Swimmer Ryan Lochte has lost all four of his major endorsements after admitting he’d lied about being robbed at gunpoint during Rio’s Olympics. Speedo USA, the biggest sponsor of the four, said it would not tolerate his behavior.
"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 said in a statement. “We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.” The company also announced it would donate a portion of Lochte’s fee to its charity partner, Save the Children, to benefit children in Brazil. Lochte, who signed a 10-year deal with the company in 2006, thanked Speedo for “the opportunities that our partnership has afforded me over the years,” in a statement.
Lochte also lost endorsement deals from Ralph Lauren (which removed his images from its website) and Gentle Hair Removal, whose parent company, Syneron-Candela, said in a statement that it holds its employees “to high standards, and we expect the same of our business partners.” Japanese mattress manufacturer Airweave initially pledged to stand behind Lochte, but announced yesterday that it would also drop Lochte “after careful consideration.” ESPN’s Darren Rovell estimated Lochte lost $1 million in endorsement deals as a result of the scandal.
Many younger Olympians emerge with each four-year cycle of the Olympic Games, prompting a fierce battle for a limited amount of endorsements. David Carter, executive director of the Marshall Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, implied that Lochte, at 32, is unlikely to recover. “Given his age, he is less likely to be competitive going forward,” he said.
Lochte first made headlines after he alleged that he––and fellow Olympic swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen––were the victims of a violent robbery after leaving a party on August 14. In an interview with NBC, Lochte described getting pulled over in a taxi by men who presented a police badge.
From left to right: Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger. (Credit: Source.)
“They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground––they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so––I'm not getting down on the ground,” he said at the time. Most dramatically, Lochte recalled being threatened at gunpoint: “And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, 'Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like 'whatever.' He took our money, he took my wallet -- he left my cell phone, he left my credentials."
Brazilian law enforcement officials launched an investigation on the alleged crime after noticing inconsistencies between Lochte’s account and those of the other swimmers. The swimmers were unable to provide key details in interviews with police, who could not locate their taxi driver or their witnesses. When asked to address these inconsistencies,
Lochte ascribed them to “traumatic mischaracterization.” However, security footage of the four men returning to Olympic Village indicates they not only still had their valuables in their possession, but that none of them appeared shaken by the alleged crime at all. Later that week, a Brazilian federal judge ordered the seizure of Lochte’s and Feigen’s passports. However, Lochte had already left the country for the United States before the edict. Later that evening, authorities pulled Bentz and Conger from their flight back to the States. Lochte’s teammates cooperated with authorities and have since returned home.
A Brazilian official with direct knowledge of the investigation who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity said authorities have determined no armed assault ever took place. According to the official, security footage shows Lochte and his teammates went to a gas station around 6 AM on August 14. While there, they broke down a bathroom door when they couldn’t get in. An armed security guard approached the men, but he never drew his weapon. The gas station manager told Globo that Lochte and the other swimmers urinated on the walls of the station before attempting to leave. Gas station security stopped the men as they tried to leave in a taxi cab. The video then shows them sitting on the curb as they speak with security. Reportedly, they offered the manager “100 Brazilian real and $20” to cover the cost of damages.
In an interview with TMZ, Lochte, who admitted he was “still intoxicated” when he made the initial robbery claim in his appearance with NBC, said that he has not yet made a decision to seek help for his drinking. “It’s definitely something that I’m going to have to be more responsible about,” he said. “Everything that happened in Rio, I’m definitely going to learn from it. We’re human, we learn from our mistakes. “Right now I need to just see my family and talk with them about what I’m going to do.”
The United States Olympic Committee indicated Lochte and his teammates would receive some punishment for his actions, but USOC CEO Scott Blackmun did not specify what action they would face. "They let down our athletes," Blackmun said. “They let down Americans. "And they really let down our hosts in Rio who did such a wonderful job, and we feel very badly about that. I think we ended up in the right place in terms of being able to shine a light on what really happened there.''