The NAACP Takes a PR Hit In The Donald Sterling Debacle

Many have accused the NAACP of being soft on Sterling.

adam silverCommissioner Adam Silver was everyone’s hero on Tuesday when he announced that Donald Sterling would be banned for life from the NBA after the league confirmed that was in fact his voice on a recording filled with racist and sexist remarks. (Was there ever any doubt?)

Not only that, Sterling has to hand over $2.5 million for charity — not much for a billionaire, but it’s the principal — and Silver says he’s going to press to get the LA Clippers sold to a different owner. Not only did Silver call the comments “offensive,” but he said they were “harmful,” which connotes something deeper, more serious and more corrosive.  Boom. Boom. Boom.

While he and the league are being given credit for handling the situation swiftly and effectively (well, by almost everyone), there have been a lot of questions about how the NAACP could have seen fit to give Sterling not one, but two lifetime achievement awards. The second one was meant to be handed out next month at the organization’s annual convention, but was rescinded on Monday. Even then, the LA chapter’s president Leon Jenkins said there is “room to forgive.”

It looks as though the NBA has been much tougher on Sterling than the NAACP has. And some are saying that it could be because Sterling donated money and Clippers tickets to the organization.

It should be noted, the NAACP’s national leader, interim president and CEO Lorraine Miller, and the chair of the board of directors, Roslyn Brock, had come out strongly against Sterling on a couple of occasions prior to Silver’s announcement, with Miller announcing on Sunday’s Meet the Press that Sterling wouldn’t be getting that award.

“Jenkins’ seeming kid-gloves treatment of Sterling — who has been accused of racist behavior in the past — assumes a questionable air given Sterling’s relationship with the organization,” writes TheWrap. Talking Points Memo also outlines in detail the various discriminatory lawsuits and allegations that have been waged against Sterling over the years.

At the same time, Sterling and his charitable foundation, The Donald T. Sterling Foundation, of course, donated $5,000 and basketball tickets to various youth groups. And the Clippers charitable foundation made donations as well. Occidental College professor Peter Drier went so far, in that TPM article, as to accuse a quid pro quo relationship. Others took to Twitter while Jenkins made his comments to say that he wasn’t being forceful enough.

TheWrap went to the LA chapter for comment and didn’t get one. The national NAACP organization issued this statement in which they applauded the NBA’s response and said, “Additionally, we will be developing guidelines for our units to help them in their award selection process and prevent unfortunate decisions like this from occurring in the future.”

This is a good first step. Clearly, as TVOne’s Roland Martin said in TheWrap article, there’s a breakdown between what the national organization expects and what the local chapters believe is appropriate. But more than that, the NAACP is supposed to be the organization taking among the strongest stances on issues of discrimination and civil rights in this country. The mere implication that money can throw them off this mission is a large problem for the group’s reputation and credibility. It must now work to back in front of the issues — this one included — in order to rise back to the level that we all expect.


Publish date: April 30, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT