Culture

Sponsors Fleeing Lochte but 'USA Today' Says He May Be Innocent

(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Another rough week for Lochte, and it’s only Monday.

Speedo has dropped the U.S. swimmer after he admitted to “over-exaggerating” a story about being robbed at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics.

“While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” the company announced Monday on Twitter. “We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”

The athletic swimwear maker will be donating $50,000 of Lochte’s fee to Save the Children to benefit children in Brazil. Lochte reportedly signed a 10-year deal with Speedo in 2006 that was set to expire this year.

Lochte responded to the Speedo’s pulled endorsement on Monday.

“I respect Speedo’s decision and am grateful for the opportunities that our partnership has afforded me over the years,” he said in a statement. “I am proud of the accomplishments that we have achieved together.”

Ralph Lauren annouced that it’s cutting ties with the 12-time Olympic medalist soon after the Speedo news.

“Ralph Lauren continues to proudly sponsor the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team and the values that its athletes embody,” the company said. “Ralph Lauren’s endorsement agreement with Ryan Lochte was specifically in support of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the company will not be renewing his contract.”

There is a lot to be said about Lochte maybe protecting his personal brand now that his competitive swimming days are coming to an end and he has to transition to just being a marketable face. If you’re getting millions for endorsements, being out all night is never a good idea. Each hour between 2 AM and 6 AM sees the “appearance of impropriety” factor constantly increase. Lochte is no spring chicken in the public-figure game, so this can’t be written off to a rookie mistake.

There’s also the fact that no one has ever accused Lochte of being one of the 21st century’s great intellects, and that made this all so much easier to believe. It isn’t a stretch to think that he would make an occasionally poor personal choice. He’s also definitely not the guy you want trying to talk his way out of something.

These factors have all compounded to maybe ruin Lochte’s post-swimming plans and greatly affect his livelihood, which would be bad enough even if he did bring all of it on himself.

What if he didn’t, though?

Larry breaks down the USA Today investigation very well in the post linked above, but here’s a sample from the original article:

But a narrative of the night’s events – constructed by USA TODAY Sports from witness statements, official investigations, surveillance videos and media reports – supports Lochte’s later account in which he said he thought the swimmers were being robbed when they were approached at a gas station by armed men who flashed badges, pointed guns at them and demanded money.

A Brazilian judge says police might have been hasty in determining the security guards, by how they dealt with the swimmers, did not commit a robbery. A lawyer who has practiced in Brazil for 25 years says she does not think the actions of Lochte and teammate Jimmy Feigen constitute the filing of a false police report as defined under Brazilian law.

One of the more ridiculous aspects of this drama is the notion that somehow the reputation of Rio and its police have been sullied. Rio has been sullying its own reputation for years and to think that it’s taking a grievous hit from a few American athletes is laughable.

If I were going on reputation alone, I’d have more faith in Lochte’s than in Rio’s.