Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.
Lance Armstrong a charlatan, a fraud and a pathological liar? Or is he one of
our greatest champions in the fight against cancer? Or both?
In the end, it doesn't really matter. Certainly there's a mountain of evidence
suggesting that Armstrong doped his way to seven Tour de France victories…as
well as worldwide fame and piles of lucre. But what really matters is that the
charity he helped found, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (aka the LIVESTRONG
Foundation) doesn't suffer for one man's alleged transgressions. Unfortunately,
in our world where public image is everything, I fear it will.
I've been a "cyclist" since I was 8, and I was a very amateur bike
racer for seven years. So from my view in the saddle, if Lance cheated to the
extent so many people inside the sport say he cheated, he deserves to spend the
rest of his days delivering greasy Chinese food in Queens on a rusty
But, in the end, so what if he did? If you bought a Lance Armstrong jersey and
now feel "cheated," too bad. Doping has been synonymous with
professional cycling for decades. You should have known better. And if you're a
Nike shareholder who feels Lance "stole" his fortune in endorsement
money, too bad. Why invest in a grown man who makes his living riding a
bicycle? You should have known better.
But if you want to attack the charity that Lance helped build because of his
alleged transgressions, you need to get your head — and your heart —
examined. Do you disdain Social Security because FDR had an affair with Lucy
Rutherfurd? Do you pooh pooh the Civil Rights Movement because MLK had
Unfortunately, in today's PR-crazed age, LIVESTRONG now has an image problem.
That's tragic. This charity that continues to offer amazing services and
information to cancer patients and their families now has to expend valuable
time and resources fighting a PR battle because its founder might have made
some very poor decisions. There are web-fueled campaigns urging fans to return
Nike LIVESTRONG products to stores.
Hamilton Nolan on Gawker.com is giving us all the okay to trash our yellow LIVESTRONG
bracelets. Thanks for that, Hamilton.
So what would I do if I were
LIVESTRONG’s PR counsel? I’d suggest they tackle the problem head on. Yesterday
I received an email blast from LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman, asking for donations
during a time “when our community has to pull together.” The message was
powerful and heartfelt, soliciting support to show that LIVESTRONG can
“persevere in the face of adversity.” But I think Ulman did his constituents a
disservice by NOT mentioning Lance Armstrong by name. In fact, I’m not really
sure what adversity Ulman was writing about. The fire and brimstone directed at
Lance? The concept that Lance may have lied to the world for years? The
suggestion that Lance fans trash their LIVESTRONG-branded gear?
What, exactly, is Ulman so down
about? What do he and the organization think about the controversy? LIVESTRONG’s
supporters deserve to know. Having a straight talk with them would be the first
step toward making certain that Lance Armstrong’s charity survives his own
personal meltdown. Because if it does not, that would be the real tragedy.
Full disclosure: I know LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman personally. I
have not communicated with him about this situation.