Clippers Owner Allegedly Didn't Like To Rent To Blacks, Latinos; Pays Record Settlement
|Illustration by Mr. Fish|
|Donald T. Sterling allegedly pressured blacks and Latinos to leave his buildings.|
It looks like the Clippers organization loses again, though: A discrimination lawsuit against Sterling was settled for $2.725 million, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday. The settlement doesn't mean that Sterling admits to actually barring certain minorities from his buildings, but it is "largest monetary payment ever obtained by the department in the settlement of a case alleging housing discrimination in the rental of apartments," according to a statement from the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
Frankly, it doesn't make the NBA team owner, whom player Elgin Baylor accused of having a "vision of a Southern plantation-type structure" in his organization, look good at all. Those big one-page advertisements in the Times trumpeting his New York-style highrises along the Wilshire Corridor are windows to a world of alleged bigotry of the worst kind.
Sterling starting buying highrises in the Koreatown area in 2002 under his Korean Land Company (though the settlement names his Beverly Hills Properties). He gave the buildings names like Wilshire Korean Towers, Sterling Korean Plaza, Windsor Square Korean Towers, and Fremont Place Korean Plaza until a judge ruled that Sterling's residential buildings could not indicate ethnic preferences in their names. The owner was also barred from asking about prospective tenants' countries of origin, a practice Sterling's people said was a post-9/11 security measure.
Perhaps the most damning evidence indicating Sterling's alleged bigotry is found in the original lawsuit against the team owner. Witnesses say that Sterling himself spoke up during a staff meeting at one building in May of 2002: "Hispanics smoke, drink, and just hang around the building," witnesses recalled him saying. Sterling's people, litigants alleged, did not accept their rent checks and then attempted to evict them for failure to pay up. Plaintiffs also alleged that Sterling's company eliminated outdoor yards they had enjoyed outside their apartments for years in an apparent attempt to pressure them to leave.
The DOJ echoed these allegations in its own investigation that preceded the settlement, stating, "The United States presented evidence that the defendants' employees prepared internal reports that identified the race of tenants at properties the defendants purchased in Koreatown. Additionally, the defendants made statements to employees at Koreatown buildings indicating that African-Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants. The United States also presented expert analysis in court filings showing that the defendants rented to far fewer Hispanics and African-Americans in Koreatown which than would be expected based on income and other demographic characteristics."
Sterling originally defended the allegations against him, with his attorneys saying that the black and Latino litigants were simply anti-Korean, "motivated by ... an unbalanced, xenophobic aversion to Koreatown and the word Korean."