The former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP is coming to the defense of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Leon Jenkins told The Associated Press that Sterling “was a ‘wreck’ and almost crying after a television interview in which Sterling derided Magic Johnson as a role model.
[Jenkins] called Sterling after last week’s interview aired and said Sterling’s comments about Johnson took away from the apology he was making for earlier racist comments. Sterling was “really distraught” and hoped the public would forgive him, Jenkins said.
“I said, `Once you got off focus and started talking about Magic Johnson, whatever reconsideration some people would have, you kind of lost it,'” Jenkins recalled.
Jenkins resigned as chapter president May 1 following outrage over a decision he later reversed to honor Sterling with a lifetime achievement award. It would have been Sterling’s second award – the chapter also honored him in 2009. The same year Sterling agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle a U.S. Justice Department suit alleging that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks.
Jenkins said he resigned from his post to ensure the local NAACP would not be harmed by the Sterling controversy. He says he’d planned to honor Sterling because of plans to create a multimillion-dollar endowment at Los Angeles Southwest College, an institution with a predominantly black population.
Sterling was banned for life by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and fined $2.5 million. The league formally charged Sterling Monday with damaging the league and its teams with racist comments he made to then-girlfriend V. Stiviano.
The vote is set for June 3.
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