The head of the NAACP in Los Angeles has resigned following criticism of the chapter’s warm relationship with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling despite his history of racial remarks.
The resignation of chapter President Leon Jenkins was announced Thursday night by the CEO of the Baltimore-based NAACP, Lorraine C. Miller. The NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, founded in 1909, and was deeply embarrassed.
In his letter of resignation, Jenkins said the “legacy, history and reputation of the NAACP is more important to me than the presidency. In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused the NAACP, I respectfully resign.”
Before the recent flare up over Sterling’s recorded racial comments to his friend, V. Stiviano, the chapter had planned on giving the Clippers owner a “lifetime achievement award” in a ceremony May 15. The organization canceled that ceremony after the publicity.
He had been chosen to receive the award because of his long history of donating to minority charities and giving game tickets to inner-city children, Jenkins said. The NAACP has honored Sterling several times in the past.
After Sterling’s remarks became public, the chairman of the board of the NAACP, Roslyn Brock, wrote an opinion article in USA Today criticizing the Los Angeles chapter.
“Because of Sterling’s large donations to local charities, including the NAACP, they overlooked his worse than checkered history on race issues and gave him a lifetime achievement award in 2009 — and were about to honor him with a humanitarian award before his racist recording surfaced. The National NAACP and all of our affiliates must be more discerning in our awarding of honors, which should be for true achievements in advancing racial equality.”
In a related development Thursday night, a lawyer representing Stiviano told the Associated Press that the conversation in which Sterling made the comments was taped by mutual agreement in September and provided to a friend for safekeeping. The friend, he said, then leaked it to TMZ.
The lawyer, Siamak Nehoray, would not identify the friend or provide an explanation of why the conversation was recorded. “It was by mutual agreement,” Nehoray told the AP. “There was nothing going on back then. There was no lawsuit. There was no rift. In October, he [Sterling] threw a birthday party for her even.”
California law requires both parties to consent to recording an otherwise private conversation.