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.