As NFL Suffers Ethical Lapses, Player Charities also Under Scrutiny

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October 6, 2014; Deadspin

The National Football League has had a tough several months, from the damaging studies around concussions to the missteps by the league relating to the handling of several domestic violence incidents involving players. There have even been calls for the NFL to have its nonprofit status revoked. The most prominent of the issues involves one of the NFL’s best players, Adrian Peterson.

Peterson, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2012, has been indicted on charges in Texas of reckless or negligent injury to a child, as it has been alleged that Peterson used a tree branch to discipline his son, who is four. And just this week, a Minneapolis newspaper, the Star Tribune, printed that Peterson used funds from his charity to pay for a sex party and that the grants outlined in their tax records were not actually realized by the grantees.

“The [All Day Foundation’s] 2011 financial report showed $247,064 in total revenue, and listed just three organizations that received money. A fourth outlay, entitled simply ‘clothing for needy families,’ listed ‘unknown’ for the number of recipients.”

As the paper dug deeper, talking to the listed organizations, the findings continued to be concerning. All Day Foundation listed that $70,000 went to the Maryland nonprofit Straight From the Heart Ministries, but according to Donna Farley, its president and founder, she never received any money from Peterson’s foundation, stating, “There have been no outside contributions other than people in my own circle…Adrian Peterson—definitely not.” Similar statements were made by representatives from the East Texas Food Bank and the North Texas Food Bank.

Peterson tweeted that an organization with a similar name in California was the beneficiary and it was a recently fired accountant who had made the mistake. Later in the week, Peterson issued via Twitter a series of text messages to combat the Star Tribune article, asserting that his former accounting firm had made several mistakes and that the paper had confused his charity for other business entities with similar names.

Despite the back and forth, this is not the first time this year that an NFL star’s charity has come under scrutiny. In August, the New York Times did an extensive expose on Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders’ charitable pursuits, mainly his Dallas charter school called Prime Prep. According to the Times, a “respected Texas nonprofit group has ranked Texas public schools. Prime Prep’s lower grades received an F.” (The higher grades could not be graded due to “missing data.”) Sanders has had several missteps regarding a number of issues relating to his charitable pursuits, including vendor lawsuits and financial impropriety.

As the NFL works through its current rough patch, charities involving or started by professional football players will be under higher scrutiny. Hopefully, the cases of Sanders and Peterson will inform the player community that their charitable efforts need to be in order.—John Brothers