Serious kudos to ESPN’s Outside the Lines for taking on the tough subject of misuse of personal charities by star athletes and other celebrities. LA Clippers forward Lamar Odom started a charity in 2004 called Cathy’s Kids, named after his mother who died from stomach cancer. The charity’s stated purpose was to further cancer research and to help underprivileged kids, but the only remarkable thing Odom’s charity has done is fund elite (non-underprivileged) youth basketball teams. Zero for cancer research and zero for underprivileged kids.
When ESPN confronted Odom about eight years of records that showed his charity was anything but, he replied, “It’s my money.” And, when confronted with the fact that two board members stated Cathy’s Kids had been dormant for four years, Lamar’s ineffectual response was, “I do things for people in my neighborhood.” It’s pretty clear Odom could care less that his charity is a sham and has hurt the image of the entire charity sector, the vast majority of which actually helps people in need. Khloe Kardashian bears some responsibility because she’s been freely lending her celebrity to push Odom’s sham charity.
Unfortunately, Lamar Odom is hardly unique. According to the ESPN report, done with the help of Charity Navigator (my favorite charity), 74% of 115 charities founded by top athletes fell short of basic standards for legitimate charities. ESPN has done a huge public service by reminding athletes like Odom that their charities will be scrutinized. The video is worth watching.