Friday, October 12, 2012

Sporting KC is demonstrating its leadership off the field

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 9:43 AM

This names a keeper.
  • Livestrong Blog
  • This name's a keeper.
A sports franchise that has been a model of professional success continues to have to answer for the personal transgressions of one of its marketing partners. Sporting KC chief executive Robb Heineman again reasserted that the club will keep the name Livestrong Sporting Park in the wake of a report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that claims cyclist Lance Armstrong ran "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

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.

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