Report: Tax-Exempt U.S.T.A.'s Financials Are Shady As Shit

The New York Times attempts to untangle the mess of finances surrounding the United States Tennis Association and its executives, and what they found is ugly. The Times can't just come out and say it, but the inescapable conclusion is that maybe the U.S. wouldn't suck so much at tennis if the U.S.T.A. wasn't diverting millions in untaxed revenues to its board members and their companies.

Some very good reporting here from Mary Pilon and Andrew W. Lehren, especially because—and this might be the key part—the U.S.T.A. hasn't properly disclosed its relationships and payments in its filings. (The U.S.T.A. is a 501(c)6 nonprofit, which means it is exempt from paying most federal taxes.)

Among the conflicts of interest the Times uncovered:

 The Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., received more than $840,000 from the U.S.T.A.'s charitable wings over the last three years. Ray Benton, a U.S.T.A. board member, is the chief executive of the center

John Korff, who owned the New York City Triathlon, sat on a U.S.T.A. board that approved a $50,000 grant to Life Time Fitness, a health club chain. Months later, Life Time bought Korff's company for an undisclosed sum. 

Katrina Adams, the first vice president of the U.S.T.A. board, is also the executive director of the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program. That group has received at least $217,550 from the U.S.T.A. and its charitable operations since Adams joined the U.S.T.A. board.

In 2012, the U.S.T.A. paid more than $2.8 million to Tennis Media Company in exchange for them sending issues of Tennis magazine to every U.S.T.A. member. The publisher of Tennis Media is Jeff Williams, who sits on the U.S.T.A. board.

When confronted with all of this messiness, the response from a U.S.T.A. spokesperson was essentially that conflicts of interest are unavoidable in such an incestuous little world.

"You'd be kind of hard pressed to find someone with that kind of tennis expertise that might not have interacted with the U.S.T.A. at some point," Widmaier said.

That should not make you feel better about the ultimate fate of the hundreds of millions in revenue the U.S.T.A. is going to pull in during the U.S. Open, which begins on Monday.

Tennis Association Funds Go to Board Member Projects [NY Times]