When Donald Sterling’s racist rant hit the news last week, you could practically hear the jostling at the microphone by those eager to denounce the Los Angeles Clippers owner.
For the beneficiaries of Sterling’s largesse, the denunciations took on a special imperative as a means of distancing themselves from his views.
Several Jewish organizations have taken Sterling’s money, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The L.A. Jewish Journal listed 11 Jewish groups that have received money in recent years from the Donald T. Sterling Foundation.
“Last year we took the $10,000 from him,” Jay Sanderson, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told JTA. “We’re not going to take it anymore.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center made a similar remark to the Jewish Journal.
The strongest statement came from the NBA, which banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and now is seeking to force him to sell the Clippers.
Sterling’s foundation has given relatively modest amounts to Jewish groups in recent years given his great wealth. According to the Jewish Journal, 10 of the Jewish groups received gifts of $10,000, some for several years running. Sterling, who is Jewish, also gave $50,000 to Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles in 2010.
Whatever the sums, the ethical dilemmas facing nonprofits when confronted with donations from benefactors of ill repute are hardly clear-cut.
Associating with troubled donors can harm an organization’s reputation, and accepting the money may raise questions about its values and priorities.
Conversely, nonprofits are strapped for cash, and if the money is going to a good cause, does turning down money from troubled sources do more harm than good?