Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps has made a statement on his Facebook fan page apologizing for a photograph that shows Phelps smoking marijuana at a college party. At least Phelps is being proactive about the situation, given his celebrity status as an athlete. Perhaps he’s taken cues from other athletes that have had to deal with a number of different drug-related situations–the public tends to be more forgiving when a celebrity is forthcoming from the start.
The Facebook fan page post from Phelps reads as follows:
“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23-years-old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public – it will not happen again.“
The interesting aspect of this all is the fans reaction to Phelps’ statement. Since Phelps is a celebrity, he needs the support from his fans. And given the wealth of endorsements that have been thrown at him even before winning a chestful of gold medals at the Olympics last summer, Phelps’ public image is directly correlated with his potential for generating revenue.
But perusing through the comments on Phelps’ Facebook fan page, the swimmer doesn’t have anything to worry about. Though the hundreds of comments left in response to Phelps’ statement are peppered with harsh words, the majority of people feel that Phelps is still an outstanding athlete and person. Some even go so far as to question the very legality of marijuana, stating that if Phelps can smoke marijuana and go on (years later) to win so many Olympic medals, then it must not be that bad of a drug.
That’s an entirely different can of worms to open, but Phelps’ use of Facebook is just one of the many media outlets he used to reach out to apologize for his actions. It was a necessary move, considering Phelps became the most popular person on Facebook last summer. As Nick mentioned, Facebook recognizes the power of a celebrity fan page such as Phelps’ as it promoted the page, helping it grow to its number 1 status. So what does that mean for Facebook and its own potential for future partnerships and promotions? If we’re using Phelps’ current situation as a litmus test at all, I’d say there’s nothing to worry about for Phelps or Facebook.