“Our faith and trust in this partnership have been permanently damaged; therefore we are terminating our agreement with Livestrong, effectively immediately. As a result of this decision, our stadium will now be referred to as Sporting Park. While we are ending this relationship, our support of the fight against cancer will endure.”
Robb Heineman, in a press release regarding the dropping of Livestrong from Sportings’ stadium
GH: And with that statement, the odd decision of Heineman and his Sporting Kansas City ownership group to partner with the dubious character of Lance Armstrong is no more. This is Sporting being beaten by multiple own goals in their house in front of an international audience. Read on.
“If a partner is struggling to meet the terms of an agreement, we do everything possible to reach a fair and reasonable compromise. If no compromise can be reached, as good stewards of our brand, mission and donors’ dollars, we have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end. That is the case here.”
Greg Lee, CFO for Livestrong charity, NBCsports.com
GH: It looks to be like Sporting simply didn’t pay their bills. Less than two years ago, Sporting entered into what I thought was a weird agreement with Livestrong to pay them for using the Livestrong name. It all revolved around funding Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity and was roundly applauded by most. But business always gets in the way of perception.
“According to ESPN, which was the first to report on the name change, Livestrong recently told Sporting KC it still owed $750,000 of the $1 million promised to the foundation in 2012. … The naming rights deal differed from traditional agreements in that Livestrong did not pay to have its name on the stadium. Instead, the club promised to donate $7.5 million in stadium revenues to the organization over six years.”
GH: I found Heineman’s timing to be that of a marketing maestro. He chose to announce Sportings’ divorce from Livestrong on the same day Oprah was making news with Lance Armstrong’s confessional interview. Again, as much as Sporting fans want to view their ownership group as “just fans like them,” this bunch is as driven by the dollar just as any successful business professional. My question is why were they having trouble paying their bills when the club is having so much success?
“The smart guys with the pioneering organization have their first skid mark now, and right across the face. Sporting Kansas City must deal with real off-the-field defeat. This is new. They’ve been essentially perfect in the decisions that matter until this one, so the shine is gone but the sting is not. … Those whippersnappers at Sporting KC are humbled. Inexperience, naivety and a touch of star-chasing proved a nasty combination. Sporting’s brash and innovative brand is now tarnished by something more important than a playoff loss.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
“Their big bet on Lance Armstrong is now officially blown to bits, and for an added kick to the crotch, it’s Armstrong’s old Livestrong foundation that hit the eject button on a unique partnership that turned into a nightmare for the Sporting Club.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: Mellinger’s column today was so good I read it twice. This is what big-city sports columnists write when the local good-guy sports team trips on their scarf and falls flat on their pretty nose. Read on.
“As it turns out, Sporting looks the fool. No matter how much they try to separate Armstrong’s disgrace from Livestrong’s nobility, the liar and the charity he started are like Siamese twins. They invited Armstrong to games, spoke of him reverentially, and it’s no coincidence the seat reserved for special guests is painted in his familiar yellow hue. The team’s pregame hype video even featured Armstrong’s smiling face. So Sporting’s brand is sullied, its message diluted. … The best organizations grow from their mistakes. Let’s see if this one does.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: Sporting has tripped along the past few years as the darling sports franchise of our city. This black eye makes them a bit more real. This criticism makes them more like the big boys in town – the Chiefs and the Royals. In the words of Dick Vermeil – it’s time to take the diapers off and play, young man.
“The minute I saw that man leave his young wife and three young children, I was done with him then.”
Female Caller, to Bob Fescoe Show, 610 AM
GH: When and where is the bonfire to burn all of our Livestrong jerseys, shorts and shoes?
“I wonder what Frank Martin thinks about his decision to go to South Carolina. They’re losing to some bad teams. That’s going to be a horrific season. I get it leaving Kansas State but…”
Steve St. John, 810 AM
GH: Manhattan isn’t on a lot of tourism junkets but Martin left a passionate basketball school for one that had just 6,000 fans in an 18,000-seat arena last weekend. I would love to hear Martin talk frankly about the success his former players are having under Bruce Weber this season and his future prospects for and against success at South Carolina.
“The one thing we don’t have is someone who can take it and just go get baskets.”
Bruce Weber, on his Kansas State basketball team, Big 12 Conference call
GH: What does Weber call Rodney McGruder? If K-State can beat Oklahoma this Saturday, their game Tuesday night with the Jayhawks is going to be a big one. KU is playing just off-and-on enough to make that game in Manhattan interesting.
“Missouri looked lost without Laurence Bowers.
Steven St. John, after MU’s loss at Ole Miss, 810 AM
“Missouri fans – are you guys in panic mode right about now?”
