Heineman, who is speaking at the Leaders in Football conference in London, told Reuters Thursday that the stadium naming-rights deal has four more years, and the soccer franchise intends to honor that agreement because Livestrong is about cancer survivors, not just Armstrong.
In many ways, this is the argument that ESPN columnist Rick Reilly put forth last month in a stirring piece: whether Armstrong cheated in cycling isn't relevant when judging the work he has done with cancer patients and survivors.
When a scandal arises, the easy choice is to distance oneself either by avoiding comment or by joining the chorus of the critics. The hard thing is to take a step back and remember your original commitment. Sporting KC inverted the formula on the standard naming-rights deal in 2011. Instead of using corporate money to help pay for the new stadium, they signed a six-year contract that committed at least $7.5 million to the Livestrong Foundation. The goodwill that the deal engendered then shouldn't change as a result of the investigation into a cyclist now.
Sporting KC's commitment to something that is bigger than Armstrong is the right one. It's a refreshing display of conviction in a town that's desperate for strong leadership from its sports franchises. If Heineman keeps being asked about a name change, perhaps he can borrow a few former Democratic National Convention delegates and have them march in front of the stadium repeating a simple chant: Four More Years. Four More Years. Four More Years.