If Michael Phelps Were Black…

So I’m sure that all of you have heard the news by now that Michael Phelps was caught smoking a bong. A big bong. Yes a bong with weed in it. Now when I first heard the news it was during the Super Bowl and alot was going on. I didn’t really have time to process this information. It wasn’t until yesterday evening that this info really sunk in. Michael Phelps, America’s sweetheart, idol for teenie boppers all over the world, and role model for countless other children, was dumb enough to let someone take a picture of him smoking a bong.

phelpsbong

Now granted, Michael is 23 years old. You might be saying to yourself, “When I was 23 I was smoking weed more often than Snoop Dogg!” Yes this is true. But when you were 23 you were also working as a mailroom intern and not being paid millions of dollars to do so. I don’t care if I’m 23, 12, 65, or 5, if you give me millions of dollars to be a spokesperson for you, that might be sufficient motivation for me to put the bong down. Or at least be really careful where I use it.

Now if the bong incident isn’t enough for you, then lets take a closer look at this. After the photo surfaced, Phelps admitted to using cannabis. He issued a statement apologizing to his fans for this “regrettable behavior” and promised to never do it again. Now lets take a trip in the way back machine, all the way to 2004. Phelps issued a similar apology at that time after pleading guilty to a DWI. “I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.” Hmm. So apparently “the rest of my life” was code for four years. After his DWI Phelps was sentenced to probation, but his image stayed pretty much intact. He did not take a hit with his sponsors and went on to do all of the great things he was destined to do. As far as all the fans and sponsors he had apologized to were concerned, he had kept his promise. There is a famous saying that goes; “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Well this is twice Michael. So lets see what the sponsors have to say this time around.

– Luxury Swiss watchmaker Omega termed Phelps’ actions a private matter and “nonissue.”

– Speedo called the 23-year-old American a “valued member of the Speedo team.”

– The IOC said Monday it was confident Phelps would learn from his “inappropriate behavior” and continue to serve as a role model.

So basically, when all is said and done, the sponsors are ignoring this again. Looks like shame on the sponsors this time, if you ask me. I am not saying I want Phelps to suffer at all. I do not wish ill on him. He is a good guy I believe. But if you’re asking me if he still deserves to get paid millions of dollars to sell stuff to our children, the answer is no. Pat Forde of ESPN.com summed it up pretty well:

“The age and impressionable nature of Phelps’ marketing constituency carries with it limitations that he clearly was not ready to live with.” 

So I’ll leave you with this question. Do you think Michael Phelps would have gotten the same treatment if he was a black man? Two free passes? Really?

Well I think you know what I think.

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90 comments

  1. what you do behind closed doors is indeed your business – but when what you’re doing get’s splashed all over the place it becomes everyone else’s business.  Maybe the sponsors are as high as he is. 

  2. First off, I don’t think Phelps “let” anyone take that photo of him. Granted, it was stupid to do it at a house party where people probably came just so they could snap a photo of him doing something stupid. I don’t think being black would have been an issue in this case. Phelps won’t lose many, if any, sponsorships because he helps bring millions in to their companies. Someone on the news yesterday said he might lose it with someone like Kellog’s, whose prime market is a young demographic.When you’re as an accomplished superhuman athlete as Phelps, I say give the guy a break. He’s had enough pressure put on him as it is. I don’t smoke weed, but I sure as hell might if I had to put up with all that hoopla going on around me.

  3. They would’ve treated him like the Daryl Strawberry of swimming. “Yeah, he might swim like a dolphin, but the brotha’s a crackhead. Now gimme back my endorsement money!”

  4. i don’t understand why he even got his first free pass…i feel as if it gets blown off because he isn’t a professional athlete; he still has to maintain amateur status.  professional athletes would lose their endorsements for something like this.  i would definitely hope it’s not a race issue, but maybe it is.  i think it’s terrible that he obviously doesn’t value how many kids hold him in high regard.

  5. I don’t think so… If he were Black, they would have made a bigger deal out of it. Take Marion Jones. Sure, she did use it during the Olympics and blah blah, but it comes down to the same thing… they both used drugs. I think he should suffer the consequences. I think on some level, Phelps knows that he’ll be ‘forgiven’ and doesn’t really give a shit… or else he would have been more careful and discreet about it.

  6. I’m surprised none of his sponsers have dropped him, but by dropping him companies probably would lose plenty. i don’t know if things would be any different if he was a black athlete.

