Lance’s LIVESTRONG donation to Haiti – right idea, wrong checkbook

On more than a few occasions, I’ve stood on the side of Lance Armstrong in discussions completely irrelevant to anybody outside my immediate circle.  I wear a LIVESTRONG bracelet every day as a reminder of my mother’s death from cancer and my belief in the mission of the charity.  I am not a big deal.  However, if I ever become a big deal, the following post will likely preclude me from attending any future Team Radio Shack camp or from getting any face time with Lance or his compatriots.  The issue at hand is far more significant.

The news from Haiti is horrific.  When blanket statements like “Port-au-Prince is gone” come across the screen and news stories flash that up to 100,000 could be dead, your first thoughts are to the nation, the families and the people who have been devastated.   Your second thought is “how can I help?”   If you can’t physically be there to help, give to charities that are focused on rescue and rebuilding efforts – Red Cross, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and others.

Lance landed in his Mellow Johnny’s Airways Gulfstream (vanity tail number NL7A) in Adelaide today, tweeted his Twitter ride (still think that is very cool) then proceeded to announce that LIVESTRONG would donate $250,000 to Haiti relief and that the donation would be carried by, among others, former President Clinton.

My first reaction was that it was great to take such swift action for a humanitarian cause.  It took me about 2.3 seconds to come to a completely different conclusion : Lance was completely and utterly wrong.

You would think for somebody as gifted in the art of spin as Lance, it would be difficult to logically explain why he’s wrong, but it’s painfully simple.   People donate because they believe in the mission, message and inspiration of LIVESTRONG and specifically as it relates to cancer.  A personal example is that I gave 10% of everything I sold last month on eBay to LIVESTRONG – total donation of about $200.  I signed up to be a Grassroots supporter with plans of organizing a ride for next year.    I donated and took part for a purpose – to support the message of cancer awareness and to fight this awful disease that took my mother at 45.  That is why I put money in the LIVESTRONG checkbook.

By using the funds raised for an intended purpose and diverting them to another purpose is tantamount to scandal, diversion or other unethical activity.  It’s not the same (obviously), but it’s on the same moral slippery slope as Iran-Contra, Enron’s shell game, and CEO’s getting bonuses while people lose their jobs.

Additionally, other people have questioned the grey line between for profit and charity when it comes to LIVESTRONG in the past; dot org versus dot com semantics. I’ve simply said the message is getting to the right place, people are smart enough to know charity vs. profit, and if he wants to make personal money off making people healthy, go for it.

Lance defines Nouveau Riche.   The private plane, Juan Pelota Ranch, the 2nd home in Aspen.  He’s got more money than anybody could imagine a cyclist could ever have.  Part of the downfall of his newfound wealth, his alpha male behaviors and the power he wields is that Lance can go unquestioned most times.  If he would have gone to the press conference and announced he was giving $250,000 personally and that through LIVESTRONG, he was setting up a separate fund for people to donate to, thereby utilizing his influence and followers to generate funds, that would have been beautiful.  Tell us you got Oakley, Trek or Nissan to give money on your behalf. Use the money from that damn Michelob ad to give to this humanitarian crisis.  That would have been right.

I’m a fan of Lance Armstrong; he defines sporting icon.  He inspired me to get back on the bike in earnest as a man facing the same age and family commitments.  However, I know these icons always have plenty of human faults.  Hasty decisions can be one of them.

Lance, take a step back and do it right.   Your donors didn’t give you this money to you with an understanding of using it for different causes as you see fit. Humanitarian crisis exist in many forms around the world – we gave specifically to help address your cause.  Write a personal check and ask your supporters to do the same.  You know you would raise $500,000 overnight.  Give Fatty 3 bikes and he’ll have $1,000,000 by the weekend.  Leave LIVESTRONG’s message intact, undiluted and fighting the battle we signed up for.


3 Responses to “Lance’s LIVESTRONG donation to Haiti – right idea, wrong checkbook”

  1. 1 oldguy
    January 14, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Well said. When I saw his video last night I immediately logged in to one of the charity sites and sent them some dough. After hitting the purchase button, it suddenly dawned on me that Lance had said the foundation was sending money. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he meant people at Livestrong (including himself) had raised 250 grand.

  2. 2 Jonnie J
    January 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. 3 Michael - Australia
    January 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Very well put. Not cool when it comes to giving away money that others gave.

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