Sporting KC stand by LIVESTRONG sponsorship amid Armstrong controversy

Robb Heineman

Photo Credit: 
SportingKC.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City have rejected any notion of renaming their stadium, with team president Robb Heineman (above) affirming the club’s commitment to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Livestrong Sporting Park name.

“The naming rights partnership between our stadium and LIVESTRONG provides an opportunity to spread health and wellness messages that emphasizes the spirit of cancer survivorship,” Heineman said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “LIVESTRONG’s focus is the fight against cancer and the support of 28 million people around the world affected by this disease, and we believe strongly in this mission. The statements made last night by the Lance Armstrong Foundation speak for themselves: moving forward and continuing the fight against this horrible disease."

Heineman’s statement came a day after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced it had stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life from cycling. Armstrong, a cancer survivor who has maintained his innocence of all doping charges, said he would no longer contest the USADA’s actions.

“I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances,” he said in a statement issued Thursday night. “I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities. This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction.”

Sporting’s connection to the Lance Armstrong Foundation is more than cosmetic. The club donated the naming rights to its stadium, contributes a portion of each ticket sold to the fight against cancer and honors a cancer survivor before each home match. Armstrong, who survived a bout with testicular cancer, was in attendance when the $200 million stadium opened in June 2011.

Manager Peter Vermes, asked to comment on the issue during Friday’s weekly news conference, deferred to team ownership but added that the issue would not distract his players from their Sunday home match against the New York Red Bulls (9 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

“From my perspective, we’re focused on the game this weekend,” Vermes said. “There are other things on our radar.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.