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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Subway De-links Michael Phelps As They Prepare to Drop Sponsorship

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phelps-subwayExclusive! Subway has officially de-linked Michael Phelps as they prepare to drop his recently announced sponsorship deal. Before Michael’s bong hits hit the headlines, Michael Phelps was featured on the Subway web site. However, since the swimmer’s pothead scandal, Subway has removed all links to pages featuring the Olympic swimmer (see below).

Confidentially, the Subway webteam gave us the heads up — Michael Phelps has been remmed out, de-linked, due to his recent one toke over the line. Other Subway “celebrity friends” are still listed, like Jared, Ryan Howard and Reggie Bush — but they have been told to officially de-link all references featuring Michael (click below to see larger):

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In an e-mail from Subway spokeswoman Megan Driscoll, she said: “Subway is not commenting or releasing a statement right now on Michael Phelps.” However, in de-linking all references to Michael Phelps, this is Subway corporate as they prepare for dropping their sponsorship. Our insider told us Subway execs are pissed off, talking to legal, want their endorsement money returned — and to “get rid of this embarrassment.”

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And, here’s the thing, Subway just signed Michael on November 21st! Here’s what they said at the time:

“SUBWAY(R) takes pride in being a healthy and active brand - one that can be a regular part of these world class athletes’ routines,” states Tony Pace, Chief Marketing Officer of the SUBWAY Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust (SFAFT), which signed the contract with Phelps. “We knew Michael Phelps was a big fan of our sandwiches and we wanted to build on that with him to illustrate that SUBWAY(R) is a brand that can play a role in helping everyone - from elite athletes to weekend joggers - perform at their peak levels and make healthier, smarter choices about food, whatever the activity.”

And being a “healthy and active brand” does not mean associating themselves with a goofy pothead, regardless of Olympic medals… Right now, Jared is laughing and nodding, knowing that job security is sweet.

UPDATE: Until Michael Phelps returns to the Subway website or ever appears in any advertising, we stand by our insider, instead of any spin doctor spokesperson.

Original here

Michael Phelps' marijuana use puts focus on debate over the drug

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps heads toward reporters at Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Baltimore to answer questions during a training session Friday.

By Chuck Culpepper

And so suddenly here's marijuana -- yep, marijuana -- hogging itself another heyday, bolting into the spotlight, all but sashaying back into dialogue and shouting, "Hey, I'm still here."

Shadowed in cycles through recent decades while other legal or illegal or performance-enhancing stimulants took turns getting all the hype, marijuana has just hollered in the case of merely the most-decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps. It has tried to yell from the recent past of the Super Bowl most valuable player, who alighted at Disney World only four months after a forgotten arrest.

It has appeared this week in the suitcase of an arrested college basketball point guard at an airport, and this winter in the possession of a former Dallas receiver, and a Seattle linebacker, and a Florida State receiver, and a retired NBA forward/center, and amid a Japanese sumo wrestling scandal if you can believe such, and in November with a New York Jets defensive end, and last spring in that bellwether moment on talk radio, when Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard readily said he enjoyed an inhale.

Marijuana? Who knew? Yeah, well, OK, pretty much everybody did.

"It has been constant in terms of it being the most popular of the illicit drugs," said Roger Roffman, a professor at the University of Washington, whose study of marijuana in culture dates clear back to the Vietnam War as a social worker for the Army. Even if its relative usage doesn't match its peak from the late 1970s, Roffman said its No. 1 ranking has remained impenetrable.

It's just that news coverage and human discourse run in cycles, as Roffman reminded, and seldom has any cycle known a louder clash than a 14-time gold medalist heralded as classic Americana ramming into a photo at a party with a bong. Such a noise far occludes even the fact that Santonio Holmes, NFL superhero and honored Disney guest, logged a one-game suspension in October after Pittsburgh police pulled him over, got a whiff of his SUV and asked if he'd been smoking, whereupon, according to their report, he said, "No, but yesterday I was."

Because sports permeates everything, those keen on the marijuana issue all along have seen the case of Phelps and his multitudinous corporate sponsors as a gauge of the American mood circa 2009.

Quiet ruled for days. Then Thursday, Kellogg's halted its sponsorship of Phelps, finding his behavior "not consistent with the image of Kellogg's," the 103-year-old Michigan cereal titan. Subway, another sponsor, opted for censure but not discontinuance. From a far different culture, the Swiss watchmaker Omega deemed it "a non-issue."

"I think there would have been a much stronger and larger fallout" for an American gold medalist 10 or 20 years ago, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. In the Phelps brouhaha, Armentano has sensed a profound shift in national dialogue and in media questions, even if he does still chafe when incorrigible headline writers find double-entendres irresistible. In his view, a swift, toned, dominant athlete who "more than the average American is cognizant of what he puts in his body" simply "blows to smithereens" marijuana's images of slackerdom.

"Kellogg's is playing by the rules of 20 years ago," Armentano said. "Subway is playing by the rules of 1986 and the 'War on Drugs.' Those rules have changed."

This time around, in fact, some High Times website readers have called for a boycott of Kellogg's, while Roffman surmises that could lead to opponents calling for a boycott of the boycott of Kellogg's.

