It’s a shame that the mission of the Livestrong Foundation has been undermined by the turmoil engulfing its founder, but when your work is so closely tied to the celebrity of somebody like Lance Armstrong, that type of confluence is inevitable. And that’s why it’s probably best that the home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City no longer bares the organization’s name.
Since the facility opened in Kansas City two years ago, the home of MLS’s Eastern Conference champions has been known as Livestrong Sporting Park. Many had developed a shorthand of calling it merely “Livestrong,” but after the Major League Soccer franchise severed its ties with the organization on Monday, the stadium will now only go by Sporting Park.
Because of a he-said-she-said, it’s unclear why exactly that is. According to reports (with Darren Rovell first to document the news at ESPN), the disagreement stems from how much money the charity’s owed. That’s already a weird situation. Whereas most naming rights deals involve a company paying a team, Sporting Kansas City had agreed to send money the other way. Such as the value of the Livestrong brand, at one time.
Now Livestrong says the soccer franchise still owes them $750,000. Sporting not only denied this but sees it as reason to walk away from the partnership:
“We are disappointed to learn Livestrong is deploying tactics designed to force us into an unacceptable arrangement, after months of good faith discussions in which we believed progress had been made,” said Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman in a statement provided to ESPN.com. “We were not expecting the foundation to treat a partner in this manner, especially given the tumultuous environment they have thrust us into over the past year — while we staunchly defended the mission of the foundation. Our faith and trust in this partnership has been permanently damaged; therefore we are terminating our agreement with Livestrong immediately.”
As some around the league are depicting it, this sounds like a struggling organization trying to force a partner’s hand. Is it likely to work? No, but desperate times, and all that.
Here’s Livestrong’s view:
“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,” Livestrong CFO Greg Lee said. “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.”
Well, at least the sides can agree on one thing: It’s time to walk away.
It’s a shame that the Livestrong name has become so damaged. There’s only one person to blame for that. The more we hear about Lance Armstrong, the more we want him to go away, and unfortunately, those feelings extend to other facets of his celebrity (like Livestrong).
While they may do good work, Livestrong is not the only organization fighting cancer. They are, however, the only one whose fate is tied to someone who used philanthropy to help project an image build on a lie. Given that image was used to lure millions of dollars into the foundation, some might call that fraud.
If Sporting can get away from that without further detracting from the cause, it’s for the best.