Public Marijuana Apologies

Posted by Laura Vladimirova | 8680 views
By Laura Vladimirova


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Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps is just one of the many celebrity atheletes who has apologized for using marijuana.
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" “You seldom see rappers, rock stars or actors apologizing." "

There’s been a rise in public expressions of regret. Celebrities of all sorts have been saying they’re sorry for their various indiscretions. Maybe the spread is lead by the opinionated scrutiny of social media users or maybe our celebs really are just regular, messed up people. Either way their indiscretions are now available for all to judge.

There are specific distinctions in the new realm of the publicized, “I’m sorry.” For one, what has the famous person been caught doing? Are they cheating on their spouse and family? Using steroids to win races or spewing hate-filled rants? Maybe they got caught with some weed.  

Perhaps the best known marijuana associated apology came from 14-time Olympian gold winner Michael Phelps--for his infamous bong photo, first published by the now disgraced News of the World. Which, in hindsight, begs the question of how they actually got that photo?

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment.” said Phelps in a statement. Though, his case is several years old, it’s at the top of the list when it comes to marijuana apologies.

“…Phelps is Numero Uno. That's getting to be old news, but he really was under the media microscope there for a while,” says Steve Bloom, of CelebStoner, a celebrity-focused marijuana lifestyle site.

There was a backlash when he issued that apology. As expected, the common chatter about athletes needing to be better role models was present. More interestingly was the commentary condemning his apology from other celebrities. Bill Maher openly scrutinized the Kellogg’s decision to drop Phelps as their spokesperson:

"I wish we could end this charade in this country that putting marijuana in your body is somehow worse than a thousand other things that people put in their body - including anything made by Kellogg's," he said on the Jay Leno show.

Marijuana activist blogger for the Marijuana Policy Project, Steve Fox, made a great point when he likened these humiliating apologies to “athletes and celebrities pilloried in the media.” Indeed, there is a bizarre spectacle element to public apologies, especially from a someone as successful as Phelps.

On the other hand, plenty of other public figures open up about marijuana use, but aren’t encouraged to apologize. Bloom notes that there is a clear division between what type of celebrity apologizes for weed. 

“Willie Nelson's arrest and recent fine is almost comedic. Border police busted him, but the local cops didn't really want to have anything to do with it…Willie never apologized but has agreed to play a concert for Texas law enforcement in Houston later this summer…Athletes apologize. You really need to make this distinction,” he says.

While politicians and their families often issue mea culpas, they usually manage to slink out of actual admission, like Clinton’s “I didn’t inhale.” Evidently, there is a societal double standard when it comes to athletes and everyone else. This is the celebrity marijuana paradigm. Usaine Bolt, LenDale White and Santonio Holmes said sorry after their marijuana encounters go viral, while Jennifer Aniston did not.

“You seldom see rappers, rock stars or actors apologizing,” asserts Bloom.

Athletes train harder than television or film celebrities (just think of the discipline it takes to train for the major leagues or the Olympics), and when it comes to weed, they fall harder too.

Perhaps athletes apologize because they want to keep the well-paying endorsements.  Otherwise, they may want to avoid severe anti-drug policies within their leagues and legal consequences. Or maybe, they genuinely believe themselves to be role models for kids--though this is problematic in its own right. In the case of the PR teams responsible for Phelps, Bolt and the rest who have been advised to publicly humiliate themselves by airing out their personal habits, contrived apologies don’t do their fans any favors.

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