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President of NAACP's L.A. chapter resigns over Sterling honor


Posted May 1, 2014 10:00 PM - Updated May 1, 2014 10:56 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP resigned Thursday, following scrutiny of his plan to give Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling an award for promoting civil rights.

Leon Jenkins was to present Sterling with a "lifetime achievement award" later this month. Jenkins rescinded that offer Monday after a recording surfaced over the weekend on which Sterling disparaged black men.

In a letter to the national leader of the nation's oldest civil rights organization, Jenkins wrote, "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."

The decision to give Sterling a "lifetime achievement award" May 15 at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Los Angeles chapter had been questioned by some civil rights activists, who cited allegations of discrimination in Sterling's past.

The U.S. Justice Department sued Sterling in August 2006, alleging housing discrimination in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles. In November 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle allegations that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks and to families with children.

Also in 2009, the year after Jenkins was first elected president in Los Angeles, the chapter honored Sterling with an award.

After the recording of Sterling having a private conversation with a woman became public, Jenkins backtracked.

"There is a personal, economic and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn back the clock on race relations," he said.

Jenkins explained that Sterling had been selected owing to his history of donating to minority charities and giving game tickets to inner-city children. The Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation gave $5,000 to the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter in 2010, according to tax records, and Sterling was listed as his foundation's only contributor. There were no records of further NAACP contributions in 2011 or 2012, the latest years for which records were available.

A telephone message and email left after business hours with the Los Angeles chapter were not immediately returned.

On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the league for life, fined the real estate magnate $2.5 million, and said he wanted the league's board of governors to make Sterling sell the team.

In a statement accompanying the resignation announcement, the national NAACP said it is "developing guidelines for its branches to help them in their award selection process."

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