  7. @thinfriendxxo – “maybe the sponsors are as high as he is.” haha. I love that.@wherethefishlives – Sam thats just it. He brings in millions of dollars. Speedo is selling millions of goggles and suits to KIDS. Athletic teams, YMCA moms, the works. Do you think parents wouldn’t be outraged if they were having a black weed smoker sell their kids swim trunks? I know Speedo wouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug and not have to find out.@MyxlDove – Poor Darryl. I am a Mets fan y’know. I grew up on that whole crackheaded dugout they had in the 80’s.@misswonderj – there is that one dude, Cullen Jenkins I think is his name. He was part of the relay team that won big last year. I know his first name was Cullen.

  8. As far as the sponsors go, I’m not sure I know how they would think, if Phelps were black.  My first thought is to think that most sponsors are going to ignore it, no matter who it is, if the potential for making huge bucks off of the person is there (as it certainly is).  Kathi

  9. To me it’s not a big deal because it’s just a little weed, more than the color of his skin. If someone can smoke weed and go on to win a medal, they actually deserve two medals because that crap makes you sorry as hell. Has he been black… Well yeah, they probably would have been harder on him. I don’t know why the double standard though. 

  10. Hell no, they would have thrown his ass in jail and probably made him repay some money to his sponsors. Although if it had been an everyday Joe they would have probably done the same thing too. It is ony because he is famous that he is getting less than a slap on the wrist.

  11. Also allow me to add in that he had already been in trouble once before for DUI when he was 19 and said he was really sorry and would learn from this. Clearly he didn’t. If they can take someones medals away and have them shamed for life for using steroids, which aren’t an illegal drug and that I am not supporting either, then they can take his away too.

  12. First, I want to say that Michael Phelps is a tool. But I don’t really know if this would be different if he were black. I do think that it would be different if he weren’t sooo successful. Look at all of the athletes and politicians (black and white) who beat drug and sexual assault charges. Fame makes some people untouchable.

  13. not just any bong.that right there is a glass on glass single percolator V.I.P bong.that bong will annihilate you.i love it. and i love Micheal Phelps for letting me know i can rip cylinder with him.=]]it’s just weed. he aint stickin needles in his arm or sucking powder up his nose.so, in my opinion it really isn’t a big deal.but that could just be because i’m a stoner.stay fresh dude, nice entry

  14. Actually, I think that if he were black then the exact same thing would’ve happened.  See, it’s not the person but the image.  Everyone wants to be like Phelps because of what he did.  Now you’ve got him being just like every other young adult out there and now they have a reason to say “Look!  Even HE’S not perfect!”  But his image still sells serious cash so it’s in the sponsors best interest to not make a big deal of it.Black, white, hispanic or asian…to do what he did and get busted for smokin’ a little dope, there isn’t anyone that’s going to really care.

  15. I’ve heard a lot of arguments about how pot is “harmless,” etc., etc. but the fact of the matter is that it’s still an illegal substance that he was caught doing and then he’s admitted to.  I think you have it exactly right when you say that he should’ve thought a little harder before picking up the bong.  When you’re getting paid all of that money and you’re a public figure, you don’t have the same liberties that the average person has.

  16. I’m not saying that Phelps isn’t a terrible role model, that he shouldn’t be more cognizant of what he represents for so many people, or that he’s a fabulous person, but I do think that no matter what kind of money he makes, he’s still a normal human being and can do normal human being activities. A lot of people get DWIs. A lot of people smoke the good stuff. Doesn’t mean they’re great people, or responsible, but they do. So while I wholeheartedly hope that my little brother, who is a huge fan of the guy, doesn’t find out about this stuff until he’s older, I don’t think Phelps’ actions should be treated any more severely than everyone else’s, and not any more leniently. And that’s a tough balance to find, because some people get into deep shit when they’re found doing such things, other don’t. It’s inconsistent.And I don’t really know if it would be that much different if Phelps were black. I don’t feel like it would be any different…but, hey. What do I know. I’m a white girl.

  17. I don’t know…I think I may be on the fence on this one.  OJ got away with murder.  So, I don’t know that race really plays a complete role if the money is coming in.  I think Phelps is like a white Will Smith when it comes to the publics view of him.  He has that “sweetheart” aura.  I think, if he were black, it would be sorting out the same way.  Because he would still have sweetheart written all over him.

