Even before a racist recording got him thrown out of the NBA for life, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling appeared suspiciously self-serving in the eyes of the nonprofits he supported.
Since an audio recording of Sterling telling V. Stiviano not to bring black men to basketball games emerged, a number of nonprofits that have received funding from the disgraced billionaire’s foundation have come forward to say that they felt that they were long used as pawns to vindicate Sterling’s image.
From 2009 to 2012, the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation, an organization that focuses on educational institutions and related activities, donated $1.4 million, according to tax records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
While it’s difficult to verify if the foundation has lived up to its promises, some experts and donation recipients have said that Sterling’s constant publicizing of his charitable work was unequivocally self-serving.
For example, 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, a youth mentoring program, was initially skeptical about accepting a $5,000 donation in 2009 after housing discrimination allegations had been hurled against Sterling. The group grew increasingly concerned after a photo of the then-president started appearing in newspaper advertisements without getting the group’s permission first, according to the L.A. Times.
"I think he was pimping us to get credit for helping the African American community," Pastor Jewett Walker Jr., the group’s president, told the paper.
A Place Called Home, a nonprofit that helps at-risk teens in Los Angeles, had a similar experience. It saw an unauthorized photo of Josh Zeichner, the group’s executive director, suddenly start appearing in ads in the L.A. Times promoting Sterling’s charitable efforts.
Zeichner told the paper that he didn’t recall giving permission for the image to be used for that purpose.
"We were a bit of a beard for him,” he told the paper. "Clearly those ads are about letting people know he is a good guy."
Sterling had made a $100,000 pledge to A Place Called Home to be dispersed over the course of 10 years. The organization has decided to keep the $30,000 donation it has received, but will decline the remaining $70,000 balance, TMZ reported.
A number of other groups, including Goodwill Southern California, have decided to reject Sterling’s gifts. Goodwill also received a $100,000 pledge from Sterling, and has decided to return the $20,000 it has already received and is also rejecting the balance.
While Zeichner has rejected Sterling’s funds and has asked that his picture be removed from the newspaper ads that have now been running for four years, he has also invited the shamed mogul to repent and to visit the center that has support many teens in need.
"My earnest hope is that this moment of shame on the world stage can morph into a personal opportunity for you to unburden yourself from the ignorance and racism you've been dragging around your whole life," Zeichner wrote in an open letter to Sterling on HuffPost, "an opportunity for you to make a sea change in your thinking and turn your energies toward doing something of broad and lasting good to counteract the hurt and damage you've caused."