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In 1991, Sterling invited Israel’s championship basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, to play the Clippers in two exhibition games in southern California. Sterling promised to donate the proceeds from the games to the Maccabi Tel Aviv Sports Organization to help fund its youth programs.
And in January 2006, Sterling was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame during a gala dinner at the Milken Jewish Community Center in West Hills.
Some of the honors from Jewish organizations listed in Sterling’s bio are harder to verify, such as a 1998 Los Angeles Yeshiva Golden Menorah Humanitarian of the Year award.
Asked about his involvement in Los Angeles’ organized Jewish community, Jay Sanderson, CEO and President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told the Forward that Sterling “has made a lot of small gifts to a lot of organizations” including the federation.
But he emphasized, “The leadership of our community is deeply disturbed by his comments. They certainly don’t reflect the views of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.” Sanderson added: “One individual’s racism is not reflective of the Jewish community.”
Known for his frequent newspaper ads in which he touts the many honors bestowed upon him, Sterling was slated to receive his second NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award at the group’s 100th anniversary celebration next month. Following the controversy caused by the leaked tapes, the organization retracted its scheduled award.
Some media reports have speculated that Sterling brandished his philanthropy in part to offset a reputation for prejudice and abusive landlord practices that existed even prior to the release of the tape. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Sterling making such allegations, including one by NBA great Elgin Baylor for wrongful termination as the Clippers general manager. In it, Baylor alleged age and race discrimination. Sterling won that suit. But he settled a 2005 suit for housing discrimination filed against him by Los Angeles’ Housing Rights Center and agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees.
Meanwhile, according to New York Magazine, Sterling’s wife, Rochelle Sterling, filed a suit last month against Stiviano. In the lawsuit Rochelle Sterling alleges that “the feminine wiles of Ms. Stiviano overpowered the iron will of” her husband, “who is well known as one of the most shrewd businessmen in the world.”
Rochelle, whom Sterling met while working his way through college as a furniture salesman at a shop owned by her father, has been married to the Clippers owner for more than 50 years. They have three children together. In her suit, she alleges that Sterling met Stiviano at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami, and that he has since given her a Ferrari, two Bentleys, a Range Rover, and a $1.8 million duplex and $250,000 cash.
Stiviano’s attorney, Mac Nehoray, has confirmed that the tape is authentic but said that his client did not release it to TMZ, the celebrity news outlet that broke the story.
The Clippers have not confirmed that Sterling is the voice on the tape. But in an official statement on behalf of the Clippers, team president Andy Roeser asserted that the statements on the tape do not reflect Sterling’s “views, beliefs or feelings.”