We all probably saw this coming in one way or another after all the news this week regarding Lance Armstrong and his apparent confession to Oprah in regards to doping. I'm not sure that we expected the ending of the relationship to end quite like this. Tonight, Darren Rovell broke the news on ESPN that Sporting and Livestrong had severed their relationship with both sides laying the blame on the other.
Things got messy really quickly between the two as just last week, Robb Heineman said that they were still reviewing the situation. And then tonight the shit hit the fan. First with the article from Rovell that stated Livestrong was the one that was ending the deal, telling the team this week that they had not paid the $1 million that was owed to the foundation, stating that Sporting had only paid $250,000 of it. Sporting has refuted this claim. One would assume if money is owed, then we can probably expect some sort of legal action to take place between the two.
Sporting fired back in the same ESPN article with Heineman stating that the Livestrong Foundation forced Sporting into an "unacceptable arrangement" and that due to the faith and trust in the partnership had been damaged, Sporting was ending the partnership.
Heineman elaborated on the comments in the ESPN article in a statement on Sporting's website. Heineman explained how since the announcement off the name of the stadium, the organization has taken a bit of a beating publicly over getting into a relationship with the Livestrong organization considering the problems it was facing with it's founder, Armstrong. He also discussed how Livestrong's "spirit" for the partnership had changed and wasn't the same as Sporting. It's certainly easy to argue that Sporting had done more to push the Livestrong brand than the other way around. The statement is fairly well crafted and and makes no mention of Armstrong himself, only that the actions of Livestrong were surprising considering they were "in the midst of a significant transitional phase for their organization."
Things have moved very quickly since the announcement, the stadium portion of the Sporting KC site has been changed to reference the "new" name of the stadium, Sporting Park, with no mention to the previous name. The website for the stadium, www.livestrongsportingpark.com is offline. And out at the stadium, the big signage that says Livestrong is no longer lit up. I'd expect that signage to come down over the next few days/weeks.
I'm still amazed at how quickly this whole thing has gone down. Sure there had been the rumors that changes were coming to the name of the stadium because of the issues that were going on with Armstrong, but I'm not sure anyone expected it to come this quickly. The way it's gone down has also been surprising. . The messy "divorce" looks likely to turn into a big he said/she said situation. I've seen lots of people taking both sides of the situation tonight. People believing the comments made by Greg Lee that Sporting hasn't paid. When seeing Heineman's comments, people are responding by asking if people are surprised someone associated with an organization founded by a "lying cheat" would say something like that.
Overall I seriously doubt we'll ever hear the full story on this situation. At least not on the record. I'm sure there is some truth to what both sides are saying. The search for a new stadium sponsor will begin though. Either way, this is a very messy end to the sponsorship. Hopefully Sporting will go the route of a sponsor that will pay this time. Like the jersey sponsor, this is a revenue stream that Sporting has missed out on.