Unlawful housing discrimination is nothing new, despite renewed focus on
the issue after the Los Angeles Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling, came
under fire when the media released a tape recording of him making
racially-charged comments. On the recording, Donald Sterling is heard
chastising his alleged girlfriend for associating and bringing "black
people to his games." As our lawsuit filed in 2003 alleged, Donald
Sterling had a penchant for excluding African Americans from all of his
properties - only then it was his rental housing properties not
necessarily his games.
In February 2003, Housing Rights Center (HRC) filed a federal lawsuit
against Mr. Sterling and his wife, Rochelle Sterling, for violating
state and federal fair housing laws by unlawfully discriminating against
current tenants and applicants based on race. HRC's lawsuit alleged that
Donald and Rochelle Sterling implemented practices that favored Koreans
over African Americans and Latinos. Specifically, that the Sterlings
wanted to rid their buildings of all African American and Latino tenants
by engaging in a series of illegal conducts. The Serlings were alleged
to have harassed African American and Latino tenants, attempted to evict
African American and Latino tenants without cause, and withheld repairs
for African American and Latino tenants.
According to the Sterlings' employees, Mr. Sterling disliked Latinos,
telling employees that "Hispanics smoke, drink, and just hang around the
building." On at least one occasion, Mr. Sterling told management staff
that he believed that "black tenants smell and attract vermin."
Management also stated that they were instructed to make only the
African American tenants sign in when entering their buildings, among
other outrageous race-motivated actions.
HRC, along with private pro bono attorneys, filed a federal action
against the Sterlings for injunctive relief to stop the discrimination
and compensatory damages for the African American and Latino families
that were part of the suit. The court prohibited the Sterlings from
asking about the national origin of their tenants and applicants, and
from changing the name of their properties to names that used the word
"Korean" which would have had the effect of discouraging non-Koreans
As explained by Chancela Al-Mansour, HRC's Executive Director, "Racial
discrimination in housing is alive and well in our country. What is more
disheartening, however, is that while there is national outrage against
Donald Sterling based on his comments against an NBA legend due to his
race there was no similar outrage when African-American and Latino
tenants complained that the Sterlings targeted and tried to evict them
from their homes for no other reason but their race."
Individuals who believe they are victims of housing discrimination or
who have questions about the fair housing laws may contact HRC for
information at 1-800-477-5977 (voice), 213-201-0867 (TTY) or visit www.housingrightscenter.org.
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