Why does it seem like every athlete has their own charity? (We swear this isn’t just about the Bears!) | WBEZ
Skip to main content


Why does it seem like every athlete has their own charity? (We swear this isn't just about the Bears!)

We’re starting a new section for the WBEZ blog, the Daybook Obscura. Every day, media outlets who use content from the Associated Press receive the Daybook. This is a planning tool to help manage coverage of events, and contacts in the day book are often looking to garner attention. Not all of the items in the daybook will even get mentioned in the media. We’re making it our goal to bring you the oddest daybook entries we can find, and expanding them beyond their single sentence blurbs.

Last week Monday I noticed that Chicago Bear Charles Tillman was hosting a “celebrity steak-out” at Texas de Brazil. The event was a benefit for the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, an organization which tries to “improve the lives of critically and chronically ill children.”

After figuring out exactly what a celebrity steak-out was, I set out to find out why athletes in general, and not just Charles Tillman, set up these charities. Is it to create jobs for their entourage of family and friends? To boost their image? Or is every single one of them doing it out of the kindness of their hearts?

I initially had difficulty finding non-profit tax records for the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation. In my attempts to contact Tillman’s foundation, I discovered that a few athlete-sponsored charitable foundations are managed by a company known as Prolanthropy, a for-profit organization. Are these actually charities?

I spoke to the founder and CEO of Prolanthropy, Jeff Ginn. He did his best to explain the purpose of the company:

Having a for-profit do charitable work might seem odd, but Eldon Hamm, a sports law analyst who consults in and around Chicago, had something to say about it.

Hamm also pointed out that when he was actively working as an athletic lawyer, it was common for lawyers and agents to handle the paperwork of charity work for their clients. And they still do.

Having been involved in some of these charitable foundations, Hamm listed off some of the reasons athletes establish these besides good charity:

Even though Prolanthropy is a for-profit, Ginn claims that he’s not out to bolster anyone’s image.

Hamm pointed out that athletes like Magic Johnson are evidence that some athletes have their hearts in the right place, but some of them might not be as altruistic as you think.

Take from all of this what you will, and have a look at what some of the rest of the Bears roster does to supposedly make our world a better place (along with their respective salary caps).

The Rundown of Chicago Bears Charities

The Jay Cutler Foundation- Established by Jay Cutler ( $11,435,000), the foundation “is dedicated to improving the quality of life for underprivileged children and those suffering from diabetes.  It is our belief that we are investing in their future as well as the future of the community itself.”

The Tommie Harris Foundation- "The Tommie Harris ($9,080,000) Foundation is a registered 501C3 non profit organization dedicated to raising funds for the purpose of inspiring hope, enriching kids’ lives and building a better future for our children. The Foundation supports many programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Prevent Child Abuse America, Feed the Children and many youth enrichment programs.”

Briggs 4 Kids- Lance Briggs ($6,767,000) “Briggs 4 Kids was established within the Athletes for Causes Foundation, whose goal is to raise awareness and funds to help those in our community.”

LAMAS- The Lovie ($5.5 million) and Mary Anne Smith foundation’s purpose is “to provide educational and life skill opportunities to worthy young people who otherwise face barriers in reaching their educational goals.

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation- Charles Tillman ($4,820,000 salary cap). The foundation dedicates itself to “improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children throughout Greater Chicago by providing daily support and life changing experiences. Since 2005, Charles Tillman’s cornerstone Foundation has impacted the lives of nearly 20,000 Chicago-area children.

The Israel Idonije Foundation- The Israel Idonije ($3,600,000) Foundation “exists to extend positive, life-changing opportunities to families and individuals in economically disadvantaged communities on a global scale.  We promote the pursuit of education and knowledge, while providing programs for our youth and community members in hopes that they may actualize and maximize their full potential.”

The Golden Touch Foundation- “Established by Chicago Bears placekicker Robbie Gould ($2,900,000), that is dedicated to supporting research funding and providing financial support to the more than 10 million Americans and families affected by Essential Tremor. “

88 Wayz Youth Foundation, Inc.-  Established by Desmond Clark ($2,142,000), it “is a not-for-profit agency that works directly with young boys and girls from the third grade until graduating high school.  The foundation provides an evidenced-based mentoring program called TALKS, as well as after-school academic tutoring and development.”

Rashied Davis Charities – “The mission of Rashied Davis ($1,582,000) Charities is to teach students how to overcome obstacles to success through inspiration, preparation and discipline.”

The Adrian Peterson Foundation -Adrian Peterson ($1,078,333 ) and his wife, Angela, “started the Adrian Peterson Foundation at the Institute for Science and Health.  The Foundation is dedicated to impacting the lives of youth by focusing on programming in the areas of education, speech and language disorders, and Christian values.”

The Jason McKie Foundation- Jason McKie ($995,000) “In 2008, Jason launched the Jason McKie Foundation of the Institute for Science and Health which strives to make an impact in the lives of families of soldiers. The Foundation provides educational scholarships to children and spouses affected by a loss or severely injured parent or spouse. Through the Foundation, Jason also looks to host various activities with military families to give back to those who give so much to our country.”

Receptions for Research –The Greg Olsen ($610,000) Foundation “believes everyone deserves a second chance at life and it is our goal to provide our hospitals, doctors, and researchers the necessary resources to save those affected with debilitating diseases.”

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.