Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP, has resigned in the wake of the scandal involving the branch’s now-scuttled plans to honor disgraced LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime achievement award. The organization is expected to make a full investigation into how the branch had decided to give Sterling not one, but two, lifetime achievement awards; the first came in 2009. “Please be advised that the legacy, history and reputation of the NAACP is more important to me than the presidency,” Jenkins said in his letter of resignation.
Before Sterling’s racist remarks came to light last week, the group’s LA branch had planned to honor him at an awards gala May 15 at the Biltmore Hotel. Among the others to be honored were the Rev. Al Sharpton and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. It remains to be seen if the awards dinner will go on as planned.
Earlier this week, Lorraine Miller, the NAACP’s interim president and CEO, who accepted Jenkins’ resignation, released a statement that Sterling would not be receiving the award and all but ordered the LA branch to rescind the previous honor. “Let me make it clear,” she said. “The NAACP will not be honoring Mr. Sterling at the upcoming Los Angeles branch event, and we have strongly urged our Los Angeles unit to take the necessary steps to rescind the previous award they bestowed on him. The remarks attributed to Mr. Sterling are outrageous and remind us that racism is alive and well at every socioeconomic level.” In a statement, the NAACP’s national office also said that “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 isn’t the first time that Los Angeles area branch of the NAACP has landed in hot water over an awards show. In 1966, NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks placed the group’s Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch into trusteeship for two years after finding that it had fallen into a “state of paralysis” because of disputes over the annual Image Awards show. The Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch, however, has not been tarnished by the Sterling scandal.