Speedo, the biggest swimwear manufacturer in the world, announced on Monday that they would be ending their sponsorship of Ryan Lochte in the aftermath of Lochte’s embarrassing fake robbery incident during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Speedo stated on Twitter that “While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan 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.” Speedo also announced that they would donate a $50,000 portion of Lochte’s fee to a charity for children in Brazil.
The official response regarding our sponsorship of Ryan Lochte. pic.twitter.com/0DdP2RyceD— Speedo USA (@SpeedoUSA) August 22, 2016
In addition to Speedo, Ralph Lauren and two other companies including a laser hair removal company run by Kayla Itsines, also announced on Tuesday that they would be ending their partnerships with Lochte.
From sympathy to mockery
When Lochte initially stated that he had been robbed at gunpoint in Rio, the initial reaction of Americans was sympathy. But as details appeared which contradicted Lochte’s account and stated that he and his companions vandalized a gas station, the perception of the swimmer turned from a poor victim to a foolish frat boy.
Lochte was further hindered by a poor attempt at an apology which only stated that he wanted to apologize for “not being more careful and candid” that night. That apology was viewed as insincere and Lochte would later issue another apology where he stated that the people of Brazil and Rio “put on a great game” and that he was sorry for causing them trouble.
Ryan Lochte gets called out by Matt Lauer pic.twitter.com/b3vLmdXv0y— Songified (@GetSongified) August 24, 2016
Lochte also received criticism for the fact that he fled to the United States after the incident and left his companions behind to the Brazilian authorities. They were questioned before being allowed to leave for America and were forced to pay an $11,000 fine. Lochte has said that he would cover the fine.
Other news media has also pointed out Lochte’s past instances of eccentric or bizarre behavior. John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight” called Lochte “America’s Idiot Sea Cow” and mocked him for not being able to remember all the parts of a shoe which he allegedly designed.
Continuing robbery controversy
While Lochte has been pilloried for exaggerating what happened to him that night in Brazil as well as hdis general misbehavior, USA Today investigators did report that Lochte’s story was not completely false. Lochte and his companions did have guns pointed at him, and the Portuguese-English language barrier as well as the fact that the swimmers had been drinking hindered communication.
And while USA Today did confirm that Lochte’s group had urinated outside of the gas station where this incident occurred, it found no evidence that they had actually vandalized the gas station as Brazilian authorities alleged.
But in this case, Lochte is undoubtedly hindered by being such a flamboyant athlete in the past. While flamboyant incidents like his decision to dye his hair silver right before the Olympics have helped Lochte catch the attention of the American media despite the presence of Michael Phelps, that same media ended up turning on him after Lochte did something truly embarrassing.
And while companies like Speedo have every reason to drop Lochte because of this, there were other incentives. The 2016 Olympics will likely be Lochte’s final Olympics, as he is 32 years old and only won one gold medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. His value as an endorser had a limited shelf life even before this scandal, and it is too late in Lochte’s career for him to have a redemption story by apologizing and having another great Olympics.
Lochte may have more swimming gold medals than any American besides Phelps, but “Lochtegate” may be how he is ultimately remembered in Olympic history.