That's because as the debate has roiled on and Roffman has followed it, he has detected four sides, all of which, he said, don "blinders" when regarding the other three.

Group 1 emphasizes that most adults who smoke marijuana do so occasionally and "without really any harm," Roffman said, "and that's a very hard thing for us to publicly acknowledge." Group 2 stresses that "a substantial number of marijuana smokers get into real trouble" and "derail" from functionality.

Group 3 considers marijuana central to life on Earth and tends to live alternatively both culturally and politically, yet manages to function. And Group 4 entails medical users, whose approval in various states -- California in 1996 -- has helped soften the stigma over time.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, trains on Group 2 and maintains in its policy statements, "Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science -- it is not medicine and it is not safe," and, "Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety." More personally, a Colorado mother of a 12-year-old swimmer said of Phelps on ABC News, "I am absolutely appalled. Honestly, absolutely appalled, sickened and saddened."

Epitomizing the dichotomy of views, 12 states have decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana possession but, Roffman said, "Would the rest of the states pass that? I have substantial doubts about that." In the athletic realm, there have been 1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, who said on the record that marijuana made him lazy and impeded his progress, and five-time Pro Bowl NFL lineman Mark Stepnoski, who said on the record it helped him sleep and alleviate pain without enduring painkillers or hangovers.

Had Roffman run Kellogg's, he said, he might have opted for a commodity rare in America: nuance. He might have suspended Phelps but said something akin to: We realize he's a role model. We don't believe children and adolescents should smoke marijuana. We also realize Phelps is an adult. We recognize that adults often smoke marijuana without being harmed. We also recognize that because he's a role model, we support his attempt not to repeat this.

That's too shaded for a zippy sound bite, of course, but that's hemp in 2009, when a 47-year-old statesman can admit he smoked during youth and become a decisively elected president, and a 23-year-old athlete can succumb to a South Carolina party photographer and a British tabloid and a ruckus, but with his sponsors reacting variously.

It's a marijuana era clearly new but still perplexing.

"There aren't many places Joe and Mary Public can turn for a balanced, up-to-date, accurate, rational debate about marijuana and all of its glitter and all of its warts," Roffman said. So even though the professor lacks a title just yet for his forthcoming memoir about 40 years following the bouncing dialogue, he does know that the title, for diverse reasons, will include the word "myth."

Original here

Colorado woman completes quest

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Jennifer Figge pressed her toes into the Caribbean sand, exhilarated and exhausted as she touched land this week for the first time in almost a month.

Reaching a beach in Trinidad, she became the first woman on record to swim across the Atlantic Ocean -- a dream she'd had since the early 1960s, when a stormy trans-Atlantic flight got her thinking she could don a life vest and swim the rest of the way if needed.

[+] EnlargeJennifer Figgie
AP Photo/J Pat CarterJennifer Figge became the first woman to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

The 56-year-old left the Cape Verde Islands off Africa's western coast on Jan. 12, battling waves of up to 30 feet and strong winds.

David Higdon, a friend of Figge who kept in touch with her via satellite phone, said she had planned to swim to the Bahamas, a distance of 2,100 miles, but inclement weather forced her to veer 1,000 miles off course to Trinidad, where she arrived on Thursday.

Figge plans to continue her odyssey, swimming from Trinidad to the British Virgin Islands, where she expects to arrive in late February. The crew won't compute the total distance Figge swam until after she completes the journey, Higdon said.

Then it's home to Aspen, Colo. -- where she trained for months in an outdoor pool amid snowy blizzards -- to reunite with her Alaskan Malamute.

"My dog doesn't know where I am," she told The Associated Press on Saturday by phone. "It's time for me to get back home to Hank."

The dog swirled in her thoughts, as did family and friends, as Figge stroked through the chilly Atlantic waters escorted by a sailboat. She saw a pod of pilot whales, several turtles, dozens of dolphins -- but no sharks.

"I was never scared," Figge said. "Looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. I can always swim in a pool."

Her journey comes a decade after French swimmer Benoit Lecomte made the first known solo trans-Atlantic swim, covering nearly 4,000 miles from Massachusetts to France in 73 days. No woman on record has made the crossing.

Figge woke most days around 7 a.m., eating pasta and baked potatoes while she and the crew assessed the weather. Her longest stint in the water was about eight hours, and her shortest was 21 minutes. Crew members would throw bottles of energy drinks as she swam; if the seas were too rough, divers would deliver them in person. At night she ate meat, fish and peanut butter, replenishing the estimated 8,000 calories she burned a day.

Figge wore a red cap and wet suit, with her only good-luck charm underneath: an old, red shirt to guard against chafing, signed by friends, relatives and her father, who recently died.

The other cherished possession she kept onboard was a picture of Gertrude Ederle, an American who became the first woman to swim across the English Channel.

"We have a few things in common," Figge said. "She wore a red hat and she was of German descent. We both talk to the sea, and neither one of us wanted to get out."

