Earl King bristles at Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, he called unfair

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Former pro player recalls racism way back then

by Chinta Strausberg

The world is talking about the loose lips of Clippers owner Donald Sterling long known for his racial epithets but recently banned because of his taped phone conversations that included offensive remarks about African Americans he told his girlfriend not to bring to his games.

One of those taking a trip down memory lane is Earl B. King, then a professional basketball player with the San Diego Clippers owned by Sterling.

In 1982-1983 King played for the San Diego Clippers. He had made the veterans team and was practicing one day when he was knocked out of the air during a rebound. “I almost broke my neck,” he recalled. “I hit the floor really hard.” One of those witnessing the accident was Craig Hodges, former Chicago Bulls.

“I got up, continued to try and play but I couldn’t. They told me to go to a room where they put ice on my neck. I told them I did not feel well,” recalled King.

“The next day, I was told they were cutting me from the team. They did not allow me to see a doctor. When black players got hurt, they would cut them but when whites were hurt, they were put on injured reserve.”

King said even back then, black players were treated unfairly even when the circumstances were identical. “The contract states when a player is hurt he goes on injured reserve. You cannot cut a player when he is injured, and they breached the contract.”

Injured, King said he went home in great pain the next day after he was illegally cut. He then saw Dr. James Hill at Northwestern Hospital. “At that time, Hill was a doctor for the Olympics team who worked for the NFL and NBA evaluating players if they were to be cut.

“After my evaluation, Dr. Hill told me that an injured player should not have been cut and that I should not have been walking at the time. I stayed under his care for more than a year. I pressed charges against the San Diego Clippers. We pursued this case for more than two-years.

King, and his attorney, Elliott Zinger, sued for $200,000. “They ended up paying me my salary or $30,000. We were looking to get more funds because the injury ended my career. I settled and told them I had founded the “No Dope Express Foundation” and that instead of paying me for a life time injury I would accept a contribution of $100,000 to help youth with drug and gang problems.”

“They told me that sounded very good and that they would do that. They promised to call me after they talked to the owner, Donald Sterling. They never returned my call,” King said. “They reneged on their agreement. It was a racist move because they discriminated against black vs. white players when it came to injuries.”

Attorney Elliot Zinger confirmed the lawsuit. “They cut Mr. King when he was injured. I thought it was very inappropriate. It was unfair and we ended up winning the lawsuit.” Sterling isn’t the only one being criticized for alleged inappropriate conduct.

King chided Sterling for receiving a lifetime award from the L.A. NAACP even though he was known for his racial discrimination in housing. “They were getting ready to give him a second life time award until he got caught on tape talking about blacks,” said King.

He found that ironic since at the time he had asked the Clippers to donate $100,000 for his organizations that would have helped black youth reduced the violence instead the NAACP gave Sterling a coveted award just because he contributed mega bucks to their organization.

King is still doing a slow burn because upper senior management never returned his calls. “I was trying to provide opportunities for black children and stop the killing.”

It still pains King, who was considered an interloper back in 1995 when he ran for president of the NAACP against Herb Bates, to think about the NAACP’s role in giving Sterling the prestigious award in 2009 but the same organization opposed his bid for election because he was only trying to provide alternatives to black youth.

“I recruited more than 5,000 new members for the NAACP of which 2,000 were votes from gang members,” said King. “I was going to bring corporations to the table as well as prepare a job training and educational program needed to take them away from drugs, gangs and violence. At the time, King was working with former high-ranking gang leader Harold Noonie Ward.

“I raised $50,000 for the NAACP when I ran for president through a membership drive. They saw I had 5,000 votes that included 2,000 from gang members. At that time, the NAACP only had between 300-500 memberships. King’s ability to increase youth membership reportedly frightened old timers who linked that relationship to allegations that he worked with gang leaders—a charge that was not true.

“I had to sue the NAACP in order for them to vote,” King said referring to efforts by the NAACP to block youth members from voting in the election. The NAACP’s Constitution and bylaws state that youth can vote for president or youth council if they paid a $3.00 prerequisite membership fee. “Because of my lawsuit, the NAACP changed the bylaws and constitution mandating an age of 21 to vote for president of the chapter.”

“We won twice in the lower courts for the right for the youth to vote. However, the national and the local NAACP appealed and went to the Appellate Court where they won by 1 vote. I spent $30,000 to keep this lawsuit going.

While some NAACP members felt allowing gang members would taint the reputation of the civil rights organization, Nehemiah Russell, then the assistant principal of Englewood High School where King had recruited some of his students said, working with these youth “is a plus, not a liability. We must extend our hands to groups that are trying to affirm themselves.”

In retrospect, King said, “I was trying to get black kids off the streets, into the classrooms and enrolled in job training programs to become gainfully employed, and here they (the L.A. NAACP) are in L.A. giving a life time achievement award to Donald Sterling just because he was giving them $100,000. I brought in $50,000 to the NAACP…. It was very disturbing to me.”

After the Sterling tape was made public, L.A. NAACP President Leon Jenkins resigned.

For more information, contact Earl King at 708.257.2885.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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