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Eugene Melnyk Addresses Organ Project Controversy

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The Sun issues a retraction under threat of litigation.

NHL Announces 2017 Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has addressed the recent criticism regarding his charity initiative, The Organ Project, and the Ottawa Sun has issued a correction and an apology.

In a statement released by the team, Melnyk slammed the Sun, and writer Rick Gibbons, for the “erroneous statements and inflammatory allegations levelled against him”, also threatening litigation. In a direct quote, he said:

“The unequivocal public apology by the Sun for the inaccuracies and mistakes it published will not undo the damage to my personal and professional reputation, my charitable work, the hockey club, and the stress on my family,” Melnyk said. “However, the apology is a necessary step to correct the falsehoods and to set the record straight.”

The team called the accusation that Melnyk diverted Sens Foundation funds to The Organ Project “patently false”, clarified that the Foundation’s rent was $78,750 in 2019 rather than the initially reported $100K, and that it was a charge mandated by federal law, also criticizing the Sens Foundation itself:

...the Foundation employs eight staff members with an average annual salary of $101,535. Two staff members receive salaries of between $120,000 and $160,000, two collect between $80,000 and $120,000, while four staff members received salaries between $40,000 and $80,000.

Contrary to the narrative put forward by Gibbons, the Foundation was not being hampered in its charitable giving because of Melnyk or the Senators. Rather, the Foundation’s own salary and wage expenses - over which neither the Senators or Melnyk had any say or control - had a far greater impact on its ability to deliver more money to charitable causes.

Melnyk also took issue with the accusation that The Organ Project only donated $5000 of the roughly $1million raised. Saying that it does not operate like the Sens Foundation, but focuses on raising awareness, rather than actively collecting donations:

The Organ Project raised funds for it to spend on promoting public awareness of organ donation and encouraging organ donation registration. The Organ Project’s operations and awareness efforts included, for example, hosting galas in 2017 and 2018 that had the twin purposes of raising money while also promoting organ donation awareness, creating and producing commercials to raise awareness, substantial in-game presence at Canadian Tire Centre, The Organ Project’s presence at multiple WE Days, and collaborating with other organizations to develop a program to promote organ donor awareness with employers and encourage them to introduce organ donor registration.

The $5,000 payment identified by Gibbons was a direct donation by The Organ Project to the Kidney Foundation. While this direct contribution was not something The Organ Project normally did, and was not part of its normal operations or mandate, for Gibbons to erroneously report that this was the only charitable work done by the organization is both patently false, immensely unfair, and ignores all the work done by The Organ Project to raise awareness of its cause.

The statement concluded with another personal note from Melnyk:

Melnyk remains disappointed and troubled by Gibbons’ failure to live up to basic journalistic standards. However, he remains hopeful the public acknowledgment of the mistakes and the correlating apology will set the record straight and clear up the misunderstandings they have caused.

This comes on the heels of the Ottawa Sun’s “Correction and Apology”, issued this morning.

The Sun addressed the mistakes pointed out by Melnyk, while also illustrating their intent not to make any allegations against him, or the Senators. The paper also apologized for any misunderstandings their original article may have caused.