Sterling isn't an obviously suitable recipient for an NAACP award, given that the world has just heard him unleash an ultra-offensive tirade in which he tells his African American girlfriend not to bring any "blacks" to his games. The comments have provoked a massive public outcry this weekend, including calls for a boycott of Clippers games.
But the thing is, Sterling has been making statements like this for years, and it's been widely reported. Nonetheless he has continued as the Clippers' owner and avoided censure from the NBA. Apparently the public, the NBA, and the NAACP can tolerate a LOT of racism before they start calling for boycotts.
In 2003: Sterling allegedly made a plethora of racist comments like this one: "That's because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean...And it's because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day." Those claims were part of a discrimination lawsuit brought by 19 of Sterling's tenants.
Sterling settled the suit in 2009, making the biggest payout ever
in a housing discrimination lawsuit.
In 2006: The Justice Department filed a discrimination lawsuit against Sterling for allegedly refusing to rent Los Angeles properties to African Americans.
In 2009: Sterling was accused of running his team as "a Southern plantation-type structure" by Clippers' former general manager Elgin Baylor (himself an African American), who brought a lawsuit against Sterling. Baylor alleged that Sterling fired him for discrimination based on age and race. He lost his lawsuit but it unearthed testimony about Sterling's anti-black discrimination when recruiting players.
Ongoing: Former Clippers guard Baron Davis actually defended Sterling by acknowledging that the racism was typical:
Bizarrely, the 2014 honor would be Sterling's second Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP. He received that honor back in 2009, before reports of his racist comments emerged. That 2009 award should have been the last time any NAACP chapter considered Sterling for any award whatsoever.
The NAACP California headquarters has already called on the Los Angeles branch to withdraw the award. Here's hoping they comply.
Sterling and the Clippers released a statement today saying they don't know
if the audio tape was doctored. But regardless of the tape, all the allegations from the previous decade suggest that Donald Sterling has been making racist statements for some time.
Ironically, most of the Clippers' team is African-American or mixed race. If they don't show up to Sterling's games, there would be no game.