Odom cancer charity found donating to AAU basketball teams, not cancer victims
Recently, many athlete charities have come under investigation in order to determine how much money they are actually contributing to the charities or people in need they claim to help, and the results of those investigations are disheartening. A recent Boston Globe review of Josh Beckett‘s annual “Beckett Bowl” event showed only 37 percent of his profits went toward the intended beneficiary, Children’s Hospital Boston. Other IRS documents revealed Alex Rodriguez‘s charity gave only 1 percent of its earnings to charity.
Researchers are also looking into where the money is going if it’s not benefiting the people the charity claims to target. That’s where Lamar Odom‘s charity comes into the picture. A large-scale investigation by “Outside the Lines”, an ESPN TV series, looked into 115 charities founded by high-caliber, well-known male and female athletes. Using charity guidelines set by watchdog agencies Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the investigation revealed that in the eight-year history of Odom’s cancer charity, Cathy’s Kids, not one dime of grant money went to any cancer organization.
Instead, the charity has existed primarily to finance two AAU youth basketball teams, as tax records show $1.3 million of the $2.2 million raised in total over the organization’s eight-year existence has gone to the two teams.
At least Odom is not pocketing the money — after all, in addition to his basketball salary, wife Khloe Kardashian‘s income as a socialite should be plenty to keep the couple financially set for life — but how many people have given their money to Odom’s charity thinking they are donating to cancer organizations when they are actually funding youth basketball teams?
If the IRS deems a charity is spending money on activities inconsistent with its state mission, the charity could be prosecuted for a violation of tax law. According to the “Outside the Lines” report, Odom’s business manager and charity treasurer Lester Knispel said in January that the charity cleared an IRS audit but did not provide any details requested by “Outside the Lines”, such as the audit or copies of the correspondence with the IRS even though IRS forms are public record.
Odom was also reluctant to address any issues related to his charity. Nobody from Cathy’s Kids would agree to an interview with “Outside the Lines”, so reporters approached Odom in the locker room after a game to ask him about the charity. He reportedly became visibly angry and ended the conversation.
Over a month later, when Odom’s agent arranged a sit-down interview, Odom refused to answer questions and simply used the time to apologize for his behavior in the locker room without providing more information or an explanation. All Odom was willing to say was, “It’s my money.”
Technically, Odom is wrong. Any money donated to a charity is not his money; rather, it becomes a public entity. But while IRS codes exist to prevent charities from acting in the way Cathy’s Kids (and many other athlete charities) apparently work, the IRS can only investigate a very narrow range of what it holds charities accountable for, thus making it difficult for the IRS to effectively prosecute misleading and dysfunctional charities. This inability created the need for watchdog organizations like those involved in the “Outside the Lines” investigation, but watchdog organizations cannot enforce laws; they simply raise awareness of concerning violations.
Who knows what the future holds in store for Cathy’s Kids. According to Odom and his business partners, the charity is basically defunct at the moment anyway, despite continued solicitations for donations on both Odom and Kardashian’s websites.
Still, we can’t imagine that Odom’s mother, who was the inspiration for the name of the charity after she battled and passed away from breast cancer, would be happy with the claims emerging about a charity named in her honor.