  18. @sarahb_86 – I said that in the post. It was a DWI.@MakinzyKrysteen – I am not talking about him beating any charges. he wasn’t facing any real trouble for smoking weed. I am talking about the sponsors call it a nonissue.@outofherdamnmind – I think thats the stoner talking. haha.@LultimaNotte –  Exactly. I am not a frigin square. I don’t think pot smokers are evil. Its just for HIM to do it, well thats just dumb.@Laryssa – lol. well look here whitey, this is all about dollars. The important thing here is the part about your little brother. He and countless other impressionable young minds idolize Phelps. By signing endorsement deals and accepting that responsibility he in effect gives the right to do bonehead shit like this away. Now am I saying he should be locked up. No. But should the sponsors have come down on him at least a little, yes. Now ask yourself this. How are the connotations alot of people make with a black man smoking weed and a white man smoking weed different? No one is scared of a 23 year old white man hitting a bong. Unfortunately many people have a very different view of a 23 year old black man taking a hit. No matter how many gold medals he’s won. Look at the big stink some people made over Obama smoking cigarettes. @jediwa72 – You think things wouldn’t have been different if Will Smith got a DUI and a pic of him smoking a bong all over the internet after he made Independence Day? Will is so image conscious he didn’t een curse in his raps! That is why white people like him. he is non-threatening and squeaky clean.

  19. I really don’t have an opinion on marijuana itself, but the fact is that he broke the law. The message that comes out of all this hoop-la is that a famous (white) athlete can be irresponsible and act outside the law with no consequences.

  20. im not sure how race plays out with this at all. if you take a look at the sporting world i think all athletes get shit when they get caught doing things. like the steroids story in baseball, see a whole bunch of different complexions that got heat. and it is kind of fucked up that DUIs involving athletes get like 1 or 2 lines a paper, and some dude is toking up in private and gets this muhc heat.

  21. Daaaaaaaave,first of all Phelps is not a teenage role model, he’s a person that people of all ages look up to for his swim skills.secondly, he’s not paid millions of dollars to be a role model, he has endorsements to sell stufffffff.  the companies don’t pay him to live a stellar life, they pay him to sell their stufffffffffffff.  and the stuff he sells isn’t even targeted to teens.  i mean sure teens wear speedo, but speedo makes swim gear for all ages.should he be more careful and not let his fans know he breaks the law?  sure.  would i remove him from my ad campaigne if i owned a watch company for this bong incident? probably not.thirdly, there are plenty of black athletes that have been busted for drugs that continue to have fans and endorsements.  people focus on the athlete’s talent for the sport and tend to quickly forget drug activity in their personal time.  Ricky Williams and Shuan Ellis are two good examples.

  22. I’m unapologetically black, and it’s swayed my views. I have to agree completely with you vanedave – Society’s outlook on a 23 year old who uses weed varies tremendously the minute someone brings out race of the user.  I am pretty sure I know what you think, (the comments definitely confirmed it), and I can’t believe some of the above comments… Maybe I missed something, but I have this uncanny way of responding to things based upon my own experience…

  23. @curtainsopen – I am not saying that they should have completely pulled the plug on him, but come on to call it a non-issue. All I am saying is that had he been black, like Ricky Williams, he would have gotten it a lot worse for this.@rediscoverbeauty – no one really loves Canadians. Except for Shania Twain that is. Sexxxxxy!@manofcivility – I’m glad most people were feelin’ me. I might have gotten unruly and preachy otherwise.

  24. @vanedave – ricky williams got a slap on his hand the first two offenses and they finally brought the hammer down on his THIRD and FOURTH.  shaun ellis?  he’s not getting anything so far.  pacman jones?  he’s under suspicion of trying to fucking kill someone (not to mention his other numerous crimes) and he’s STILL playing.  i just dont think this is a race issue.  i dont think he’d have gotten it worse if he were black.

  25. @curtainsopen – I would probably say something in this vain…or is it vein…Anyways I don’t have any context as I haven’t paid attention to sports, I do know that there are a butt load of white guys getting their asses handed to them over in the baseball league…There has to be a statistic somewhere supporting more blacks careers being ruined than whites…otherwise I think it is just what you are subjected to.

  26. I dunno. It’s hard for a white person to answer this question. But let me ask you this: What if Michael Phelps were butt ugly? Then would he have gotten away with it? What if he were known for being a jerk? Would that make a difference? There are a lot of variables. 

  27. i learned about his DUI the same time i learned about the bong picture. i think your “shame on you/shame on me” quote is perfect for this. i’m one of those teenagers that totally fell in love with him after the Olympics, but i totally changed my mind after this. i have younger siblings that will one day admire people like phelps, and to me, what he did was very hard to forgive. but that’s just me.i’m arab and this may sound a bit harsh, but i think if phelps was black, he might’ve had a smaller chance to make it to the olympics. iknowiknowiknow, it’s really really not fair.i read your blog right after reading a blog about legalizing marijuana, so my brain was kind of scrambled up.but this post really got me thinking, alot, so thank you! 

