Feb 13, 2023 - News

Russell Wilson's foundation criticized over spending records

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson. Photo: Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson's charity is facing criticism after an investigative report from USA Today said his foundation is being less than charitable.

Why it matters: The report casts doubt on Wilson's squeaky-clean image in the NFL — a league that has faced its own scandals over the years — and adds to the Broncos' woes after a dismal year on the field.

  • Wilson's community work culminated in 2020, when he won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, given annually to players showing exemplary community and philanthropic work.

Driving the news: The report found Wilson's Why Not You Foundation (WNYF) spent more money on exorbitant employee salaries than charitable causes.

  • The foundation was created in 2014 to combat poverty through education, and claims on its website it has "partnered to deliver over $13,000,000" toward education and other causes.

By the numbers: Since its founding in 2014, the nonprofit has reported $7.5 million in revenue and $7 million in expenses, with just $2.8 million going to charitable activities.

  • In 2020 and 2021 combined, the foundation spent nearly $600,000 on charitable activities and $1.1 million — nearly twice as much — on salaries and employee benefits during the same time period.

Between the lines: CharityWatch, a watchdog nonprofit focusing on philanthropic organizations, lists its top-rated charities as those spending 75% or more of their budgets on charitable causes.

  • The investigation suggests only 24.3 cents of every dollar reported by Wilson's foundation in 2020 and 2021 were spent on charitable work.

What they're saying: “It is disheartening that a narrow account of our work has attempted to diminish the important impact the WNYF has made in the lives of so many youth and families,’’ its executive director Shayla Tait told 9NEWS.

  • Scott Pickett, WNYF's chief financial officer, said the nonprofit's model focuses on working with third parties to raise money for charitable causes.

Zoom in: Wilson joined the Denver Broncos last year after spending 10 seasons playing for the Seattle Seahawks, where he won a Super Bowl.


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