When the widely circulated photo of Michael inhaling from a marijuana pipe was published, I assumed his representatives at Octagon recommended he immediately admit to the authenticity of the photo, smoking marijuana and apologize rather than have the media spend significantly more time investigating and speculating on whether the photo was doctored.
Think back to 2004, after his DUI arrest, Michael was forthright admitting he let many people down, including himself and that he learned a valuable lesson. Granted, he did not have as much to lose financially as he does today, his character, work ethic, family up bringing and wholesome personality appeased those who may have been quick to judge.
Winning 14 Gold Medals to-date is an amazing accomplishment but it also comes with tremendous temptations especially for a young adult who wants to act the age of a typical 23 year old.
Michael has built up enough good-will equity that I do not think his sponsors will take evasive action at this time. However, he will have to be very aware of his surroundings wherever he travels and whomever he associates with from now on. I’m sure Octagon will remind him that once, twice you can profess your apologies and learn from your mistakes, the third incident might be hard for most people to comprehend, especially those who look up to him as a role model around the world.
Sponsors and Grandstand Sports, the New York memorabilia company that signed Michael to a one-year exclusive signature deal for autographed photos, USA swim caps and Sports Illustrated covers will be watching how Michael conducts himself going forward. Given the current recessionary climate, the athlete’s memorabilia market value can be negatively affected, especially if the athlete is associated with a lifestyle that abuses the moral fiber we as Americans imagine for our role models.