Southern California charities that received funding from the Clippers' owner Donald Sterling are finding themselves in a prickly ethical and public relations dilemma: do they give the money back — or accept future gifts?
UCLA rejected a $3 million donation — returning a $425,000 installment of the funding that they'd already received. The Los Angeles branch of the NAACP reneged on a lifetime achievement award and said it would give back donations.
But five organizations and two high schools told KPCC they won't be returning funding. Their views on whether to accept future Sterling support varied. Some are still weighing their options.
The dilemma for many of the groups that benefited from Sterling's largesse is that they are on shoestring budgets. Even donations of $10,000 are hard to replace.
"A lot of these nonprofits are in a tough situation, they need every dime they can get," said Christian Wheeler, a marketing professor at Stanford University. "Nonprofits often have to take charitable contributions from people with whom they don't share completely overlapping values."
On the other hand, he said, associating themselves with Sterling could potentially scare away other donors.
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Jonathan Zeichner is executive director of A Place Called Home, a center that provides tutoring and college prep to youth in South Central Los Angeles. Sterling had made a $100,000 commitment to A Place Called Home spread over ten years.
A few years into the gift, Zeichner said he's cutting it off. He won't be cashing any more of Sterling's checks.
"It just would not represent who we are to take those funds," he said.
He said he won't return the money already given. Neither will the Salvation Army of Southern California and Jewish Vocational Service of Los Angeles.
One reason all three gave: the money's already spent.
"We believe the money was donated in good faith," said Robert Brennan, director of communications for the Southern California arm of Salvation Army. "That money's been put to use - and good use."
Brennan said donation's from Sterling and the Clippers have gone toward helping with toy and food drives, as well as purchasing new computers for their after school program at Siemon Family Youth and Community Center in South Los Angeles.
The Jewish Vocational Service of Los Angeles says it will not accept future funding from Sterling. Brennan said he couldn't speculate on how the Salvation Army will act if future donations come in from Sterling.
UC Berkeley business school assistant professor and social psychologist Clayton Critcher points out that even though some may perceive Sterling's funding as tainted, that doesn't mean organizations haven't spent the money toward good things.
And he said making Sterling's bank account a little smaller isn't a bad thing.
"If anything they're taking resources away from someone who we pretty much all now agree is a bad guy," Critcher said.