Spanos clan saves its charity for Stockton

The National Football League, tax-paid stadiums, and the Scrooge test

Dean Spanos
  • Dean Spanos

Now that Chargers owner Dean Spanos is back making nice to San Diego after a yearlong excursion to the ethically challenged City of Carson in search of a billion-dollar-plus stadium deal, more than a few locals are wondering whether he'll be upping the team’s somewhat Scrooge-like contribution to charities here in advance of a putative stadium campaign.

Junior Charger Girls

Junior Charger Girls

As first reported here last June,  the team's Chargers Charities has been averaging about $300,000 in its yearly support of San Diego nonprofit causes, mostly for high school gym equipment, with its other attention focused on a program called Junior Charger Girls.

"Participants age seven to fifteen perform in front of 65,000+ Charger fans," says the charity's federal disclosure report for 2013, dated August 26, 2014.

"The program teaches the participants the importance of raising money for charitable organizations while also teaching teamwork as the girls learn the performance routine from the official Chargers Girls dance team."

A message on the charity's website from Dean Spanos says, "The main goal of our program is to provide students in San Diego with the necessary means to living a healthy lifestyle through physical fitness.” 

Another local cause that counts on the Chargers for yearly cash is the Alex Spanos All-Star Classic, an annual high school bowl that used to be held every summer but was moved last year to this January.

Artist's rendering of proposed Inglewood stadium

Artist's rendering of proposed Inglewood stadium

The game was held, as it turned out, just after Dean Spanos got word from the NFL bosses he wouldn't be heading to Carson and would have to make do with an option to go to Stan Kroenke's Inglewood sports palace for the Rams or try to obtain a hefty subsidy from San Diego taxpayers via the ballot box.

The Spanos All-Star Classic's IRS filing for 2014 says the nonprofit had total revenue of $50,067, with $33,601 in contributions and grants.

According to a January 2015 accounting in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the generosity of pro football team foundations varies widely, but isn't all that impressive compared to the billions of dollars the National Football League rakes in for its wealthy owners.

"In 2013, the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation gave $3.12 million in grants," reported the publication. "The Seattle Seahawks Charitable Foundation gave just over $160,000 in grants in the same time period."

The big-money charity for the Spanos clan remains in their hometown of Stockton, where their eighth annual Super Bowl ticket raffle in December of last year raised a record $507,000 for nonprofits there.

Dea Spanos Berberian

Dea Spanos Berberian

"Two weeks ago, we were short of an internal goal we set for the raffle," Dea Spanos Berberian, Dean's sister, who is believed to be one of the family's co-heir to the lucrative football franchise, told the Stockton Record.

"But everyone pulled together at the end and made a real push. We're very happy with how things turned out."

According to the account, "The Spanos family again donated the Super Bowl tickets and helped run the annual fundraiser along with the Community Foundation of San Joaquin."

Each of the six grand prizes included two tickets for the Super Bowl at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, plus $2000 cash, the paper reported.

Added the story, "In addition to the grand prizes, there were 10 cash prizes of $1,000, 10 more of $500 and numerous other raffle gifts including golf outings, tickets to professional sports, winery tours and more."

Said Spanos Berberian: "I remember when we started this eight years ago and were wondering if we could bring everyone together. In those eight years, we've raised over $3 million for the community."

(corrected 2/15, 6:15 p.m.)

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Junior Charger girls? For young girls to become mini-cheer-leaders? That is so pathetic.

There is so much here that I could write paragraphs. But the typos, such as "make due", just put me off for now.

That the Spanos gang takes care of its hometown, Stockton, is not a bad thing. But in reading how they do that makes me wonder. The family gets some Super Bowl tickets and donates them so that they can be auctioned off. In so doing, it provides a multiplier effect, and that is astute. But how much are those donated tickets really worth to the team? Do they have any real out-of-pocket cost, or they just an allocation of tickets given to each team? Questions, questions, indeed. It could be that Dea and Dean Spanos really don't give much to make it happen.

The bigger issue is how much they give back to San Diego. To listen to them, you would assume that they make little or no profit from the Chargers. But that's hogwash, with the ultra-sweet lease terms they have on the stadium. So, how about making some real contributions to worthy causes in San Diego County? If that Junior Chargers Girls program is the centerpiece of their efforts, that tells you more than you will ever want to know about their priorities. The team gets back in publicity and good vibes more than it costs. Folks, charity is supposed to be altruistic, something done for the benefit of others, and not for oneself.

As I read about the girls program, that old feeling of fact being stranger than fiction swept over me. If Mencken had written that stuff, we all would have thought it was biting satire. "The main goal of our program is to provide students in San Diego with the necessary means to living a healthy lifestyle through physical fitness.” Deano actually says that with a straight face?

Stockton needs it more. I live 85 miles east of Stockton and don't go there unarmed

I would agree. Stockton is impoverished and gang-ridden. As for local Junior Charger Girls, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez may have included them in the salaried ranks of Senior Charger Girls, and former school superintendent Alan Bersin was a big proponent of calling cheerleading a secondary school "sport."

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