This Goes Far Beyond Armstrong…….What a Train Wreck.

ArmstrongAt the onset it is easy to just brush off the Lance Armstrong/Oprah interview.  I mean it has nothing to do with diabetes, right?   Well directly, no it doesn’t.  I watched this train wreck of an interview and there is a good chance that if I watch again tonight, it will only be so I can say I watched it all the way through.  I watched part one, and that may have been more than enough for any one person to withstand.

And man was I angry.  Weren’t you angry?

I was angry for a whole list of reasons.  He was so calm, so relaxed, and so matter-of-fact.  Not only did he destroy people’s lives with bullying and false accusations; he turned around and sued anyone for the privilege of defending themselves against him.

Sometimes saying, ‘I’m sorry’ just will not cut it; this is such a case and I believe the weight of this, at some point, is just going to be way too much for him to carry but then again, it was clear last night in the interview, we have no idea who he is anymore; or for that matter who he ever may have been. 

But much will be written about him and his behavior.  Type the words Lance Armstrong/Oprah in Google search and you will see over five hundred million different sites.  People will write about this, and talk about it, for years. 

My concern while watching the interview was different.  I did not really hear that much that I did not expect as just too many people were saying things that just ‘did not add up’.   I was shocked how ‘staged’ and ‘prepared’ he was for the interview. But my concern was a bigger picture.

My concern was about ‘his’ foundation.  Those of us who are in the field of philanthropy are truly grateful when a celebrity comes forward and says this cause is important to them and offers to get involved.  I have had the incredible honor to work along many celebs who have stepped up and said, “How can I help?”  This honor is only surpassed by the many volunteers who are involved only for the reason that diabetes is important to them.  We cherish all those who choose to get involved at any level big or small.

It was clear to any of us who follow such involvement with celebs just how quickly Armstrong’s Foundation went from obscurity to powerhouse organization.  Envious of the powerful reach to do good.  Unfortunately, the fall will be just as fast.  I have not much regard for the meaning to him personally which he bought upon himself, but so many more will lose from this whole mess; and I am pretty sure nothing will stop it.  The reputation of any organization is its strength–when the foundation is built around one person who is now admitting everything he was, he isn’t; the foundation is not tarnished, it is ruined.

Many people who received help from his organization stand to lose big time and it’s my hope that other organizations dealing with cancer look to help those who needed that foundation.  Those who know me know that it is always about people.  And many people and their families who suffer greatly with cancer are losers in this just as much as those who were personally affronted by Armstrong’s tactics.

It’s a shame.

This entire incident has the entire world of philanthropy scratching their heads.  We know the advantages of having such a big name attached to fund-raising efforts.  I’m a true believe that committees are the strength of an event.  Having celebrities at an event is a good thing but the ‘raising’ money part is done because of the hard work of a great committee.  When a foundation is started by an individual in their own name; the success of it rests squarely on the shoulders of the founder.  In this case the founder’s shoulders crumbled to the ground.

I applaud the people who stood up and questioned the wrong being done.  The torment they faced must have been unbearable.  Nothing can take away that pain.  Truth prevailed, it always does; albeit painfully at times.  How could such a thing have ever happened? 

Armstrong built a foundation of sand which, as is done in such cases, when tested strongly will always wash away.  Too many will be hurt in all of this; people who were only trying to do good.  Many of us in this field cherish those people and know they are the backbone of any organization.  They were only trying to help others.  They will be crushed.  And it is here where we all lose.  This must never be allowed to happen again. 

I am a diabetes dad.

4 replies on “This Goes Far Beyond Armstrong…….What a Train Wreck.”

My perspective is that Livestrong may get smaller, but that won’t be the worst thing that could happen. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are currently over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. today. What’s more, it also shows that the number of nonprofit organizations jumped by a staggering 31.9% from 1999-2009. Compare that with prior decades, it’s really unprecedented. Much may be attributed to increasing fragmentation among nonprofit organizations, where people start their own diabetes nonprofit because they disagree with something the ADA or the JDRF is doing, so they start their own. No longer do a few big nonprofits dominate the mindsets of donors. Livestrong may very well be a victim of Mr. Armstrong’s actions and his oversized presence, but I have no doubt another organizations will be able to step in and fill the void. We saw a very similar situation last year on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. A scandal involving Planned Parenthood funding caused widespread outrage against the organization, leading to the resignation of President Liz Thompson last year. However, Komen (much like Livestrong) collected a disproportionately large share of funds for breast cancer, while many smaller organizations which frankly allocated a higher percentage of funds raised to actual research, were overshadowed by the phenomenon known as Pinkwashing (a Canadian documentary addressed this well).

I think the outcome may be that while Livestrong did have some good people, there are other organizations which might now benefit from this “vanity” charity organization which was so closely associated with Mr. Armstrong. That might be a good thing after all!

Great points.

While I agree that some organizations are formed because others ‘disagree’ as you say, in the diabetes community this has happened also because someone wants to focus in on something that existing organizations do not address. Funding of camps, diabetes supplies both at home and across the globe, diabetes scholarships etc. were formed because the charters of larger organizations may not have covered the funding of such programs. And this is a good thing. That said, as long as people have the ability to say, “I don’t agree with that” and do something correctly to ‘right’ it—this is not a bad thing at all I believe.

About ‘Armstrong may get smaller’…….is spot on. Surely the idea of boards, and cross checks-of-balances within an organization should always make it that no one person is bigger than the organization they serve (how much of a hit did MDA take when Jerry Lewis was let go—-what was ever the real stroy with that I always wanted to know) life in the nonprofits will surely go on.
And time will surely tell, and we surely hope, that those who have the focus of their origination and goals done correctly will prevail.

What an honor to know you read my blog today Scott. Your opinions are greatly valued and always welcome.

Love the post – and agree with Scott, too that smaller charities that are probably much more focused will benefit. What’s really sad is all the people who will be hurt by this – from one person’s (imo) complete lack of ethics. I am sure others were involved, but I do think he was the mastermind. I don’t even think now Livestrong was really even about his personal desire to do good. I don’t think he knows what good is. Sad, very sad. Why we still continue to define success and create role models based financial means, athletic ability or “winning” is truly the saddest part of the entire situation. Until we decide to define it differently, and admire people truly worth admiring for doing something meaningful and worthwhile, these things will still occur. Another famous athlete or celeb falls from grace…not really a shocker these days. Plenty of people out there, without a famous name or loads of money are surviving things like cancer, still giving everything they have to their communities, and uplifting and inspiring everyone who knows them. They are worth admiring…not people you see on tv. Just my opinion…but I would much rather my kids be inspired by people we actually know who are doing great things, big or small, than some person we really do not know at all and just hear media spin on through the tv. The explosion of charitable organizations is another interesting tidbit. As an accounting professional, I will tell you that some of these “new” small charities are really just avoiding taxes and raising money under very suspicious circumstances. I think it’s more due to greed and tax evasion loopholes than fractured elements within groups of cause related charities. Not saying all, of course, but a statistically significant number. I still trust the big names as rated by Charity Navigator, etc over most small ones unless I personally know the people involved.

I have always stated that true heroes do not seek the limelight, they’re too busy helping others.
Your points are well described and thank you for sharing them with us all.

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