It was barely a week ago that many of us were appreciating the political-campaign respite that the Olympics were affording: ample servings of patriotism, pride and vicarious victories. The opportunity to play down the pandering and mudslinging and cynical maneuvering for a fortnight.
Enter Ryan Lochte and friends.
It was stupid on steroids unconscionably compounded by classlessness.
Lochte, 32, is a University of Florida grad from the Daytona Beach area. He is second only to Michael Phelps as a bedecked gold-medal winner in swimming. He’s made it by cashing in. He dates a Playboy Playmate and has been collecting seven-figure endorsement checks from Speedo USA, Ralph Lauren, Airweave (mattresses) and Syneron Candela (hair removal). At least he used to.
He’s now utterly damaged goods, as we’ve already seen. The too-little, too-late interview with Matt Lauer won’t help. He did something dumb, lied about it, left his buddies and fled before he could be questioned. Common sense and a social conscience, let alone PR 101, would have told him what to do within 24 hours. Tiger Woods now looks classy by comparison.
You tell the embarrassing–bachelor-party mortification meets frat-boy drunken details–and get it all out of the way (it’s indelicately called the “big dump” in consultant-speak) right away. You don’t let details drip out and dominate multiple news cycles.
Then you “apologize.” None of this Trumpian “regret” stuff (because you looked bad), but an in-person, credible mea culpa to all those adversely impacted. You actually use the word “apologize” and you start with your country, the host country, the host city, the International Olympic Committee and the Olympics, per se, including all participants. And you sound like you mean it, not like you’re reading a hostage statement.
You acknowledge the unique forum that is the Olympics and how your behavior unfairly drew attention from all the competitors enjoying their special moment. You ask for forgiveness and volunteer to work with Special Olympic swimmers in Rio.
You do the right thing. For your country, for the host country, for the host city, for the IOC, for fellow Olympians, for your buddies who used to look up to you–and for yourself. In that order.