NAACP Nixes Donald Sterling Award as NBA Vows to Investigate Racist Comments

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 27 2014 11:01 AM

NAACP Nixes Donald Sterling Lifetime Achievement Award as NBA Vows to Investigate Racist Comments

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling attends the playoff game between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors on April 21

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

In the 24 hours after TMZ released a recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling apparently telling his girlfriend not to take black people to the games or post pictures with African Americans on her Instagram account, almost everyone seemed to have an opinion. Including President Obama. “The owner is reported to have said some incredibly offensive racist statements that were published. I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you; they kind of speak for themselves,” Obama said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, according to Politico. “When people — when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. And that’s what happened here.” Obama went on to note that the comments illustrate how “the United States continues to wrestle with a legacy of race and slavery and segregation that’s still there—the vestiges of discrimination.”

All this controversy had put the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP in an incredibly awkward position as it was scheduled to honor Sterling with a lifetime achievement award at its May 15 banquet. That’s not going to be the case anymore. On Sunday morning, the NAACP made it clear in a tweet that the L.A. chapter would be amending its list of honorees. (Deadspin had noted that this wouldn’t have been the first time Sterling would have been honored by the Los Angeles NAACP, which gave the Clippers owner a lifetime achievement award in 2009.)


Earlier, the California State Conference of the NAACP had issued a statement suggesting that "African Americans and Latinos should honor [Sterling's] request and not attend the games."

The NBA said it would quickly investigate the comments. Faced with his first major scandal since taking the job, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league will “get to the bottom” of whether the recording is authentic, reports USA Today. "All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process," said Silver, adding that the investigation will be “wrapped up in the next few days.” For its part, the Clippers released a statement to TMZ as well, noting that “Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.”

Although comments have come from a number of people, one of the strongest, matter-of-fact reactions from within the NBA came from LeBron James, who said that “there is no room for Donald Sterling in our league.” ESPN puts the statement into context, noting that James’ comments amounted to “the league's most powerful and influential player calling out one of the NBA's richest and longest-tenured owners.” James added that he didn’t know whether he would boycott a playoff game: “I've wavered back and forth if I would actually sit out, if our owner came out and said the things that [Sterling] said.” For his part, Magic Johnson, vowed to not go to any more Clippers games as long as Sterling was still the owner of the team.

Read more about Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.



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