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Racism Accusations? Donate to the NAACP

Companies accused of racism write checks to rehab their images
Donald Sterling stands on the sidelines before a game in May 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles
Donald Sterling stands on the sidelines before a game in May 2011 at Staples Center in Los AngelesPhotograph by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People moved quickly in April to cancel plans to bestow a lifetime achievement award on Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and a longtime NAACP contributor, who was caught on tape scolding a female friend for posting online photos with black friends. Many people were surprised to learn the civil rights organization ever meant to praise a man with a history of discriminating against blacks. They shouldn’t have been. In 2009 the NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter honored Sterling with its President’s Award, shortly before he agreed to pay $2.8 million to settle federal civil charges that he unfairly treated blacks and Hispanics at L.A. apartment buildings he owns.

Sterling is one of several individuals and institutions with reputations in need of repair who’ve received accolades or favorable treatment from the NAACP, at times before or after large donations. At the May 15 gala where Sterling was supposed to pick up his prize, the group’s L.A. chapter will honor executives from Wal-Mart Stores and FedEx, both major contributors embroiled in long-running controversies involving allegations of employment discrimination and antiunion activities. The companies deny the allegations.