Livestrong, KC Sporting sever ties

The loss of trust – not money or a tarnished reputation – led
Sporting KC to sever ties with the cancer charity founded by Lance
Armstrong, according to a team official.

But Sporting KC chief executive Robb Heineman also said
Wednesday the ”tumultuous environment” that developed before the
cyclist admitted using performance enhancing drugs also played into
the Major League Soccer team’s decision to end the
relationship.

”The severance for us was about violating the trust of a
partnership. That’s what they did. Does Lance bleed over into that?
Certainly,” Heineman said. ”Whether anyone wants to say it or
not, he’s connected to the foundation. He’s why we have to always
answer questions around him. … It’s something you can’t get away
from.”

Sporting KC announced Tuesday the team was changing the name of
Livestrong Sporting Park to Sporting Park and ending its novel
arrangement with the charity that began in 2011.

Under the naming rights deal, Livestrong didn’t pay to have its
name on the $200 million soccer stadium in Kansas City, Kan.
Instead, the team promised to donate $7.5 million in stadium
revenues to Livestrong over six years.

Heineman said the decision came after ESPN reported that
Livestrong recently said Sporting still owed $750,000 of the $1
million promised to the foundation in 2012. Heineman said the team
doesn’t owe Livestrong any money, but he would not discuss the
contract.

”When they started to, for the lack of a better term, start to
drag us through the mud a little bit in public around the
relationship, that’s just nothing we have an interest in,”
Heineman said. ”I would call it inaccurate, unfair and a breach of
confidentiality. I think that’s at the core of any of this.”

But he said it’s difficult to parse how much the loss of trust
in Livestrong because of the contract discussion in the media and
Armstrong’s doping admission played into the end the
partnership.

”It’s a hard thing to say because one is so connected to the
other,” he said. ”If this would just have been about Lance and
his reputation would we have made the same decision at some point?
Potentially. Potentially.

”Because what this has begun to do over time as I mentioned to
you is erode the focus of what we and the partnership were all
about,” he said. ”It wasn’t about answering questions about what
Lance did or didn’t do.”

Heineman said Sporting and Livestrong had discussions for
several months about their partnership but would not go into detail
about those discussions.

”I think as the tension and as the tumultuous environment
continued to kind of surround Livestrong, we kept working with them
around how can we modify things,” Heineman said. ”I think that
what we saw was the brand was evolving …. And for us the vision
of Livestrong always was it was going to be much bigger than one
person.”

Armstrong resigned from the board of directors for Livestrong in
November after a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused the
cyclist of helping run ”the most sophisticated, professionalized
and successful doping program that sport has ever seen” within his
U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.

Armstrong had persistently denied doping until this week when he
admitted to Oprah Winfrey he used performance-enhancing drugs
during his cycling career, which included seven straight Tour de
France victories. The first installment of the two-part interview
airs Thursday night.

Greg Lee, chief financial officer for Livestrong, said in an
emailed statement that it was the charity that terminated the
agreement with Sporting KC, and the foundation doesn’t discuss
specifics about arrangements with its partners. He said his role is
”to ensure compliance by our corporate partners.”

”If a partner doesn’t live up to the terms of our agreement, we
have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end,” he
said.

Foundation spokeswoman Katherine McLane also said while
Livestrong ”did not receive a significant portion of the revenues
it was promised, it still invested nearly $40,000 in programs to
serve people affected by cancer,” at several Kansas City area
institutions. McLane also said in an email that Livestrong will
continue to invest such programs in the Kansas City area.

Sporting Park is scheduled to host the MLS All-Star game on July
31.