Figge arrived on Trinidad's Chacachacare Island, an abandoned leper colony, at 5:20 p.m. She plans to leave Trinidad on Monday night.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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England's Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff sold for $1.55m each at IPL auction

By Nick Hoult in Goa

Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen join Indian Premier League at record prices
Market day: Indian Premier League's Lalit Modi (centre) is flanked by Bollywood actress and co-owner of Kings XI Punjab Preity Zinta (right) and Bollywood actress and co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals, Shilpa Shetty at the player auction in Goa

Perhaps that is the burden buying an English cricketer places on the shoulders of an Indian Premier League team owner.

Then again perhaps it was the only stumble on a day when eight franchise owners pushed away the growing tide of a worldwide recession to splash the cash in Goa, a state where the beaches and five star hotels hide an impoverished local community.

The ageing hippies, who made Goa their home in the 1960s, must have been choking on their pipes of peace as some of the world's richest people lavished millions on England's Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen.

Both were sold for the same fee – $1.55 million – and share the title as the world's most expensive cricketer. Lalit Modi, the commissioner of the IPL, was quick to thank the England & Wales Cricket Board for making them available for three weeks of this year's IPL.

Vijay Mallya, the owner of Bangalore, was even quicker to say he would "love" Pietersen to be available for double that time in 2010. Flintoff, who was signed by team that sounds like a cigarette, the Chennai Super Kings, and Pietersen, will already be flicking through next year's diary. A Test series at home against Bangladesh, which is likely to clash with the IPL, will test their pride in the England shirt.

As expected, Flintoff was the biggest draw and as soon as the wooden stump bearing his name was pulled out of the bag, several team owners leaned forward in their chairs. Each had to lift a flashing red bat to signal their intention to bid. The auction room was soon ablaze with light as Rajasthan, the IPL champions, fought Chennai for Flintoff.

"Freddie would have got more if he had been drawn out later," said Manoj Badale, the British businessman and part-owner of the Rajasthan Royals. "An element of luck played its part because if he had been drawn out first then the teams would have had more of their $2 million budget to spend." Poor Freddie. Somehow he has got to live on $250,000 per week.

For Pietersen, Bangalore was always his destination. Of all the billionaires – the IPL does not do mere millionaires – sat in the auction room Mallya's fortune is probably the only one to be improved by a recession.

In hard times it pays to be a liquor baron and for a man with a $1.5 billion fortune, buying Pietersen was mere small beer. Mallya, the owner of the Kingfisher brewery, was prepared to spend more to sign Pietersen, a player he feels will make an excellent captain, whatever reference the ECB provides.

"I was very keen to get Pietersen and I am happy to get him for the price we did," he said. "I think it is a worthwhile investment in a great player."

Mallya is a man who wants results. KP will have to deliver. Last year Mallya sacked the team's chief executive after the side finished second last in the IPL and then publicly criticised Rahul Dravid, one of India's finest cricketers and the Bangalore captain. Thanks to recent experience, Pietersen will probably be glad to be judged on results alone.

Flintoff and Pietersen were always expected to attract the big deals but it was also a good day for Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara. Shah and Collingwood will both play for the Delhi Daredevils with $275,000 salaries but Bopara benefited from a bidding war between two teams to carve out a $450,000 deal with Zinta's Kings XI Punjab.

"He is a great player and an all-rounder and we wanted someone who we feel can contribute in more than one way to the team," said Zinta.

There were losers. Thirty-three players were left unsold and England scored a small victory ahead of the Ashes. Only two Australians were bought and their combined value was lower than the $650,000 Calcutta paid for a Bangladesh bowler, Mashrafe Mortaza. Only the very cynical would suggest Mortaza's signing was influenced by Calcutta's plan to play matches in cricket-mad Bangladesh.

Those left on the shelf included England's Luke Wright and Samit Patel. "Are we quite sure there are no bids," said English auctioneer Richard Madley as Patel's name was met with silence.

Somehow there's a touch of schadenfreude in seeing an elite sportsman reduced to being the only kid in the playground not to be picked.

IPL auction in numbers:

$1.55m: Andrew Flintoff (ENG) - Chennai Super Kings, Kevin Pietersen (ENG) - Bangalore Royal Challengers
$950,000: Jean-Paul Duminy (RSA) - Mumbai Indians
$650,000: Tyron Henderson (RSA) - Rajasthan Royals
$600,000: Mashrafe Mortaza (BAN) - Kolkata Knight Riders
$450,000: Ravi Bopara (ENG) - Kings XI Punjab
$375,000: Shaun Tait (AUS) - Rajasthan Royals
$275,000: Owais Shah (ENG) - Delhi Daredevils, Paul Collingwood (ENG) - Delhi Daredevils
$160,000: Jesse Ryder (NZL) - Bangalore Royal Challengers
$150,000: Fidel Edwards (WIS) - Deccan Chargers, Kyle Mills (NZL) - Mumbai Indians, Jerome Taylor (WIS) - Kings XI Punjab
$140,000: Thilan Thushara (SRI) - Chennai Super Kings
$100,000: Dwayne Smith (WIS) - Deccan Chargers
$75,000: Mohammad Ashraful (BAN) - Mumbai Indians
$50,000: George Bailey (AUS) - Chennai Super Kings

Original here