The NFL's latest challenge with transparency is nothing new, particularly when it comes to women and women's causes. I have fought for full disclosure from the NFL and its charitable activities for several years, most specifically from its Crucial Catch program they claim supports breast cancer organizations.
On October 8, 2013, I requested copies of the NFL's 990s with attachments -- the federal documents that outline how much money is raised from charitable campaigns, how much is spent in administration, and how much is distributed to other non-profits. When the NFL did not comply as required by law, I filed a formal complaint with the Department of Revenue and a subsequent complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Affairs, expressing my concern.
To date, the NFL has failed to produce the documents and neither complaint to the Department of Revenue or the Federal Trade Commission have been resolved. These groups may have not found the time to investigate my concerns, but that does not mean my work for transparency has stopped.
This is the eighth anniversary of the NFL's Crucial Catch breast cancer awareness program. As a former NFL cheerleader and breast cancer survivor, I was originally grateful for the interest the league took in raising awareness to breast cancer. This, the same disease that once kept me off the field for fear the public interest and attention that would be drawn to my condition. It was an evolution of acceptance that I had never experienced going through surgeries and treatment while I trying to maintain my spot on the team. However, the league has crossed the line and I cannot support a national pandemic of greed that profits from the hopes of those directly impacted by the disease. It deeply saddens me to consider the hundreds of thousands of women across America who could benefit from the dollars raised through the sale of pink merchandise and public auction of pink equipment worn by the players -- all money that is untraceable and hidden from the general public. A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 2 minutes while every 13 minutes a woman will lose her fight. Explain to me again how the NFL can excuse their lack of transparency?
I'm not interested in walking 60 miles to "raise awareness," but I am not afraid to take the march up to the top of Capitol Hill to seek restitution from the NFL for all the breast cancer survivors, patients and consumers who have purchased NFL pink merchandise.
The NFL may be a $9 billion bully, but they should not be allowed to buy their way out of violating federal tax code as a tax-exempt organization. They had 30 days to respond to my request for full disclosure. They are now delinquent 315 days!
My Federal Trade Commission complaint includes the following:
In October of 2010, after witnessing a sea of pink overshadow the football game in play, I became very curious to understand exactly how much the National Football League contributed to breast cancer foundations and charities. It appears there may be significant profit being made by a league that is intentionally manipulating the emotion-filled stadium of survivors, their families and their friends in the name of corporate greed.
Deceptive advertising refers to the use of confusing or untrue statements by advertisers in an attempt to mislead the consumer. It is also known as false advertising. In this complaint, I will refer to the newest offender in consumer deception as "cause-related marketing campaigns." This marketing technique lures the consumer into making an emotional purchase with the promise that a charitable contribution will be made as a result of their investment. Terms like "net proceeds" and "a portion of the proceeds" are often used to disguise the truth of the vendor's actions. Corporations are free to use such benign language without consequence. By definition, this is confusing, misleading and a clear violation of consumer rights.
Truth in labeling is a concept in advertising and consumer law that mandates that all-important consumer information be printed on the label of a product. Cause-related marketing campaigns should not be exempt from this requirement.
If you are as concerned as I am as to what money is raised or how it is distributed, take a stand, and ask for answers. It is as easy as completing IRS Form 4506-A and sending a copy via certified mail to the National Football League, EIN # 13-1922622, 208 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10154.
This call-to-action is to protect consumers and fellow survivors from being exploited. We must stand against deceitful marketing and advertising campaigns that profit from this horrific disease.