Was Martin's candidacy properly vetted?
George Martin’s candidacy to head the NFL Alumni Association was built on his reputation as a respected former NFL player with a history of charity work.
His business leadership, however, was an untested quantity, an issue that came to light in a background check before he was hired in October 2009.
“George Martin represents a highly credible former NFL player who understands the issues that retired players are facing,” according to a candidacy report obtained by FOXSports.com. “He would unquestionably represent the NFL players in a positive manner.
“The key question regarding George’s candidacy relates to whether or not he can build a business of scale from the ground up.”
As Martin’s tenure stretches into a third year, the NFLAA’s financial outlook continues to worsen. The former New York Giants standout also has apparently enriched those around him with some of his executive decisions and potential violations of NFLAA conflict-of-interest policies, a FOXSports.com investigation has found.
Last August, the NFLAA helped sponsor a golf tournament for Journey for 9/11, a charity Martin helped launch that has raised millions of dollars on behalf of ailing workers at Ground Zero. The tournament was among several events produced by Events to Remember by M LLC — a company owned by Martin’s wife, Diane, and daughter-in-law Michelle. Events to Remember by M LLC counts the NFLAA as a client on its website.
Minority Athletes Networking (MAN), a charity Martin cofounded but currently run by his son, Aaron, also might have benefited from Martin’s NFLAA position.
According to an internal distribution list acquired by FOXSports.com, MAN received four complementary tickets to Super Bowl XLIV from the NFLAA’s annual allotment. The NFLAA typically auctions the tickets or sells them to sponsors to raise funds.
The face value for the cheapest Super Bowl XLIV ticket in the NFLAA’s allotment of 150 was $600, but charity bids for the seats are usually far greater.
All NFLAA board members and officers are annually required to sign a document agreeing that they will “avoid placing self-interest or the interests of a third party above the interests of the NFLAA, and avoid the appearance of placing self-interest or the interests of a third party above the interests of the NFLAA.”
Martin declined to be interviewed by telephone or in-person by FOXSports.com. He did answer questions via email.
“The NFLA’s policy is to solicit and review bids prior to entering a contract with a vendor,” Martin wrote. “This process was followed for each of the NFLA contracts you describe in your email. In none of these instances was an NFLA contract awarded because of a personal relationship with the vendor.
“Events to Remember submitted the most cost-effective bid to provide on-site event management services in connection with three NFLA events in 2010 and 2011 — including decor, food, beverages, setup and clean-up/take-down. Events to Remember also agreed to provide a number of services on a pro bono basis. ETR received less than $5,000 in total compensation for its work.”
The NFLA is an acronym for NFL Alumni, the original name of the charity side of the group. The NFLA and NFLAA — the latter serves as an advocate for benefits and health care for retired NFL players — are both overseen by Martin.
MAN, which provides scholarship and educational resources to disadvantaged youth, was the only charity not affiliated with the NFLAA to receive gratis Super Bowl seats. MAN has not responded to inquiries about what came of those tickets, but Martin said the seats were auctioned.
“I can assure you that MAN was but one of 20 charities that benefited from ticket raffle or auction fund-raisers,” Martin wrote to FOXSports.com. “Further, I can assure you that the MAN raffle winner is not related to any staff member, officer, or director of either NFLA or MAN.”
The NFLAA has acknowledged donating four Super Bowl XLV tickets to a New York Police Department Sergeants Benevolent Association raffle with proceeds split between the two groups. Martin had previous ties with the NYPDSBA from his Journey for 9/11 fund-raising efforts. The NYPDSBA published Journey for 9/11 donation information in its May 2010 newsletter.
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Kari Martin, the NFLAA’s managing director (but no relation to George), also had business dealings with those close to her. Her father, Walter, owns a custom metal shop in Little Ferry, NJ, which was chosen by the NFLAA to create plaques for former players who opted to become lifetime members.
According to one source, the plaques cost $800 apiece. A large logo plaque, also made by Altona Custom Metal Works, hangs inside the NFLAA’s Newark, NJ, headquarters and cost about $6,000. In total, the source said, Altona has billed the NFLAA nearly $75,000.
“Altona Custom Metal Works submitted the most cost-effective bid to produce metal shields bearing the NFLA shield,” George Martin wrote. “The metal shields are used in conjunction with the association’s lifetime membership program, which has created revenues in excess of $100,000 over the past year. The metal shields are also presented to Hall of Fame enshrinees. Altona was the only bidder that was able to produce the shield in a manner consistent with the design of the logo.”
Kari Martin has one other tie-in and potential conflict of interest: She is a former employee of Rothstein Kass, which serves as the NFLAA's accounting firm and oversees the fund used by the group’s individual chapters.
George Martin wrote that Rothstein Kass was chosen over four other firms because of a favorable billing arrangement and work with other non-profit clients.
Kari Martin didn’t respond to a FOXSports.com request for comment.