  28. I was at least expecting him to back this up with brains. Then he went and did that.  You THINKK he’s a good guy. Many friends of mine met him. He’s really conceited and self-loving. /:

  29. @Garistotle – i doubt it. look @ chappelle, prior, and other black comedians (i love and adore) who routinely made references to weed or drugs. they were in the spotlight a lot, and i do not recall them serving time or being harassed.and apparently Phelps police are considering charging Phelps, which to me is absurd, since they would need to have that bong and residue in it to make any sorts of charges legally.

  30. Well, of course he wouldn’t. I don’t see any African-American swimming gold medalist! :PBut seriously; he would have been in much deeper shit if you ask me. Think about it; people like SnoopDogg don’t really sponser much, mostly because they do ish like that. So yeah; it would have been a TOTALLY different story if he were African-American.

  31. he’s the next Pacman Jones… minus the part about actually being a GOOD athlete.i think it helps that many other people have a lot to lose if he goes down, so it’s not just about letting him go because he’s “Michael Phelps.”  a lot people have money riding on him acting right.  eh.

  32. Actually in this case I do – only because of THIS reason – there are NO other swimmers in his class, as far as merchandising. Now black athletes do take a big hit, but it’s only because they can drop one basketball player and get another to do the ads, or football.That guy is basically impregnable because of his #1 swimmer status.

  33. Would they have treated Michael Phelps differently if he were black? DEFINITELY. And I’m not saying this because I am an African American. For example, how did people react when Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids? Uh yeah, didn’t hear too much about that. But when Marion Jones admitted to it? Well, she was stripped of all her medals and had legal action taken against her. Though we have a black president running our country now, racism is still alive and well. And just like women and men are treated differently in similar circumstances, so are whites and other minorities.

  34. Well written.  I must say sometimes celebs are placed under greater scrutiny than non-celebs though.  I know because I work in the legal field and I see people “get away” with stuff all the time, but when a celebrity does something wrong they are held to a different set of rules and standards and are subject to a public hanging,. In this case, though, it seems Mr. Phelps got off easy.  And yes I think things might be a bit different if he were black. 

  35. I don’t think it has to do with skin color. I think it has to do with the fact he was such a means of pride for America. He was a great representation of what the nation should be, and I don’t think we’re ready to give that up.

  36. And on another note….he’s such a picture-perfect athlete. How can drug use be good for him? Maybe I’m naive. I don’t know. I think it’s a bit weird and contradictory. He’s not just some movie star. He’s an Olympic gold medalist.

  37. I never understood the Phelps worship anyway. That aside… in all honesty, yes, I think if someone of Phelps’ fame and status in the world of sports had been caught with a bong, and they were Black, it would have been much worse for that person.White people don’t like to see Black people doing drugs. I’m not sure what the problem is. White people do drugs, and simply don’t assume the worst of White drug abusers. But Black drug abusers? The end of Western Civilization, man!

  38. I have an even better question – would it be the same chaos if Phelps was Canadian?! The public would back him up so much here, we’d love it! not even a slap on the wrist!

  39. I think you’re looking at this too strongly… I wouldn’t be that adamantly pissed as to denounce his worthiness of having sponsors and what-not. Yes, he is an icon for many young people out there, but this image only made him more human to me, as opposed to this perfect law abiding machine. Everyone’s got a skeleton in their closet, and all celebrities, doesn’t matter who they are, are more susceptible to someone sneaking a peek into their lives only to blast it for everyone to see. Where my opinion would be to see him smoking as totally acceptable and not to mention pretty cool, I do understand it’s not the general consensus of the American people. And with accepting that fact, I take to your viewpoint easily. However, there are far worse crimes in this world, and far worse people committing them. Phelps might have a responsibility to keep a certain image but he’s only human, and I for one am happy to see him as one rather than a tool.I’ve always said, “Give a man a beer and he’ll run a red light. Give a man a joint and he won’t get past a green light.”I’m just saying.. The media is taking this way too hard. As it always tends to do…And to answer your question, if Phelps was black I doubt he would continue to have those endorsements and would have much less of a public impact entirely. Accepting a Black president is one thing, but a Black public icon is going to take much longer. Not to say this is my belief, shoot I voted Democrat this year and get enough racist remarks as it is. As I said before, I don’t represent the general American people, nor does it represent me.

  40. Whoa dude, this has a lot more to do with than skin color. We’re talking an olympic athlete/hero here man. Ok, so Kobe lost some endorsements after what happened with that maid. Ok, Michael Vick got sent to the slammer for holding dog fights at his crib. Sorry but tapping dat bong is not a big issue compared to adultery and cruelty to animals.

