INDIANAPOLIS -- Sporting Kansas City finally crossed its name off the shrinking list of MLS teams without jersey sponsors on Thursday, inking a deal with local asset management company Ivy Funds that leaves the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes as the only teams without deals.
It was a sponsorship of another sort that caught widespread attention this week, though. Sporting KC terminated its stadium naming rights deal with the Livestrong Foundation in the aftermath of Lance Armstrong's admission of using performance enhancing drugs and other deal-breaking complications the club had with the foundation, and MLS commissioner Don Garber gave his unwavering support for the team's decision.
"I think the ownership of Sporting KC had to make a tough decision," Garber said to a media gathering at Thursday's MLS SuperDraft. "It's a very philanthropic ownership group. They formed a very unusual relationship with the Livestrong Foundation. I'm very supportive of the decision they made."
Sporting KC president Robb Heineman released a statement earlier in the week in which he detailed the disconnect between the club and organization and failed obligations on the foundation's part, while defending the club against pointed statements made by one of the foundation's chief executives.
"We were disappointed to learn Livestrong is utilizing aggressive tactics designed to force us into an unsatisfactory arrangement," Heineman wrote on Tuesday evening. "We willingly admit we were not expecting the foundation to treat a partner in this manner. Even more surprising is that Livestrong would take this action in the midst of a significant transitional phase for their organization. Our faith and trust in this partnership have been permanently damaged."
Sporting KC's stadium, which will temporarily be known as Sporting Park until a new sponsor is found, had just been awarded hosting rights to the 2013 MLS All-Star Game and is one of the league's marquee and most innovative arenas. The tumultuous situation has not beset the MLS commissioner, though.
"I am absolutely confident they'll get a new partner for that stadium that will do even more for them than the association they had with the foundation," Garber said. "I think they made a good decision."
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