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

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.