The Dubious Philanthropy of Boxer Floyd Mayweather’s Foundation

September 29, 2011; Source: The Root | Welterweight Floyd Mayweather earned $40 million for pummeling Victor Ortiz for four rounds a couple of weeks ago. The event was actually less noteworthy as a boxing match as it was for Mayweather’s verbal battle with 80-year-old HBO sports commentator Larry Merchant, who responded to some personal vulgarity from an abusive Mayweather with “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your ass.” In Mayweather’s previous four fights, the welterweight earned $115 million. 

Did you know that Mayweather’s nickname of choice is “Money”?  According to the New York Times, his favorite topic of conversation is money: “Money earned. Money wagered. Money spent. Money flashed. Money lost. On that topic, Mayweather said he collected $100,000 the previous night betting on N.F.L. games. He mentioned his 29 cars and charitable donations in the same sentence. He even compared his spending habits to a stimulus package: ‘If I’m making it rain, I’m throwing it to American citizens. In a recession!'”

Some of that may be Mayweather’s boxing shtick, honing the his villain image.  But the fact that he tosses charitable donations into the mix of his money fascination raises the issue of what he actually gives to charity.  The Root wondered about Mayweather’s charitable generosity too, and looked into the finances of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. Foundation (FMJF), which has programs on education, youth boxing, girls, women, and community outreach. 

The Root’s conclusion after examining the foundation’s 990s (no one at the foundation would respond to the Root’s questions):  “What’s revealed there makes one ask if Mayweather is punching below his weight philanthropically or just not shining a light on all his charitable activities.” In 2009, the foundation distributed all of $3,564 in donations.  The foundation’s 2008 990 showed expenditures of “$573,790, or 62.5 percent, [that] went to undisclosed ‘professional fees and other payments to independent contractors’; $284,653…to other expenses; $55,650 to pay three employees; and the rest to smaller expenses. The ‘other expenses’ included $100,000 for…[a] two-day, Mayweather-sponsored Superfest fundraiser; $58,494 for the FMJF dinner; and $10,000 for Thanksgiving turkeys.”

Mayweather has made other individual charitable donations, apparently. For example, $160,000 for the National Golden Gloves Championship that was held in Mayweather’s hometown of Grand Rapids, so the foundation’s tiny charitable distributions might be of little consequence.  But then why have a foundation with independent contractors and employees if the philanthropic results are so penny-ante? 

Lately, professional boxing has veered closer to the storylines, personae, and antics one associates with professional wrestling.  How much charitable giving do the large professional actors portraying wrestlers do?  They are cartoon characters and hard to associate with any kind of philanthropy.  Unlike wrestlers, Mayweather is real.  No one can dictate to him how he spends his millions, But he would be well-served to clarify the less-than-stunning numbers in his eponymous foundation’s tax filings.—Rick Cohen