The president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, Leon Jenkins, resigned Thursday after scrutiny of his plan to give Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling an award for promoting civil rights.
Jenkins was to present Sterling with a lifetime achievement award later this month but rescinded that offer Monday after a recording surfaced over the weekend on which Sterling disparaged black men.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 NAACP, 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 was 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, he 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 chapter president in Los Angeles, it honored Sterling with an award.
After the recording, of Sterling having a private conversation, 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 because of 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."
Reacting to the announcement, local activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson said the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter needed to become "fully transparent and accountable to its members and community and not to dubious corporate donors."
Jenkins has had his own legal problems, which also came into focus this week. For years, he has been barred from practicing law in California because of allegations of corruption when he was a young judge in Detroit.
In April three judges with California's State Bar Court denied his most recent request to practice again. The judges lauded his volunteer work with the NAACP and other organizations, but they cited several instances in which they said he misrepresented his finances or other aspects of his personal life.
"Despite Jenkins' impressive good character evidence and community service, he continues to commit errors in judgment that call into question his rehabilitation and present good moral character," the judges wrote.
The Associated Press