The Dude abides.
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: SLC, UT
The Fax Machine
Ditka's ex-player charity gives less than 5% of collected funds to ex-players!
I know some of you follow the situation regarding former NFL players and their pensions. I don't doubt that there are players really suffering, but I get the sense that the players association isn't nearly the devil they are made out to be. There are exceptions (Tom Glassic comes to mind), obviously - but it seems that in a lot of these stories, the player has some culpability in the situation.
In this case, I'm sure Ditka's heart was in the right place. But this is kind of embarrassing. He's been arguably the loudest critic of the NFL's policy regarding former players. And to make a bad situation worse, he makes the statement I bolded in the article.
Seriously, Mike - you're saying it's hard to find needy players to take the money? And they don't like to fill out forms? Um, are you sure that's the quote you want put in the article?
Payouts to ex-players small from Ditka's charity
By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
Twice this year, pro football legend Mike Ditka has blasted the National Football League and its players union, telling Congress that both groups are "delaying or denying" requests by needy retired players for help.
Ditka formed a charity in 2004 to aid those players. The Mike Ditka Hall of Fame Assistance Trust Fund has collected $1.3 million and netted about $315,000 after expenses. But it has given only $57,000 to former players in need, according to federal and Illinois tax records.
CHARITIES BROADEN REACH: Recipients' pool widens
The trust paid more in fees to induce former stars to appear at a 2005 fundraiser than it gave needy ex-players in its first three years.
The charity has spent $715,000, the bulk of the money it raised, to put on three annual golf tournaments, records show. That figure includes payments of about $280,000 to a Chicago firm that organized the tournaments and at least $65,000 in honoraria to ex-stars. The tax filing doesn't list the stars who received fees.
The Ditka fund projected that it would make $890,000 in grants to needy football Hall of Fame members or their families in its first three years, according to papers filed with the IRS when the charity sought tax-exempt status in 2004.
"The problem is finding (needy) guys and getting them to fill out the (application) form," Ditka said in an interview. "Some of these guys are scared of forms. There could be pride involved, too."
Ditka is the outspoken former Hall of Fame player and coach for the Chicago Bears. In June, he told a House panel that injured and needy ex-players are "treated like dogs" while the union "does nothing material to help these guys." His charity, he said then, was created to redress "this grave injustice."
The charity, recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt organization, gave nothing to players during its first two years. It aided 10 ex-players in 2006.
Carl Francis, a spokesman for the players union, a key Ditka target, said the charity's payout undercuts Ditka's criticisms. "At some point it's got to be about more than holding yet another press conference and blasting people," Francis said. "You ought to be announcing 'We just gave away a half a million.' Unless, of course, you didn't."
Two charities formed by the NFL and its union gave about $1.1 million a year from 2000 through 2005 to needy ex-players and related causes, tax records show.
Ditka said he had paid little attention to his charity's numbers until this year. He has begun cutting fundraising costs and will insist that half of the annual tournament's proceeds be paid out, he said, adding that the trustees have been told to pay needy players first before requiring them to fill out forms.
Ditka said appearance fees will remain. "You're asking guys to play golf in August in a tournament that's got my name on it," he said.
Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog, said the Ditka trust may have underestimated the charity's workload by naming only two volunteer trustees — three fewer than the minimum the institute recommends.
The group, he said, appears to have underestimated the cost of putting on golf tournaments, which are typically among the most expensive types of fundraiser.
Still, Borochoff said, details of expenditures such as the honoraria to Hall of Fame players that total more than the amount paid to needy players, are a "little embarrassing."
"People who thought they were playing to benefit old players could be disappointed by how little has gone to them," he said.