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Livestrong, KC Sporting sever ties

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Livestrong, KC Sporting sever ties

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The loss of trust - not money or a tarnished reputation - led Sporting KC to sever ties with the cancer charity founded by Lance Armstrong, according to a team official.

But Sporting KC chief executive Robb Heineman also said Wednesday the ``tumultuous environment'' that developed before the cyclist admitted using performance enhancing drugs also played into the Major League Soccer team's decision to end the relationship.

``The severance for us was about violating the trust of a partnership. That's what they did. Does Lance bleed over into that? Certainly,'' Heineman said. ``Whether anyone wants to say it or not, he's connected to the foundation. He's why we have to always answer questions around him. ... It's something you can't get away from.''

Sporting KC announced Tuesday the team was changing the name of Livestrong Sporting Park to Sporting Park and ending its novel arrangement with the charity that began in 2011.

Under the naming rights deal, Livestrong didn't pay to have its name on the $200 million soccer stadium in Kansas City, Kan. Instead, the team promised to donate $7.5 million in stadium revenues to Livestrong over six years.

Heineman said the decision came after ESPN reported that Livestrong recently said Sporting still owed $750,000 of the $1 million promised to the foundation in 2012. Heineman said the team doesn't owe Livestrong any money, but he would not discuss the contract.

``When they started to, for the lack of a better term, start to drag us through the mud a little bit in public around the relationship, that's just nothing we have an interest in,'' Heineman said. ``I would call it inaccurate, unfair and a breach of confidentiality. I think that's at the core of any of this.''

But he said it's difficult to parse how much the loss of trust in Livestrong because of the contract discussion in the media and Armstrong's doping admission played into the end the partnership.

``It's a hard thing to say because one is so connected to the other,'' he said. ``If this would just have been about Lance and his reputation would we have made the same decision at some point? Potentially. Potentially.

``Because what this has begun to do over time as I mentioned to you is erode the focus of what we and the partnership were all about,'' he said. ``It wasn't about answering questions about what Lance did or didn't do.''

Heineman said Sporting and Livestrong had discussions for several months about their partnership but would not go into detail about those discussions.

``I think as the tension and as the tumultuous environment continued to kind of surround Livestrong, we kept working with them around how can we modify things,'' Heineman said. ``I think that what we saw was the brand was evolving .... And for us the vision of Livestrong always was it was going to be much bigger than one person.''

Armstrong resigned from the board of directors for Livestrong in November after a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused the cyclist of helping run ``the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen'' within his U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.

Armstrong had persistently denied doping until this week when he admitted to Oprah Winfrey he used performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career, which included seven straight Tour de France victories. The first installment of the two-part interview airs Thursday night.

Greg Lee, chief financial officer for Livestrong, said in an emailed statement that it was the charity that terminated the agreement with Sporting KC, and the foundation doesn't discuss specifics about arrangements with its partners. He said his role is ``to ensure compliance by our corporate partners.''

``If a partner doesn't live up to the terms of our agreement, we have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end,'' he said.

Foundation spokeswoman Katherine McLane also said while Livestrong ``did not receive a significant portion of the revenues it was promised, it still invested nearly $40,000 in programs to serve people affected by cancer,'' at several Kansas City area institutions. McLane also said in an email that Livestrong will continue to invest such programs in the Kansas City area.

Sporting Park is scheduled to host the MLS All-Star game on July 31.

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Emma Meesseman struggles and 4 other observations from Mystics-Aces Game 3

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Emma Meesseman struggles and 4 other observations from Mystics-Aces Game 3

The Washington Mystics lost to the Las Vegas Aces 92-75 on Sunday evening in Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals. Here are five observations from the game.

1. There is an argument to be made that the two most talented teams remaining in the WNBA playoffs are facing each other in the Semifinals, that the toughest team the Mystics will see in the postseason are these Las Vegas Aces, even if they end up advancing. Sunday served a reminder of the Aces' top-end talent, as they punched back to avoid a sweep with a Game 3 win, ensuring these teams will play at least one more time.

The Mystics had three opportunities to clinch the series, now they have two. Their next chance will be Tuesday, again in Las Vegas. If Sunday's game was any indication, they will meet a raucous Aces crowd once again at Mandalay Bay.

2. To find where things went wrong for the Mystics, look no further than the second quarter where midway through they got their doors blown off leading into halftime. Washington was up 33-31 with 5:13 left in the second quarter when the Aces closed the frame on a 16-4 run. They outscored the Mystics 24-13 in the quarter overall.

It was ugly. The Mystics couldn't hit a shot and lost control on offense. They had eight turnovers in the quarter and many of them proved costly. They scored only four points in the final seven minutes of the half. Their 37 points at halftime tied a season-low.

The trouble continued in the third, as the Mystics were outdone 32-25. But the momentum shifted in that second quarter and Washington never got it back. After scoring 102 points in Game 2, they topped out at 75 in this one.

