Marshawn Lynch charity spent little on claimed mission

Marshawn Lynch charity

Marshawn Lynch (via Wikipedia)

I don’t know about you, but it offends me greatly that the National Football League fined Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn (Beast Mode) Lynch $100,000 for not talking to the media. It’s clear he’s painfully shy as a speaker, perhaps going back to a tough upbringing in tough Oakland, Calif. To me, the NFL action is like punishing a paraplegic for not walking. There are plenty of people around Lynch in Seattle football more than willing to yak: smooth quarterback Russell Wilson, brash cornerback Richard Sherman, who has made millions in subsequent endorsements from a now-legendary 10-second rant after last year’s conference championship en route to the Super Bowl; and, of course, seemingly earnest coach Pete Carroll.

Still, to stop another fine, after yesterday’s impressive 19-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Lynch answered 22 questions from the media. Sort of. According to CBSSports.com, he used just 50 words to answer all of them, mostly nonresponsively. But more than half the words came in an almost random response to a question about whether he had heating pads in his cleats. “I got a foundation dinner at the Edgewater on Dec. 14, to help benefit the inner-city youth out in Oakland and try and raise money to build a youth center,” the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying.

Now that got my attention here at the New To Seattle world headquarters, which has seen its share of iffy charitable pitches. Lynch has a foundation, eh? How much of the money raised went to charitable good works?

Turns out, not very much. Less than a quarter. And that’s not the only eyebrow-raiser.

Lynch’s foundation is called the Fam 1st Family Foundation. According to its federal tax return for 2013, the foundation received $169,530 in contributions. It listed another $31,082 in investment returns and royalties, for total revenue of $200,612.

Of that sum, exactly $41,627 was spent in direct furtherance of the stated mission to “foster community relations, mentor youth athletes and assist financially disadvantaged families through football camps, holiday food and gift drives, and other community events.” Specifically, $17,894 went for the camps, $2,343 on holiday food and $21,390 on “family bowling events.”

For some reason, these sums were added together on the tax return and listed as “miscellaneous fundraising” but in direct furtherance of the charitable mission. To put it mildly, this is questionable accounting; fundraising can’t be a program expense. I’m going to assume a simple mistake was made in classification. The return showed no other expense for fundraising.

The tax return was not explicit as to location of the largesse. The foundation’s web site suggests the good deeds were performed in Lynch’s native Bay Area, where he created the charity with his cousin, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Josh Johnson. The tax return, though, lists as the foundation’s office the Wenatchee, Wash. office of its accountant. Meanwhile, Fam 1st Family’s Internet domain registration lists the Los Angeles office of money manager Westmount Asset Management.

The phone number listed on the Fam 1st Family website is in the same area code as Oakland. That’s where I left a message seeking comment. I will update this post if I hear anything.

Despite the upcoming fundraiser at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle, the foundation does not appear to be registered as a charity in Washington State, according to the Secretary of State website in Olympia. However, Fam 1st Family is registered as a charity in California, according to the Registry of Charitable Trusts in Sacramento.

If the foundation is banking money for some future construction project, that might explain the relatively low level of current spending on charitable causes. However, neither the return, which Lynch himself signed, nor the foundation’s founding documents mention anything about building a youth center, as Lynch did yesterday.

The return showed less than $10,000 spent in overhead (including $3,823 in unspecified travel). Lynch, who said on the return he spends five hours a week on the charity, drew no salary. So the foundation was as parsimonious as his words.

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