Phelps’ sponsors don’t always know best

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The Feb. 1 British tabloid News of the World published a picture of America’s golden boy, Michael Phelps, allegedly smoking marijuana from a bong. Most likely you have seen this picture many times since it was published.

Immediately after the photo was published, Michael Phelps issued an apology. “I’m 23 years old and despite the success I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me,” he said. “For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.”

What Phelps has been able to accomplish as an athlete has been amazing. He is the most decorated Olympian and arguably the greatest athlete ever. With his 14 Olympic medals came millions of dollars worth of sponsorships.

Throughout all of this, Phelps has become a household name and an international hero. We have watched his journey from the edge of our seats. He has filled pools, and inspired millions of children who dream of becoming Olympic swimmers.

However, it is the incidents that have taken place out of the pool that worry me. Immediately after returning from the 2000 Olympics, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence and gained a reputation as a party-going playboy. Since Phelps’ apology, the International Olympic Committee, Speedo, and Omega have all released statements of support.

Speedo issued a release that said, “Michael Phelps is a valued member of the Speedo team and a great champion. We will do all that we can to support him and his family.”

I would like to believe that the IOC, Speedo, and Omega are supporting Phelps because they care about his well-being, and not because Phelps is a golden goose that still has eggs to lay.

The next time you see the infamous picture, take note that Phelps happens to be wearing an Omega watch. So, why wouldn’t they all stand by him?

After all, Phelps has sold millions of Speedos, skyrocketed ratings for NBC and the Olympics, and is the cover boy for Omega.

With the expectation that Phelps will add to his medal collection in 2012, it is no wonder that none of these sponsors are willing to push him aside in these rough economic times.

The IOC, Speedo and Omega will be taken care of as long as they have access to Phelps’ picture. Now that we know all of these large corporations will survive, I have to ask: What will happen to Michael?

I am one of those individuals Phelps has inspired. In the past I have cheered him on in hopes that he will succeed in the pool. With all the money, fame, and parties I hope that someone is there close to Michael Phelps to cheer him on outside of the Olympic pool.

Bobby Gomez is a senior in elementary education. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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