Clippers owner hit with large discrimination suit

[Please note: this story has been updated]

Donald T. Sterling, real estate tycoon and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, has agreed to pay $2.725 million to settle the largest housing and apartment rental discrimination suit ever obtained by the U.S. Justice Department, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The suit alleges discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics and families with children at many of the 119 apartment buildings Sterling owns or manages through his Beverly Hills Properties company.

The settlement in the three-year old legal action must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fisher.

Sterling promotes his charitable image through constant insertions of large newspaper ads, featuring his smiling face and frequently sporting a Star of David.

Most recently, his charitable foundation advertised its sponsorship of the Oct. 20 game between the Clippers and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, with Israel’s Migdal Ohr orphanage as the designated beneficiary.

If the settlement is approved, Sterling and his wife Rochelle will have to pay $2.625 million to a fund for people victimized by their discriminatory practices, plus $100,000 penalty to the government.

According to court filings, the Sterlings are charged with making statements “indicating that African Americans and Hispanics are not desirable tenants and that they preferred Korean tenants.”

Ironically, Sterling was the recent recipient of the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award at a dinner marking the 100th anniversary of the African American civil rights organization.

Bob Platt, Sterling’s attorney, said in a statement that “My clients vehemently and unequivocally deny that anyone was discriminated against ,” and that Sterling and his wife maintained “a zero tolerance policy prohibiting all forms of housing discrimination.”

Platt added that the Sterlings decided to settle the suit to avoid what could well be a far more continued litigation.

Sterling, 76, has been the target of a number of discrimination suits and two sexual harassment complaints over the past decade.