Phelps Phired….Marijuana or Money??
February 6, 2009

A chastened Michael Phelps, talks to 11 News...

A chastened Michael Phelps, talks to 11 News...

It seemed for a couple of days as if the greatest Olympic Champion of all time might escape  serious repercussions for a serious lapse of judgement, captured for all eternity by a cell phone, no doubt. There he was, 23 year  old Michael Phelps, winner of eight gold medals, taking a hit of weed off a bong. But the chickens are coming home to roost, as my Mother might say….late last night, the Olympic Committee announced they were suspending Phelps for 3 months, which means he won’t get his $1700 monthly training stipend…not that that means a great deal to him…he is a multi-millionaire,  but the 3 month suspension from competeting no doubt hurts. Even more painful,  his first sponsor has announced they are dropping himKellogg’s said at the end of the month, they will no longer need Michael Phelps to smile on front of their cornflakes boxes. That hurts a lot worse, of course, and no doubt his management team is hoping other sponsors like Speedo and Omega watches(who have so far said they would stand by him) won’t follow suit. But here’s the thing….Michael P. made this decision super-easy for Kellogg’s. And maybe…just maybe…dropping him is not as much about his recreational drug use, as it is a financial decision. Let’s say Kellogg’s is feeling the same crunch (financial not Sugar Frosted Flakes), and they, like many companies are looking to reduce their costs. Quick board meeting among top execs….”here’s how you can save some big money”…and wow…done…over…kaput. All it takes is  quick phone call, and Kellogg’s has improved the bottom line.

Which sadly leads me to something that has been rattling around in my brain for a while. This January, employers lopped off 598,000 jobs. As in, over a half a million people lost their paycheck…the worst since 1974. Here’s my question(and sometimes the question is more important than the answer)….how many of those companies laid off people because they had to…and how many fired workers as a kneejerk reaction to the recession…or, even worse,  I find this hard to even put this in print because it horrifies me….how many are cutting people because they will NEVER have a better opportunity. I know. But when your boss says, “Hey I’m really, really sorry to let you go, but it’s the economy, you know? I have no choice.” And you my unhappy friend, have no choice but to believe him or her. It is the perfect downsizing cover. Know what I’m saying? When I have mentioned this wonderful, awful idea to a few people, they look at me shocked, and say(usually), “I never thought about it like that.”

We’ll never know really, until maybe years and years and years down the road, when some people reveal with a guilty conscience, that they cleared out some deadwood, unproductive workers,  someone they didn’t like, or fired 100 people  just to save a few bucks…. people they could have kept. And you don’t look like Scrooge!! But you just made the economy so much worse. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear I’m not. And Michael Phelps is not exempt from this kind of thing…just better able to take the blow than most.

You can watch our exclusive interview raw footage, Michael Phelps with WBAL reporter Kate Amara…right here.