had been planning to give Sterling a lifetime achievement award, despite the basketball team owner's history of alleged racist behavior.
Jenkins' tone was strikingly defensive, asserting that he didn't know whether it was really Sterling whose voice could be heard making racist statements on audio recordings that became public on Saturday. Jenkins also left the door open for future collaborations with the Clippers owner if Sterling proved penitent.
"There is a personal, economical and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn on racial relations," Jenkins said in his opening statement.
The chapter also plans to return Sterling's recent donations to the group, Jenkins said, though he declined to disclose how much the owner had given, saying only that it was "not a significant amount."
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