August 21st, 2011

Should pro athletes endorse junk food?

The Globe and Mail

In the weirdest celebrity endorsement since Olympic athletes began shilling for McDonald’s, a group of top jocks is now starring in ads for Oreo’s new, supersized cookies.

According to The Huffington Post, retired NBA centre Shaquille O’Neal, tennis star Venus Williams, NFL quarterback Eli Manning and speed skater Apolo Ohno are promoting Triple Double Oreos. (Yes, there is such a thing.)

The new cookies, which have been referred to as the “Double Down of cream filled cookies,” have created buzz due to their hefty calorie count. As the Los Angeles Times points out, one of these new three-layer cookies contains 100 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, compared with an original Oreo, which has 50 calories.

These days, of course, endorsement deals and athletic stardom come hand in hand. But while pitching for brands like Nike or Fifa may make sense, does the pairing of junk foods and athletes send mixed messages about sports nutrition? Hockey star Mark Messier, for instance, promoted Lays potato chips, NBA’s LeBron James shilled for Sprite, and even Wayne Gretzky at one time endorsed McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

Given the rising obesity rates, is the marriage between athletes and fast foods irresponsible?

On the other hand, are we really to believe that Mr. Ohno snacks on sugary, frosting-filled Oreos? Or that Ms. Williams washes down a couple with milk between training sessions?

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