On Sunday it was announced that Bill Davidson, owner of the Detroit Pistons and Tampa Bay Lightning, and his wife donated $75 million to support a new inpatient tower at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. In case you're wondering, that comes to 317,025,807.52 Israeli Shekels. The donation was given to Hadassah, and named after his mother, the founder of the Detroit Hadassah chapter. In case you're wondering, part two: the $75 million is more than ten times the $7 million Davidson paid for the Pistons in 1974. Davidson, 84, estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth $3.5 billion, and his wife are making the gift through Davidson's Guardian Industries Corp. of Auburn Hills, one of the world's largest manufacturers of glass (Glass? Who knew! Get me out of here!). The Davidson's gift is beyond generous, and will truly go a long way towards helping the people in Jersusalem.
Davidson's gift made me wonder - how do others in the sports world stack up in terms of their charitable donations? "The many charitable foundations set up by athletes, teams and sports owners can quickly become tangled in red tape and fiscal problems. Funding sources can dry up quickly. Administrative costs may rise. A player can be traded far away from the city of his foundation's headquarters. The very purpose of the organization can lose focus. And if these foundations have been established strictly as tax shelters, without much personal commitment, they can backfire and create image problems." Aside from the obvious philanthropical purposes of establishing a foundation, doing so has two distinct advantages for an athlete: huge tax deductions, and positive light in the realm of public relations.
Some athletes have terrific foundations, which are well respected in the non-profit community. Andre Agassi, Tiger Woods, and Lance Armstrong are three such athletes whose foundations have earned four stars (out of four) from Charity Navigator, a watchdog group. But not everyone has such a steller history. Let's take a look at just a few:
Jordan established the Michael Jordan Foundation in 1989, however it was shuttered seven years later, and Jordan focused on other charitable causes.
"Jordan got egg on his face for misadministrating his foundation, and he's not small potatoes," says Greg Johnson, executive director of the Sports Philanthropy Project, which helps athletes determine whether they should start such an organization. "These things are all over the place in terms of quality. Players should think long and hard before diving in, just because a mega-agency says you need a foundation.
Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation, on the other hand, is a slick and efficient charitable machine.
Turn 2 handed out more than $1 million in 2005 to a focused target group of after-school and recreational baseball programs. It is a family affair supervised in part by Jeter's parents, who receive no money and worked with Johnson's Sports Philanthropy Project. Among those donating to the foundation in 2005 were Jeter himself, who gave $253,738; Nike, which contributed $107,000; Steiner Sports Memorabilia of New Rochelle, which donated $250,000; and Jason Giambi, who kicked in $30,000. So legit is this operation that the foundation's website is hosted by mlb.com.
ARod's "The ARod Foundation" is small, with assets of only $28,997 in 2005. Rodriguez contributed $41,170 in aggregate contributions, from his salary that year of $26 million. Based on these numbers, the foundation would appear to be little more than a public relations creation. While the ARod Foundation seems to perform like its namesake's playoff history, it should be noted that ARod himself is no slouch. In 2003 he donated $3.9 million to his alma mater, the University of Miami.
Bernie's Foundation never really got off the ground, and in 2005 listed assets of just $101. Sounds like the decline in his batting average that year...
The Roger Clemens Foundation was started in 1992. The organization was founded in "support of educational and athletic organizations for children." But in 2004, by far its largest grant of $95,108 went to an "underprivileged father and child who received a kidney transplant with state aid."
All in all, this is just a sample of athletes and their charitable activities. Much more time and writing could be devoted to the subject. However, it's clear that like everyone else, athletes run the gammut in terms of just how much they're giving. And remember, they're just like us - they have other financial considerations going on...they could have seven kids out of wedlock to support...