Sporting Park no longer Livestrong, and that’s probably for the best

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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).

MORE: Sporting wastes no time getting “Livestrong” off the building

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.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE