DITKA'S CHARITY MAKING A LOT MORE MONEY THAN IT'S GIVING
We posted on Saturday an item regarding the ongoing efforts of the "Gridiron Greats" organization to raise and distribute money to former NFL players who have fallen on hard times.
Since then, several folks (including one prominent member of the national media) have forwarded to us a link from Friday's USA Today regarding the finances of Mike Ditka's charity trust, which was formed to fulfill the same objectives.
Before going any farther with this, it's important to remember that the Mike Ditka Hall of Fame Assistance Trust Fund and the Gridiron Greats Assistance Trust Fund are two different things. The USA Today item regarding Ditka's project sheds no light on the financial condition of the Gridiron Greats effort (and, in our view, somewhat recklessly fails to point out that the two groups are distinct).
The Ditka organization, per USA Today, has raised $1.3 million, but has net income of only $315,000. And only $57,000 has been distributed to former players in need.
Amazingly, the Ditka group paid more money to former players as an inducement to get them to appear at a 2005 fundraiser than it has paid to needy players.
A total of $715,000 has been spent to put on three golf tournaments, with $280,000 going to a Chicago firm that organized the events.
Ditka's explanation for the absence of cash to the guys who need it? "The problem is finding [needy] guys and getting them to fill out the [application] form," Ditka told USA Today. "Some of these guys are scared of forms. There could be pride involved, too."
But shouldn't some of that money be spent on tracking down the guys who need the money and helping them apply for it? How hard can it be to find former NFL players?
Said Carl Francis of the NFLPA, a regular target of Ditka's ire: "At some point it's got to be about more than holding yet another press conference and blasting people. You ought to be announcing 'We just gave away a half a million.' Unless, of course, you didn't."
Or unless Ditka really doesn't care about whether individual ex-players get the money they need. Some league observers believe that Ditka's entire effort is merely a public soul cleansing for his role in creating the problem by encouraging injured players to get back on the field before they were ready to return.
We're not quite sure what to think about Ditka's motivations at this point. But we're skeptical.