  41. I’m not even going to read this in its entirety. When it boils down to it cannabis is only illegal due to racism [seriously check out some of the shit the very first cannabis prohibitionists said] and that pharmaceutical companies can’t make money off of natural health products [but they sure as hell can put THC in a pill and sell it]. Not to mention it promotes neurogenesis, habitual use prevents lung cancer, and not a single death has been accounted to cannabis use. There is nothing wrong or immoral about smoking it. Not to mention kids aren’t as spineless and impressionable as people think they are, sure some are. But the majority of them know the difference between right and wrong. So I really don’t see what the big deal here is? It’s not like he is shooting up black tar heroin.

  42. I def agree with you on the double standard. Granted. Phelps is amazing and has accomplished so much. I feel that this is getting overreaction cause marijuana is not a hardcore drug. But he was partying it up and was dumb enough to get caught. I feel if you’re Michael Phelps, you gotta be careful because everyone wants a piece of ya. Choose your friends wisely.

  43. He’s not being dropped from his sponsors, because right now he is THE Olympic champion.  It has nothing to do with his race– if a black man were in exactly the same position, no, I do not think it would be any different.  He makes them MONEY.  He (to some people) is a big deal.  Those companies don’t want to lose that by making a big deal of this, because they don’t want to risk being the only one complaining and losing him.  It’s not like there is another person who’s won as much as he has, just sitting around the corner waiting for them.

  44. @figachewy – ok then lets look at Barry Bonds v. Mark McGwire. Both broke the home run record, both were suspected of using performance enhancers. Yet McGwire got a free pass till more recently while Bonds had an asterisk next to his name from the start. You also didn’t see Bonds in hardly any advertising while McGwire was all over the place. Explain?@blowcaine – You are completely missing the point of this entry. This is not about whether pot should be legal. It isn’t legal. No matter if that is right or wrong that is a fact. Therefore if Phelps IS going to toke up, then he should be smart enough not to get caught doing so. And I think you give kids faaarrrrr too much credit.

  45. @Lizbeth8207 -Yes it is all about MONEY! And let me tell you something, I don’t care if he had won nine gold medals, if he were black with a DUI and Weed smoking on his resume he gets labeled a drug user first and a great olympian second. Now in terms of money, you are going to lose it as a sponsor if the public sees your guy as a drug dealer. Now the reason the sponsors can afford to be so nonchalant about this is that for a young white man such as Phelps a DUI and some weed means he is just a kid who was having too much fun. It’s a double standard that undoubtedly exists.

  46. I think his age has more to do with it than skin color. Society as a whole expects younger people to be stupid. Which sort of pisses me off. I’m 24 and I have NEVER, not once, even touched marijuana. Maybe we all need to be held to a higher standard.

  47. If the black person was bringing in as much money as Phelps is- he’d still keep the sponsership.Which sucks, because money is more important than someone being a good role model, or respecting someone’s life.I don’t have as much of an issue with the weed though (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with it, nor do I think it should become legal, but that’s not the point)- I have more of an issue with the DWI, and that he didn’t get more than a slap on the wrist for it. Smoking weed only affects YOU- DWI affects the person that you hit (As well as their loved ones). Everytime you get into a car you’re taking someone’s life in your hands- that just proves you have no respect for those lives.

  48. I think that the issue is not black or white, instead the issue is that people in the spotlight, like phelps, are going to get special treatment no matter what. If most of those companies didn’t have michael as a sponser, they would lose a lot of profit. There are many more examples of this with black people and most of them get the same treatment as Phelps did.. Think about if Michael Jordan smoked a little pot back in the day (which he might have idk.. and im not looking it up).. Do you honestly think Nike would have got rid of him? umm yeah.. definatly not

  49. @vanedave –  Ok, I guess you are insinuating that race is the issue here. That’s plausible, but there are many more. Once again, I’m going to say that because of his olympic status, Phelps'”margin of error” is larger than most athletes with their sponsors,regardless of his race. I can’t comment about Mcgwire/Bonds because 1) I just don’t watch baseball and 2) this topic you mentioned was about treatment from sponsors, not treatment from a professional league. I will say that you are overemphasizing the race factor if you think no one sponsored Bonds based on his being black — sponsors look for behaved and successful characters, be it Peyton Manning or Ladanian Tomlinson or Michael Strahan and that’s why you wouldn’t see TO or Plaxico Burress with as many willing sponsors, despite their success.

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