By Dave Bruning
To paraphrase Chris Isaak, he did a bad, bad thing. Yes, Ryan Lochte, you did a bad, bad thing.
Lochte is a world class swimmer who has won the second most swimming medals for the United States, behind some guy named Michael Phelps. He sabotaged his reputation and his future with a drunken escapade to a Rio de Janeiro gas station. He further compounded the damage by lying about what happened, angering the entire country of Brazil.
The aftermath of this disastrous evening is starting to smack Lochte in the face, like a belly flop into a pool. Lochte’s four major sponsors have terminated their relationship with him. Several of the endorsements were tied specifically to the Rio Olympic Games, so I understand those decisions. I take issue with Speedo’s decision to drop Lochte.
Lochte and Speedo have enjoyed a 10-year mutually beneficial relationship. That blows away most marriages in today’s society. Is the Rio incident so cut and dried that it washes away 10 years of work? I don’t condone Lochte’s behavior. I do, however, believe it is an incredible opportunity to turn a crisis into a learning experience. And that is where Speedo needs to stand up and show Lochte some loyalty.
Lochte has already started the healing process, albeit it slowly and too late. He has given interviews in the U.S. and Brazil apologizing for his behavior and his lack of candor in reporting the initial incident. It’s the start to fixing this disaster. I find it a bit ironical, comical and pathetic we can’t get this response from either of our Presidential candidates.
Politics aside, this is where Speedo steps up. They can set up camps or lectures for Lochte to speak at where he talks about the incident, but more importantly being accountable to your actions, being truthful and the importance of representing yourself, your country or a product. Imagine the impact this might have on impressionable children. These town hall discussions could take place in Brazil as well, with the proceeds being donated to various Brazilian charities on behalf of Lochte and Speedo. Any future financial endorsement for Lochte should be tied to a variety of these activities.
I always hear how as a country we are great at giving second chances. I don’t know if I necessarily believe that. When people make mistakes, we tend to ostracize and isolate them from the life they are accustomed to instead of allowing them an opportunity to make amends. Life is about mistakes and learning from them. Too often we penalize a person and then forget about them, a life penalty box if you will.
I believe without a doubt Lochte would jump at the opportunity to make amends. He just needs to be given a chance. Reality dictates Lochte will disappear from the public eye until he breaks another swimming record in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games. At that point Speedo will hop back on the Lochte bandwagon. Sadly, they should have been there all along when he derailed.