JD Cuban | Tiger Woods Foundation

Charities of the Athletes

Smiles plaster the faces of parents walking out of stores as they grabbed that final item on their children’s wish list, various holiday decorations brighten the skies and egg nog (possibly spiked) fill our mugs and stomachs.

It’s the holiday cheer; an inescapable feeling that consumes so many during the month of December. Generosity graces the hearts of shoppers and as a result, charities see a rise in donations during the final month of the year. More than 40 percent of donations come during December, according to slate.com.

‘Tis a wonderful time to open wallets and hearts and give to the less fortunate. The Grinch, however, is always lurking in the shadows. Sometimes the Grinch takes the form of famous athletes.

John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie wrote these lyrics 70 years ago, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” He, referring to Santa Clause, is not coming to town, but if he were, Kris Kringle would check his naughty list more than twice in disbelief at the pro athletes on the list.

For decades professional athletes have established charities for all the right reasons; family members lost due to terminal illness, provide money to the less fortunate and countless other ordeals they faced growing up. A year or two later, however, we find out there was little upkeep with the charity and the money never provided a spark towards a cause.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in October faced off-the-field issues, not with his ethics regarding his children, but with his charity. The “All Day Foundation” stated that its mission is to support at-risk youth. Tax returns and numerous calls showed Peterson’s alleged donations to food banks in Texas and other organizations never made its way to the respective charities.

Former NBA power forward Lamar Odom also established a charity in his mother’s name in 2004, shortly after she died from a bout with cancer. The organization, Cathy’s Kids, raised more than $2 million during its existence, and not a single penny funded cancer research. Instead, it went to fund Amateur Athletic Union basketball teams. It’s somewhat encouraging to know his money provided assistance and funds for youth basketball. But was it right?

“No it’s wasn’t,” ESPN Outside the Lines reporter Paula LaVigne said. “(Odom) misled people. If he wanted to fund an AAU team, great. The charity was meant for cancer research and he was disingenuous about that.”

LaVigne reported in 2013 that 115 male and female charities fizzled or failed to donate money to certain organizations. A myriad of those athletes who discarded or misused their foundations failed to recognize the dedication required to run a charity mirrors their vigorous offseason regiments. Having the wherewithal financially won’t run a charity on its own; too many athletes fail to grasp that concept.

Along with charity failures, the money sometimes goes “unclaimed” by those organizations. So where does that money go?

“In some cases it may go back to the athletes, their friends or relatives,” LaVigne said. “Majority of the money goes to overhead; caterers, management companies. It rarely ever goes to a legitimate charity or people in need.”

It’s disheartening to know a plethora of causes go without assistance because high-profile athletes adopt a selfish attitude toward distributing funds to their charities. Cash generated goes every except where it’s intended and kids endure tribulations pro athletes have the power to minimize.

“In most cases it’s just ignorance,” LaVigne said. “It’s disappointing because these athletes have such ability to generate good will and raise money for good causes.”

Why take on the responsibility of a significant issue if you cannot spare the time to a foundation you started? A player’s history plays a role in those actions. Growing up in the ghetto, going days without a meal, growing up without one or both parents and having to support brothers and sisters as a teen were typical childhoods for many sports icons. As they blossom into super and megastars, they feel obligated to give back.

Reputation and a couple of cameos won’t suffice for a charity, however. It requires time. It entails an understanding of the group chosen by each respective charity. Neither of which many athletes have.

“It seemed as if in so many cases, they were wasting their potential,” LaVigne said. “So many times the “charities” they were running resulted in no actual money going toward those charities, which is so unfortunate because of the ability they have to do such good.”

Providing a side income for buddies and family members because they feel indebted shouldn’t be a reason to embezzle money and trust. Imbruing the image of good charities, and there are plenty, damages the very causes they attempt to aid.

If you feel discouraged about donating to charities this holiday season, have no fear. The foundations of Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong (ironic, right) provide great service to their respective causes and have proof of the work. LaVigne said it is rare that charities experience the high level of success of Woods and Armstrong’s foundation ($500,000 per year), but it illustrates that some athletes work for the causes they’re fighting for.

Charity Navigator, an online site that monitors charitable standards, provided 10 ways to avoid scams during the rush of the donation season. While you’re checking your kids’ wish lists, swing by Charitynavigator.org to double check ways to avoid scammers this season.

(Photo JD Cuban | Tiger Woods Foundation)

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