Over the last few months, the media has become a target of criticism. The reasons for this are manifold – ranging from the rise of social media to a click-based economy under which outlets operate – but they have all led to the creation of the „fake news“-moniker to brand both reporting that is either factually untrue or too opinionated for one’s liking.
Enter the largest newspaper in New England, the Boston Globe. It launched a campaign titled "Facts Matter" to emphasize how important and critical correct reporting has become in the present day and age. And to its credit, the facts presented in the recently published article titled "Tom Brady gives much to Best Buddies, but has taken millions for his own charitable trust" are impressive.
The conclusions drawn based on the facts, on the other hand, will only add to the – justified or not – distrust many Americans have in the media. In summary those conclusions read like this: It is good that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has helped Best Buddies raise $46.5 million since 2001. However, it is bad that $3.25 million of those have been redistributed to other charitable causes Brady supports.
It all starts with Change the World. In 2005, after signing a six-year, $60.0 million contract with the Patriots, the future Hall of Famer launched the charitable trust. Brady initially supported it with a donation of $490,000 but according to tax returns has not made signifiant contributions since. Instead, Best Buddies has taken over the role of main contributor to Change the World.
Overall, the above-mentioned $3.25 million, at Brady’s request, have been transferred from one charity to another. While it is unusual from Best Buddies’ perspective, it is not unprecedented practice: A charity supported by actor Kevin Spacey also once received a grant by the non-profit. The principles are the same as with Change the World, as the money raised is redistributed to help another cause.
Between 2011 and 2015, Change the World has distributed money to more than 30 nonprofit organizations including Brady’s former high school and the University of Michigan, charities run by teammates, and a nursing home in Minnesota which cared for Brady’s grandfather before he passed away.
What all the charities supported through Change the World have in common is that they are closely tied to Brady, his past and his family. Is that, as mentioned by the interviewees in the Globe’s article, "sloppy" and "not pure altruism"? Fact is that Brady and Best Buddies have an agreement in place that increases the number of charities positively impacted by a quarterback that lacks time to attend to all of those he supports.
That does not mean that there are no negatives: 1) Does Brady really need Best Buddies’ money for his own charities?; 2) Why is Brady only the second celebrity to be paid by Best Buddies; 3) What if people donated money to Best Buddies and didn't want that to fund whatever Brady is donating towards? Without all the details of the business relationship between Brady and Best Buddies available, those questions will remain and lead to speculation.
But at the end of the day, Brady is still donating the money and not keeping it for himself. He is still impacting lives in a positive way, be it through Best Buddies or the other charities supported through it. Thus, it simply appears as if the Globe’s article wanted to find something – anything – on Brady but, since there is nothing illegal or reprehensible going on, tried to spin its own narrative based on the facts.
The following phrase by Daniel Borochoff, president of Chicago-based Charity Watch, encapsulates this. He was interviewed for the story and pointed out that "[Brady] could help Best Buddies to a much greater extent if he didn’t take their money." While true in theory, it leaves out another consequence of Brady’s agreement with Best Buddies: If he did not "take their money", which he helped raise, other charities and organizations would not receive it.
And even though the practice via which this happens may appear abnormal, it is legal and reminds a bit of when the Globe tried to connect a deal among Brady, his personal trainer Alex Guererro, and the Patriots to potentially circumventing the salary cap, despite statements by both the NFL and the NFL Players Association saying that the relationship was cleared and approved. Consequently, the story about Brady taking millions from a charity for the benefit of those close to him does not really hold water – at least based on the facts presented in the Globe’s article.
And, as the Boston Globe teaches us, facts do matter.