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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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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

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Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

The Baltimore Ravens went into the Tennessee Titans' home and completely robbed them in a 21-0 shutout win.

Here are the players and plays that stood out from the afternoon.

PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Ravens Defense

The Ravens defense had a historic afternoon recording a franchise-record 11 sacks. Yup, you read that right. 11 sacks.

Za'Darius Smith led the way with three, followed by Patrick Onwuasor with two and Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr. and Chris Wormley with one apiece. The 11 sacks tied for the second most by a team in league history and the most in a game since 2012.  It was so historic, the Ravens changed their Twitter name to included 11 S's. 

But that wasn't the only impressive part of the Ravens' afternoon. Marcus Mariota was limited to 10 completions and the defense allowed just 51 passing yards  —  the fewest in franchise history  — and 55 rushing yards. The Titans finished the afternoon 1-for-10 on third down as well.

With the shutout, the Ravens defense cemented its place as one of the NFL's most elite units in 2018. A win that must have been extra sweet after a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns the week prior and with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees staring back from the opposite sideline. The Ravens remain the only NFL team to not allow a second-half touchdown this season. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Crabtree

After dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown Week 5 against the Browns, Michael Crabtree said his priority this week was to get back into the lab and correct his mistakes. Out the gate, the veteran receiver stayed true to his word finishing the Ravens' first drive catching three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Earlier in the week, Joe Flacco had faith his receiver would get over the hump of six drops in five games and was willing to stand by him until it happened.

"Besides just trying to give him the confidence that, you know, I'm still going his way when he calls for it and I still believe that it's going to be the difference...it's something that he'll definitely get over," Flacco said.

The patience worked as Crabtree finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown leading all Ravens receivers.

But more importantly, the relationship between Crabtree and Flacco continues to grow.

"That’s trust. That’s what you need in football, you know," Crabtree said postgame. "Quarterback, receiver relationship. It’s only going to get better. It’s all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I’m new; this is my first year here so I got to do what I got to do."

STAT OF THE GAME: Flacco makes his way into the history books

With 25 completions Sunday against the Titans, Flacco became the third different quarterback in NFL history to complete 25 or more passes in nine consecutive games, per the NFL's communication department. Drew Brees sits atop the list with 11 and 10 consecutive games followed by Peyton Manning with nine. Flacco finished the 21-0 win 25-for-37 with 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

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