Bob Fescoe, after Mizzou’s loss at Ole Miss, 610 AM
GH: MU played awful at Ole Miss but they have shown signs of being a possible top-10 team. The Laurence Bowers injury changes them though – and not for the better. That Florida game this Saturday in Gainesville could get ugly.
“I didn’t like the few shots I saw of the [Mizzou] bench. Frank Haith looked like he didn’t know what was going on here either. … There’s looking bad and then there’s looking bad – they looked really bad.”
Josh Klingler, 610 AM
“The problem is that Missouri is not able to take teams out of their rhythm nearly as often as they did last year.”
Doug Gottlieb, in his weekly conversation with Soren Petro, 810 AM
GH: I am surprised that 810 has allowed Gottlieb’s weekly appearance on Petro’s show to continue after CBS Sport Radio went live in Kansas City this month. Gottlieb is now competition for 810 programming – or at least I think it is. Will 810 be inviting 610’s Jayice Pearson on to chat with SSJ in the morning?
“The Southeastern Conference is about two years from distributing at least $10 million — and perhaps as much as $14 million — more per school than it did during the 2011-12 fiscal year, a USA TODAY Sports analysis projects. This would represent at least a 50% increase in the SEC’s per-school take, which could get close to $34 million in 2014-15 and for a few years exceed the revenue each of the Big Ten Conference schools get from their shares of conference and NCAA revenues.”
Steve Berkowitz, writer, USA Today
GH: A 50% increase, despite adding two more mouths to feed? The SEC knows what it is doing when it comes to generating revenue for its member schools.
“I guess we’re expecting [Jeff Withey] to score just like Thomas Robinson did when he took over last year.”
Bob Fescoe, who is disappointed in Withey’s scoring in conference play, 610 AM
GH: Anyone with a basketball acumen above the dribble should understand that Withey was not going to replicate TRob on the offensive end. Read on.
“[Kansas] has a guy on their floor that nobody else has. He’s a big guy who can play and is a great shot blocker. Many teams have a big guy but they can’t play. Withey is a guy back there who changes the whole thing.”
Jon Sundvold, on Jeff Withey’s presence in the paint for Kansas, 810 AM
GH: Withey is the reason Kansas fans should be very upset come April if their Jayhawks are not in the Final Four. He is a once-in-a-decade [or more] kind of defensive force. His presence changes so much of what KU’s opponents can do. I think he is fabulous to watch play.
“Last season, we spent a lot of time singing Anthony Davis’ praises, and for good reason, and that is a huge, huge understatement. Davis won all the major national player of the year awards and led Kentucky to a national title in his first season. Where he really shined was defensively, where his agility and length and athleticism made him an absolutely shot-blocking nightmare. It was an incredible individual season. Davis didn’t just block shots: He blocked shots without fouling. It was his gift, or among them, one of many that made him special. Through 13 games of the 2012-13 season, Kansas center Jeff Withey is making Davis look like an amateur.”
Eamonn Brennan, writer, ESPN.com
GH: Brennan’s comments are a couple of weeks old but they point out just how dominant Withey has been through the non-con season. Read on.
“Through 13 games last season, Anthony Davis had 58 blocks and 29 fouls. Through 13 games this season, Kansas center Jeff Withey has 68 blocks and only 16 fouls. True story. In other words, Withey is having an insane defensive season. His 19.7 block rate is tops in the country, and his 1.7 fouls per 40 minutes is shockingly low for someone who challenges and swats as many shots as Withey does. Last season, Davis finished with a 13.8 block percentage, and was called for 2.4 fouls per 40 minutes. I use those numbers comparatively not to make the argument that Withey is a better player (or even a better overall defender, because I’m not sure that he is), but instead to provide a frame of reference for exactly what Withey is doing. Because it’s totally crazy.”
Eamonn Brennan, writer, ESPN.com
“Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles. He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh, energetic approach to our team.”
Jeffrey Lurie, Eagles owner, in a press release by the Eagles
GH: Oregon’s loss is the Eagles gain. This is the direction I would have gone if I had Clark Hunt’s money and team. It will be interesting to see which franchise got the right guy. Maybe both? Probably not.
Ahhhh, Leonard. I saw this photo online of Len Dawson from a Life Magazine shoot at Super Bowl I in 1967. I believe the pic was taken at halftime of the Chiefs/Packers first meeting. What a great look at another era of professional football. Dawson is taking a drag on a cigarette as he sits on a metal folding chair inside the stark locker room of that era. A bottle of Fresca sits on the floor in place of today’s Gatorade.
GregHall24@yahoo.com and Twitter / greghall24