Given the high-profile nature of most professional athletes, one would assume it’s safe to donate to their charities. If you’re giving money to one of the various funds set up by your favorite player, you figure those funds will be well-spent, and not misused.
Well, not so fast, according to a lengthy ESPN Outside the Lines report, which finds that the charities of many athletes have been neglected or mismanaged, including unaccounted-for donations. Among the findings are that many such charities are lagging on filing their taxes and seem to have only been created for tax purposes, the misuse of “nonprofit” funds and the plain disappearance of large sums of money.
According to Ken Berger of Charity Manager, a group that “monitors and grades” charities, the overall effectiveness of athletes’ charities is about on par with the national average. However, Berger says that, given the public nature of these athletes, they ought to be held to a higher standard.
Among the individual findings were that Alex Rodriguez had one of his two charities’ tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS in 2011, and that one of the charities received $300,000 in donations that appears to have never been used. Likewise, during his time with the Patriots, Randy Moss also set up two charities — the Foundation for Children and Links for Learning — one of which has since been terminated. The other, meanwhile, is presumably still active, but a phone listing for it goes to a private residence in Manitoba, Canada.