Sporting Kansas City Is Right to Terminate Agreement with Livestrong Foundation

Alan Hainkel@@fntncitysoccerContributor IJanuary 16, 2013

KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 8:  A double rainbow forms over a security guard before a game between the Seattle Sounders FC and Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park on August 8, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

I was wrong.

Back in August, I wrote a piece about Lance Armstrong and Sporting KC and said, at the time, Armstrong's troubles didn't affect the club. Boy, was I wrong.

On Tuesday, both the Livestrong Foundation and Sporting Kansas City moved to terminate the naming rights deal announced on March 8, 2011, but their stated reasons were different.

According to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, the foundation claims Sporting KC still owes them $750,000 of the $1 million it was set to donate in 2012 under the terms of the agreement.

Livestrong CFO Greg Lee says the team wasn't living up to its end of the deal:

While we don't talk about the specifics related to any of our partners, part of my role as the chief financial officer is to ensure compliance by our corporate partners. We strive to be great partners ourselves and expect the same from those we do business with. If a partner is struggling to meet the terms of our agreement, we do everything possible to reach a fair and reasonable compromise. If no compromise can be reached, as good stewards or our brand and mission, we have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end.

In a statement released online, Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said the team had been persevering the persistent questions from the fans and the media:

Throughout this entire period, we have staunchly defended the Livestrong mission and never wavered in our continuing support of the cause. Our plan was that through collaborative support from Livestrong, we would not just meet our stated donation goal, but exceed it by a wide margin. We were excited about the potential to engage with other foundation partners and bring new special events to Kansas City.

Heineman went on to say that over the past year, it had become clear to the team that Livestrong just wasn't that into it, despite everything that the team had done to defend the partnership.

Not being unrealistic, Heineman said they realized that this could be a rough time for the foundation. "Despite the distractions, leadership from Livestrong and Sporting Club were actively engaged in discussions to redefine expectations for both parties," Heineman said. "Based on assurances from key Livestrong leadership, we believed this ongoing dialogue was very positive."

Heineman said that things came to a head this morning when Livestrong started "using aggressive tactics" to force the club to agree to an arrangement that was a lot more lopsided than the club would like.

Its "faith and trust" with the Livestrong Foundation damaged beyond repair, Heineman said that the team was terminating the deal, effective immediately. The stadium will now be referred to as Sporting Park.

One of the reasons the team had partnered with Livestrong in the first place, several people with the team had friends or relatives who had fought their own battles with cancer. Heineman ended the statement by saying, "While we are ending this relationship, our support of the fight against cancer will endure. We look forward to introducing new initiatives to assist these efforts in Kansas City."

My Take

I wanted to believe Armstrong was telling the truth, that he was clean. As Robin Williams said in his 2002 live show on Broadway, when referring to the French accusing his friend of being on drugs, "It's chemotherapy, you (expletive)."

I also have two friends who've died from breast cancer. Even shaved my head for one of them. Liked it so much that I kept it like that for four years.

Now, though, I've opened my eyes and seen what Armstrong really is. He's an arrogant liar, someone so obsessed with protecting his "brand" that he would do and say anything to keep a hold of it.

The ripples just keep spreading. I saw on the crawl on the bottom of the screen on ESPN that if the International Cycling Union, who always insisted that Armstrong hadn't ever failed a drug test, is found to have covered up suspicious samples from Armstrong, cycling could get kicked out of the Olympics.

The number of people who've been adversely affected by Armstrong's actions continues to grow. I feel sorry for them.

As for the dispute between Livestrong and Sporting KC, I will side with the team. It has nothing to do with the fact that I've been a fan of the club since its inception in 1996.

It has everything to do with the fact that, like a lot of fans, I'm acquainted with Heineman. He's a stand-up guy. I'll believe anything he says before I'll believe what Livestrong has to say.

How angry am I with Livestrong? I'm considering cutting the yellow bracelet off of my wrist. My mom said I should wait and hear what Armstrong has to say in his interview with Oprah Winfrey.

I don't know there's anything he can say to change my mind. As far as I'm concerned, he needs to be relegated to the dustbin of history and forgotten. I can think of no better punishment for that egomaniac than to have people say, "Lance who?"


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