Ethics for Everyone

Moral wisdom for the modern world

Sports, Sporting KC, and the Common Good

Using sports for charity, rather than corporate profit.

Many have bemoaned the increasing presence of corporate logos and sponsorships in connection with sports in the United States and around the world. Remember when there was the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Cotton Bowl, instead of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl or Capital One Bowl? In recent years, large sums of money have been paid for the naming rights of professional sports stadiums. Soccer teams around the world receive large sums of money for putting corporate logos on their jerseys.

In the midst of all of this, Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City announced in March that their new state of the art facility would be called "Livestrong Sporting Park." How much did Livestrong have to pay for this? Well, nothing at all, actually. In fact, a percentage of the proceeds from all stadium revenues will go to the advocacy mission of Livestrong. Sporting KC is paying for this.

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From the press release:

"Livestrong is honored to bring its mission to Kansas City through Livestrong Sporting Park," said Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor, champion cyclist and Livestrong founder and chairman. "Professional sports provide a powerful vehicle to affect positive change in the world. Livestrong's partnership with Sporting Club gives us an innovative opportunity to advance the cancer fight in this region and we are eager to get started."

"Sports are a unifying force in bringing people together," said Doug Ulman, Livestrong president and CEO. "Livestrong Sporting Park is more than just a stadium - it's the first athletic venue in the world with a social change mission and offers an ideal arena to champion the cancer cause."

I am admittedly biased about this, as Kansas City is my hometown and soccer is my favorite sport. And certainly Sporting KC will benefit from this partnership. Armstrong has relationships with Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Buffett, and Bono, a fact not lost on Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman, who said "I believe we'll have entertainers who otherwise wouldn't have played our venue." So it could be the case that Sporting KC will come out ahead in the long run, financially speaking. Even so, there is something admirable about this. It is an innovative thing to do, and it will benefit cancer patients, whereas a standard corporate partnership would not have done so.

There is so much wrong with professional sports, morally and financially speaking. But when someone creatively harnesses the money flying around professional sports for the common good as Sporting KC has done via this partnership, they ought to be applauded for doing so.

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Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University.

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