Watching the Olympics offers a fascinating glimpse of the fickle nature of reputation management for the athletes we adore and admire.
Both Hope Solo and Gabby Douglas have faced a reputation faux pas during the 2016 Summer Games. For Solo, it was her comments about the Swedish soccer team being “cowards” for how they played their win over Team USA. Douglas has come under fire for he apparent apathy towards the success of her teammates and lack of respect for the US national anthem. Yet, both can take comfort in the lesson we can learn from one of the biggest reputation missteps in modern Olympic history: Micheal Phelps.
Michael Phelps is once again the golden boy of the Olympics, yet just a few years ago his reputation looked all dried up thanks to an image of him smoking a bong.I even naively wrote about the damage to his squeaky clean reputation.
Phelps proved us all wrong.
Why? Why was Phelps able to completely recover from his reputation scandal and become so beloved by hundreds of millions?
The answer is simple: the scandal was unrelated to the reputation he had built as an athlete. We loved him for his prowess in the pool, not the actions of his personal life. Who can honestly say they know anything about Phelps outside of his swimming achievements?
Phelps bong inhalation was not something that enhanced his performance in the pool.
Hope Solo’s comments were off the field.
Their reputations will be just fine. Sure, you should protect your reputation at all times, but unless you pull a Lance Armstrong, fans will (eventually) forgive you for being nothing more than human after all.