3. The Mystics had no answer for the Aces' dynamic duo of Liz Cambage and A'ja Wilson. Cambage put up 28 points with six rebounds, two steals and a block. She shot an impeccable 12-for-15 from the field.

It was the type of performance where if you only saw this game, you would think she was the most dominant player in the WNBA. At 6-foot-9, all the Aces had to do on some plays was throw the ball up the air where only she could get it.

Wilson was a force on both ends of the floor. She had 21 points, eight boards, two blocks and two steals. She made five of her first six shots and finished 8-for-14 overall.

The first quarter saw Cambage, Wilson and Kayla McBride score all of the Aces' points. They went to work thanks to point guard Kelsey Plum's ability to penetrate and set up open shots. Plum had nine points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Speaking of Plum, people were mad online this week about an NBA writer saying she is the 'James Harden of the WNBA.' Many thought the comparison was unnecessary and also simplistic because they are left-handed guards.

Set aside the outrage and it is simply just a bad take. Harden is known for playing patiently, if slowly, while Plum is the fastest player on the court.

4. The star of this series before Sunday was undoubtedly Emma Meesseman, who was able to score even more points in Game 1 than she did in Game 2, even though she had been moved up the scouting report. In Game 3, she finally went cold, managing only six points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field and 0-for-2 from three.

Though Meesseman had eight points, three assists and two steals, she missed a series of open shots and also didn't have a great game defensively. There were several breakdowns that allowed Cambage open paths to the rim and on a few occasions Meesseman was to blame. 

Meesseman is an X-factor for the Mystics and so far the game results have matched her individual production. When she plays well, it changes everything.

LaToya Sanders, who had 17 points in Game 2, also struggled. She had only four points in 24 minutes. That wouldn't have been a problem if she wasn't taking shots, but she went 2-for-9 from the field as the Aces left her open on several occasions. 

They bet on the fact Sanders isn't usually an offensive threat, especially from the outside, and this time it worked out for them. It would be understandable if Sanders had some extra confidence after what she did in Game 2, but Game 3 was a reminder that her best role is as a defensive specialist.

Meesseman and Sanders' shooting woes contributing to an overall bad night for the Mystics. They shot 38.6 percent collectively. That's not what you expect from the most efficient scoring team in WNBA history.

5. The eight turnovers in the second quarter were an extreme, but giveaways proved a major difference. They had 13 total in this game, far more than the six they had in each of the first two games this series.

The Mystics are the best team in the WNBA at protecting the ball. And so far this series, the Aces have proven quite dangerous in transition when they can push the pace off of missed baskets or miscues. 

Washington will have to clean that up moving forward, especially Ariel Atkins, who had five all by herself. Also, Natasha Cloud had zero turnovers with 14 assists through the first two games, but had three giveaways in this one alone.

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Mystics unable to complete a sweep, fall to Las Vegas Aces in Game 3

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Mystics unable to complete a sweep, fall to Las Vegas Aces in Game 3

A rare poor shooting night plagued the Washington Mystics as the WNBA Semifinals have shifted toward Las Vegas. As the highest-scoring team in WNBA history was unable to get on the right track in Game 3, the Las Vegas Aces grab a season-saving victory, 92-75. 

Not once did the Mystics get into a coherent flow on the night. They shot 38.6% (27-of-70) from the field and an even worse 33.3% (11-of-13) from behind the arc. In the regular season, their season averages were 46.9% and 36.6% respectively.

Aside from Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver, no one managed to get into a grove. Delle Donne was the only Mystics’ starter to scored more than six points. She had 22 points but with a team-worst minus-21.

The only time Washington strung together a series of points was when the WNBA MVP Delle Donne took over the game. She scored eight straight points for Washington in the first quarter to tie the game at 19. Back-to-back 3-pointers gave the team their best offensive spurt of the game. However, it would not last long. 

Moments later, a huge 14-2 Aces run in the second propelled Las Vegas to a 41-33 lead. From there the Aces would not relinquish it for the remainder of the contest. The difference eventually grew to a series-high 22 in the waning moments off a layup by Kayla McBride.

Liz Cambage was basically unstoppable for the Aces with 28 points and a highly efficient 12-of-15 shooting night. Just as importantly she helped shut down the Mystics star of the first two games of the series, Emma Meesseman to only six points. Also, she essentially drew a technical from Mystics' coach Mike Thibault after she got away with a high elbow that was not called.

A'ja Wilson added 21 points for the Aces while McBride had 18. 

Nights like these are rare for Washington. Throughout the year they scored more than 100 points a WNBA-record 15 times. Four times did they fail to score more than 75 points.

The loss prevents the Mystics from completing a three-game sweep of the Aces. As Washington still leads the series 2-1, Game 4 will be on Tuesday with the time still TBD. 

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