Sterling Protest
Participants of the Donald Sterling protest next to Staples Center, Los Angeles

April 30, 2014;TMZ Sports

“Here’s the moral dilemma…you’re a charity and a really bad guy, a.k.a. Donald Sterling, has given you a ton of money. Do you now give it back?”

That’s the question asked at celebrity website TMZ this week in the wake of the scandal over the L.A. Clippers owner’s taped comments. Those comments got him banned from pro basketball for life and earned him universal disdain.

If that’s not a question nonprofit leaders have asked themselves and debated all over America since the robber barons practiced philanthropy over a hundred years ago, nothing is. The sad truth is that some of the financial support charities receive comes from individuals who are less than honorable in all aspects of their lives, or from wealth created in ways that many people might find offensive or which conflicts with the very values and missions of the charities being supported.

TMZ canvassed some of the recipients of Sterling’s philanthropy. Some feel that it’s “dirty money,” while others say “a buck’s a buck.” Among the nonprofits surveyed:

  • A Place Called Home (a program for high-risk teens): $100,000, doled out in $10,000 annual installments. The $30,000 it has received will be kept, but it is rejecting the balance.
  • Temple of the Arts: keeping a $10,000 donation.
  • Union Rescue Mission of Los Angeles: has been receiving $10,000 a year, and plans to keep it, telling TMZ, “We take money from all kinds of bad people all the time.”
  • Goodwill Southern California: received a $100,000 donation, doled out over 10 years; received $20,000 so far, but is giving all the money back and not accepting the balance.
  • American Diabetes Association: keeping Sterling’s $25,000 contribution, saying, “The sad reality is that without donations like Mr. Sterling’s, we can’t help the people that we do.”

TMZ previously reported that Sterling pledged $3 million to UCLA for kidney research, giving $425,000 up front. The university is returning the up-front funding and refusing to accept the rest. L.A.’s Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, posted a statement on its website that it was “shocked” and that “There is no place in America for such bigoted comments.” The center will take no further money from Sterling, but it’s keeping the $30,000 it has received, saying the money’s already been spent.—Larry Kaplan