Three companies on Monday announced they would end their sponsorship deals with U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, bringing a sudden stop to contracts worth an estimated $1 million in the wake of his scandal in Rio de Janeiro.
Syneron-Candela, owner of Gentle Laser Hair Removal, released a statement saying the company wound end its partnership with the athlete, adding, “We hold our employees to high standards, and we expect the same of our business partners.”
Earlier Monday, Ralph Lauren executives stated their company’s contract with Lochte was for the 2016 Rio Olympics only, and would not be renewed. “Ralph Lauren continues to sponsor the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team and the values that its athletes embody.”
Speedo USA said in a separate statement that the company would donate $50,000 from Lochte’s endorsement fee to the charity Save The Children. “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. We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”
Lochte acknowledged it was his “immature behavior” that got him and three teammates into a mess that consumed the final days of the Olympics, in a portion of an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that aired Saturday. Police have said the swimmers vandalized a bathroom after a night of partying and armed guards confronted them and asked them to pay for the damage.
The Japanese mattress maker Airweave’s CEO, Motokuni Takaoka, said last week the firm would keep its partnership with Lochte.
“Ryan Lochte has done absolutely irreparable damage to his reputation and marketability regardless of what the final investigation in Rio reveals about whether he embellished or lied, in addition to his reprehensible personal behavior as an ‘ugly American,'” Ray Katz, managing partner of ROI Sports Marketing Group and Columbia University professor, told FoxBusiness.com.
Describing the incident in Rio, Lochte told NBC, “Whether you call it a robbery or whether you call it extortion or us just paying for the damages, we don’t know. All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.”
But he admitted that he understood that he was being told that the Americans had to pay for the damage or the police would be called.
At that point, Lauer said: “You’re striking a deal. Is that fair?”
“We just wanted to get out of there,” Lochte said, adding the swimmers were frightened.
Lauer told Lochte that his story had morphed from one about “the mean streets or Rio” to a negotiated settlement to cover up dumb behavior.
“That’s why I’m taking full responsibility for it, because I over-exaggerated the story,” Lochte said. “If I had never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Lochte also said he had lied in telling NBC interviewer Billy Bush the next day that a gun had been cocked and pointed at his forehead. He said he was still under the influence of alcohol when he talked to Bush.
“I definitely had too much to drink that night and I was very intoxicated,” he said.
Lochte, who dyed his hair white for the games and had it turn a light shade of green from the pool, had changed his hair back to its regular shade of brown for the interview, which was conducted in New York. As Brazilian police investigated his robbery claim, and eventually held his teammates for questioning while they sorted out his story, he had tweeted he intended to dye it back.
He said he hoped to continue competitive swimming but acknowledged that it won’t be his decision about whether he’d be able to be part of the American team again. USA Swimming and the International Olympic Committee could issue sanctions.
Lochte said he regretted how the incident had tarnished Rio and the last week of the Olympics. He also gave an interview to Brazil’s main broadcaster Globo on Saturday to apologize for his actions.
“Brazil doesn’t deserve that,” he said to Globo. “I am sorry that my immaturity caused all this ruckus.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.