Russell Wilson is struggling as a quarterback, but he’s absolutely rolling when it comes to scamming donors to his charity. A ranging report from USA Today published on Wednesday outlined that Wilson’s “Why Not You? Foundation” had only donated approximately 40 percent of its earnings to charity, with the rest going to fundraising and employee salaries.
In total Russ’ foundation received $7.5M in revenue in through 2021, but only reported $2.8M being passed on to any charitable activities. In the expenses of the foundation includes a six-figure salary for a personal friend of Russell and Ciara Wilson, who is an employee of the foundation — but digging deeper goes further than that.
The website for “Why Not You?” doesn’t list any employees or a CEO, but does show its board of directors. This is a veritable who’s-who of nepotism. Not a single member of the charity’s board has a non-profit background, but rather they all share personal connections to Russ and Ciara. The total list includes:
- Russell Wilson
- Ciara Wilson
- Sheryl Willert (Russ’ long-time personal lawyer)
- Larry Estrada, VP at Goldman Sachs (personal friend of Russ)
- Mark Rodgers (Russ’ agent and close friend)
- Harry Wilson (Russ’ brother)
- Jessica Abramson Lott (Russ’ PR manager)
- Charly Martin (former Seahawks receiver who played with Russ)
- Scott Pickett (Russ’ close friend)
It’s not uncommon for celebrity charities to have board members with personal ties to the founders, but it’s atypical not to have anyone running the show with a traditional charity background. Furthermore, Wilson’s charity raises specific questions because it was used as a key reason Wilson won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2020, with Roger Goodell saying:
“Russell Wilson has always prioritized serving his community, but this year, he met the challenge and more when it was needed most,” said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. “He has shown continued excellence on the field for nine seasons, but the work he has done to help youth and fight food insecurity through his Why Not You Foundation bolsters his lasting legacy. Russell is extremely deserving of this award and I know he will use this as an additional springboard to continue to positively impact others.”
Essentially the basis of winning Russ the award, and the justification by the NFL was the work Wilson did with his charity — which we now know went more towards benefitting his family and friends than the needy children it purports to help.
On Wednesday night the “Why Not You? Foundation” posted a lengthy response to the USA Today story, which said in part:
“While the foundation raises funds and provides grants and gifts, our partnerships have allowed for more direct delivery and impact. Our dynamic partnerships allow for Russell and Ciara to give their time, passion, and ideas and raise awareness for causes in intimate and hands-on settings and events.”
So basically, they didn’t refute anything in the report, but tried to suggest that because Russ and Ciara turn up at events for other charities, that’s where their true impact is. Cool.
Typically this wouldn’t be an issue the NFL should wade into, but between Brett Favre using his football fame to allegedly embezzle welfare funds from Mississippi, and the league essentially legitimizing Wilson’s dicey charity by awarding him Walter Payton Man of the Year, it raises serious questions about how much the league is doing to vet the charitable work players are doing, or whether they’re simply taking everything at face value.
Wilson needs to answer for why his charity, which has brought in millions, has not given more to the people it claims to be helping. This is a travesty.