The sad and stunning downfall of seven-time Tour de France-winning cyclist Lance Armstrong has little to do with the world of American soccer. A connection exists, though, and everyone who watched the United States men's national team defeat Guatemala on Tuesday night already knows it.
The U.S. won that match 3-1, and with the victory advanced to the final round of CONCACAF, qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. All was right with U.S. soccer that night, except for the location of the match.
Livestrong Sporting Park.
Now, I have no problem with Livestrong Sporting Park itself. Let me be clear on this point: Livestrong Sporting Park is a magnificent venue for soccer, and the noisy, intense atmosphere created in the stadium that night was perfect for a home qualifying match.
My problem has to do with that first word, Livestrong. That part of the stadium's name refers to the Livestrong Foundation, also known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping cancer survivors and their families through the recovery process.
It's a cause that's close to Armstrong's heart. Amstrong himself is a cancer survivor, and the Livestrong Foundation has produced almost immeasurable good through his work as its chairman.
It was the right thing to do, as was Nike's decision to end its endorsement deal with Armstrong this week. Now it's time for Sporting Kansas City to do the right thing and end its association with Livestrong.
Admittedly, that's unlikely to happen. Earlier this week club president Robb Heineman said the name would stay (per Reuters):
"It's really about helping those afflicted with cancer," said Heineman. …"We've got an agreement for another four years for it to be Livestrong Sporting Park. We don't stick our head in the sand ... but it doesn't change how we feel about the Foundation and the work they do."
Unfortunately, sticking their head in the sand is exactly what Heineman and Sporting are doing.
Yes, Armstrong did step down as Livestrong's chairman. And yes, Livestrong does great things for cancer survivors. But no, Sporting Kansas City should no longer be associated with Livestrong and Armstrong.
Sporting's decision to support the fight against cancer was and still is laudable. Partnering with Livestrong was worthwhile, and not only because the club pledged to give $7.5 million to the foundation over the next six years (via Yahoo! Sports).
Armstrong was an American sporting hero, and leaving aside the doping allegations, he remains a role model for his fightback from life-threatening testicular cancer. Fighting cancer is a worthwhile pursuit, and that's true even if the public face of Livestrong is an accused cheat.
But there are other ways to fight cancer. There are other organizations—the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure immediately come to mind—and they are all deserving of our time and money and the high profile generated by an association with a sports team.
If fighting cancer is the most important issue, why not switch to a new charity that's free of the stink of alleged cheating?
No man is bigger than the fight against cancer, and no matter how much good Armstrong has done, the alleged cheating taints it all.
It's true that the allegations are still only allegations, but the evidence is convincing and the damage done to cancer survivors is profound.
As long as the Livestrong name stays on the stadium, Sporting Kansas City will be associated with perhaps the worst cheating scandal in the history of American sports. And the worst part about all of this is that neither Sporting nor the cancer survivors affected by this story have done anything wrong.
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