Ditka begins distributing NFL ex-player fund's assets to charity

Updated: December 21, 2007, 2:54 AM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka made the first of two moves to dissolve his trust for needy retired players on Thursday by giving $300,000 to a Chicago-based charity.

Ditka announced last week he would dissolve his Hall of Fame Assistance Trust Fund in the wake of a published report the charity had given only a small amount of money to its intended recipients.

Ditka is an outspoken critic of the National Football League and its Players Association's treatment of older and indigent ex-players who suffer from health problems.

USA Today reported in early December that Ditka's fund had collected $1.3 million since forming in 2004, but netted only about $315,000 after expenses and distributed just $57,000 to former players.

Ditka disputed part of the report, saying the trust had actually given out $159,000. Nonetheless, he said he would dissolve the trust and divide its remaining funds between two established charities.

Ditka said he would continue to raise money to support aging players with financial and medical problems.

"By God, you can't turn your back on these guys," Ditka said. "They deserve to live out their life with a little bit of dignity. ... If what we're doing is wrong, and we have these critics in the media who say what we're doing is wrong, then I'm going to keep doing it for the rest of my life."

The gift announced Thursday was to Misericordia, a residential facility for developmentally disabled youth. Ditka said another $300,000 will go to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, which also helps former professional football players in need.

Ditka said he will also be involved in a golf tournament for Gridiron Greats during Super Bowl week.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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