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The Sterling dilemma

Posted: May 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

The NAACP just recently pulled back from an awards ceremony that was scheduled to be held May 15 to present the “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

This is the same Donald Sterling who was recently outed as a racist by a supposed recorded conversation with a quasi girlfriend named V. Siriano.

In the recording, the male voice was complaining to Siriano that she was attending basketball games with black men.

Of course, this is all rather ironic since basketball is generally played by large black men in front of black and white audiences.

Last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave Sterling a lifetime ban from basketball and a $2.5 million fine for the racist remarks and the poor reflection that Sterling gives to the National Basketball Association.

But here is the funny thing. This would have been the second time the NAACP had given an award to Sterling. In 2009, NAACP Chapter President Leon Jenkins gave Sterling a similar award.

Of course, this was after a U.S. Justice Department suit in 2006 alleging housing discrimination at residences owned by Sterling in the Koreatown district of Los Angeles.

In late 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.7 million in damages to settle claims that he would not rent to blacks and Hispanics.

Seriously. It’s nearly impossible to make this stuff up.

Further reports indicate that Jenkins, a former judge from Michigan, was disbarred in that state and brought up on federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, and the receiving of gifts (bribes) to dismiss charges on misdemeanors.

Jenkins had apparently tried to regain his law license in California but was prevented from doing so since the AP reported, “Despite Jenkins’ impressive good character evidence and community service, he continues to commit errors in judgment that call into question his rehabilitation and present good moral character,” wrote the judges responsible for his reinstatement.

Apparently, Sterling wrote a check for five thousand bucks to the NAACP once. Also, Sterling had a history of giving basketball tickets to poor kids.

Why does something smell funny here? It’s just my opinion, but Iwould guess that another check or two from Sterling wound up in Mr. Jenkins’ account. 

What nicer way to scrub a poor public reputation than having the NAACP give you an award?

Let’s also think about something else here. One thing is clear. Sterling made statements that portrayed him to be a racist.

The NBA had to react (over-react?) to protect its reputation and franchise. There was big money to be lost here.
But Sterling was recorded in what I assume to be an unguarded moment. Maybe in his home. How often do we make terrible statements in the privacy of our own home that would be disastrous if they were broadcast to the world?

What if your boss heard what you said about her to your wife? What if your pastor heard what you said regarding his sermon last Sunday?

Would your kids be better people if they knew how you really felt about your neighbor?

No. We all say stupid things that we wish we could take back.

Does this absolve Sterling from his comments? Of course not. But “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

The problem in the Sterling case is that it’s going to be very difficult to connect his probable internal racist feelings with how he conducted business on the basketball court.

African-American and Lakers Legend Elgin Baylor, Clippers former general manager, sued Sterling for wrongful termination and discrimination. He lost his suit and the reasons appear very obvious. 

If Sterling was such a racist, why did he hire a black man as his GM? And why did he keep him on the job for 22 years?

During the time Baylor was the Clippers’ GM, they had only two winning seasons and amassed a record of 607-1,153. That stinks.

If anything, Sterling should have been given an award by the NAACP for putting up with such a lousy GM for 22 years.

The history books are now beginning to close on the sad reign of Donald Sterling in the NBA. But history may well record how an NBA commissioner acted to save the reputation of the game while the NAACP was a willing pawn in the purchase of respectability.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and is forming an ownership group to buy the Clippers. He’s got $46.95 and he’s not afraid to use it. He can be reached at


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