Olympic Hero Dipping Into Her Charity For Cash?

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is an Olympic champion, perhaps the greatest female athlete of her generation and a role model to millions. But as the BELLEVILLE (IL) NEWS-DEMOCRAT reports, she might also add another title: Charity Thief. Because the paper says her Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation has paid at least $457,000 in “consulting fees” to her husband, track coach Bob Kersee, since 2003.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee and her foundation

So what has he done for the money? Kersee says that it was “used properly,” which is interesting since the foundation - which runs a youth center for poor kids in East St. Louis - has been struggling financially. And the center has had trouble paying its bills, racking up a debt of more than $2.5 million and cutting back staff & services.

To add a little more fuel to the fire, tax forms also listed Kersee as president of the foundation in 2001, drawing in a salary of $47,154. And how much time and effort did he put in for his salary? According to filings, about two hours a week. To do that math, that’s more than $450 an hour. And they say charity work doesn’t pay!

In addition, there are all sorts of financial improprieties involving the foundation, enough that a spokesperson for the charity financial tracking site Charity Navigator said that it “doesn’t pass the smell test.” The foundation’s financial problems seem to mirror the Kersees’ personal money issues: the family’s home had a lien placed on it in 2006 by the IRS for owing more than $425,000 in back taxes, and Kersee has a warrant in Jefferson City, Missouri, for passing a bad check to pay for state income taxes.

Of course, there could be very logical explanations for all of this, but it sure doesn’t look good, and it raises a disturbing question: If one of America’s more respected and beloved track idols is skirting or breaking the rules with her charity foundation, what’s to say she didn’t do the same in her athletic career? Do we need to start asking if there was more than asthma medicine in those Primatene Mist inhalers she was always hawking on TV?

Honestly, if it turns out that Billy Mills was hopped up on uppers when he won the 10,000 meters in Tokyo, then I’m never watching track and field again.