Missy Franklin: Amateur status 'still the plan right now'

Missy Franklin insisted Monday that she plans to maintain her amateur status so she can swim with a college team, although she acknowledged her multiple Olympic medals and new-found fame could have her swimming in million-dollar endorsements.

“It is still the plan right now, but I know there’s definitely going to be a talk in the future with my family and my coach just trying to figure out what is best for me,” she told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.

Franklin, 17, has stressed her desire to compete on a college team once she graduates from her Colorado high school next year because she thrives in a group environment.

“I do want to swim in college so badly,” she said. “I love being part of a team, and in college, that team is such a big part of who you are and what you do and I really want to get a chance to be a part of that.”  

Although an exact tally is difficult to estimate, Franklin could probably earn a million dollars in the next two years promoting food products, apparel, cosmetics and other items typically geared to American teenagers like herself, said Jim Andrews, senior vice president of IEG LLC, a Chicago-based sponsorship consulting and research firm.

Olympians are in different situations than professional football and baseball players, golfers and other athletes whose feats can be viewed weekly on television, Andrews pointed out. Spotlights usually shine on Olympians once every four years. Very few have year-round notoriety like Michael Phelps.

“Even in the off years, when we see Phelps doing Subway commercials and other things, we know who he is because he’s such a superstar. He’s transcended the games,” he said. 

Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, called Franklin’s decision highly unusual. Most star Olympians are seizing chances to capitalize on their fame.

“Being Olympians, you only have a narrow window to gain, and kind of recoup, some of the expenses you put in all those years of training,” he said. “To pass up on your high water mark has got to be a tough thing to do. It’s highly unusual.”

However, Andrews also pointed out that swimmers, unlike other athletes, tend to have longer competitive careers. At 17, Franklin could easily be expected to compete at another Olympics, should she stay healthy and free of injuries.

“Obviously, there are no guarantees. Will she win another four gold medal four years from now? It’s not a definite. There’s a risk she’s taking, but at least the possibility exists.”

Franklin won the nation over with her personality as easily as she won four gold medals and a bronze in her London Olympic competitions. Her youthful energy and down-to-Earth demeanor charmed fans, as did her insistence on experiencing life as an average teenager. For example, she enthusiastically told Guthrie one of the things she looks forward to the most in school next year is attending the football games with her friends.

But by forgoing promotional contracts and professional prize money to retain her amateur status, Franklin gives up deals similar to the ones that already have showered fellow American Olympic star Gabby Douglas. The gold-medal gymnast will be featured on a special edition of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes boxes. She also has cinched a contract with Proctor & Gamble, whose products include beauty brands such as CoverGirl, Olay, Pantene and Secret.

Although the Olympics have garnered her national attention quickly, Franklin said she feels very little has changed in her life.

“Maybe a few more people know who I am but really, that’s all that’s changed,” she said. “I still have the best family and friends and teammates in the world and just going to go home and be a normal high schooler.”

More: Missy Franklin plans to bring tattoo home along with Olympic medals 
Missy Franklin's mom: 'She's always been smiling'
Best yet? Swim team makes 'Call Me Maybe' lipdub
Missy Franklin: I'll win to 'shine some light' on Colo. 
Gabby Douglas: Gold medals are made of 'blood, sweat and tears' 
Ryan Lochte: Mom meant 'nothing negative' about my love life 
NBC Olympics: Missy Franklin dominates the 200 back 


Discuss this post

Take the money and run! In the old days, you would not be able to compete in the Olympics ever again. Nowadays, many of the Olympic competitors are already millionaires.

  • 4 votes
Reply#1 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:03 PM EDT

This is an incredibly idiotic decision that will cost her millions of dollars in the long run. She can virtually secure her financial future for the rest of her life now, and all it will cost her is the ability to swim for whatever college she chooses. As a former Div I athlete myself, I obviously applaud her decision to continue her education as well as her desire to represent her university, but this is just asinine. Without any guarantees that she'll be in a similar position in 4 years, she needs to take the money and not think twice about it.

  • 3 votes
Reply#2 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:07 PM EDT

I suspect that once the offers actually start rolling in, the adults in her life may sway her decision. She does not really understand how hard it is to work for the next 50 years, and being able to secure that by simply endorsing some products gives her a huge leg up on life.

  • 1 vote
#2.1 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:47 PM EDT

What does being on a cereal box or hawking Subway sandwiches have to do with being a college swimmer? Can she not hold a job for the next 4 years? Her fame (and possible fortune) were generated outside of college athletics, unlike the fame generated within NCAA football and basketball, where the coaches are allowed to milk the system for what it's worth.

Take the money and forget the NCAA, and we'll see you in 2016. You could probably sign on as coach for any college team.

  • 1 vote
Reply#3 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:26 PM EDT

Yeah, taking the money seems the logical thing to do. Who can't use a million bucks right now? But, it's her decision to live a normal life--finish high school and get a college degree--and it sounds like a pretty mature decision. Quite frankly, it's refreshing. Eight years ago, when Michael Phelps was 19 and swam his way to fame, what happened right after? He got drunk, got in a car, and then was charged with a DUI. Four years ago, he gets photographed smoking a bong. There seems to be a pattern there--a lack of purpose. So, who's making better decisions? Don't get me wrong...I rooted for Michael Phelps. He seems like a good kid, but honestly, I feel sorry for him. He doesn't seem to know what he wants to do with his life other than travel and work on his foundation. He is a 27-year-old man and doesn't appear to have thought much about his future--because all he's known for the last 20 years is swimming. From what he's said in the past, he's not done anything BUT swimming. He hasn't experienced a normal life and so if living a normal life is something Missy Franklin chooses for herself, who are we to fault her? Money doesn't bring happiness or security.

  • 3 votes
Reply#4 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:30 PM EDT

Yet remember that thanks to the Internet, the core meaning of the word amateur is now totally different.

  • 1 vote
Reply#5 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:34 PM EDT

My advice to Misty is to stay the course. You can't buy your college experience. What you can do though, is take out an insurance policy against an unfortunate injury that ruins your chances at Rio in 2016. This is all contingent on you including the University of Florida in your list of colleges of course.

  • 1 vote
Reply#6 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:39 PM EDT

I get Missy's desire to continue amateur competition, but this is financially foolish. She can make some money now, go to school, and make some more money by going to Rio - and a lot more money if she scores more golds there. She and her parents needs to get a real advisor and brand manager working with her.

    Reply#7 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:45 PM EDT

    Wow, I'd have to take the money. I understand where she's coming from about the college swim team, but would still have to take the money.

      Reply#8 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:46 PM EDT

      With size 13 feet, I'm guessing shoes. Perhaps she has stopped growing, but if not, look out. She seemed to be the only one at the flag ceremonies would sing The National Anthem and paid attention to the flag. Very mature and has the smile.

      • 2 votes
      Reply#9 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:55 PM EDT

      If you were as ugly as Michael Phelps... you would be recognized too.

      No Tax reductions for Olympic athletes... they need to pay their fair share.

        Reply#10 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 5:07 PM EDT

        Why ? The only one are basketball players and those two Williams yeah they should not be there at all. They are professional millioners .

          #10.1 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 8:53 PM EDT

          I thought I heard Missy mention to Bob Costas that she was thinking about swimming for the University of Georgia. I hope so. Go Dawgs, Sic 'Em!!!

            Reply#11 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 5:09 PM EDT

            You can see her Canadian roots showing. She has class and wants to make more than about money. Canada cheers for her even though she is wearing the red white and blue.

            • 1 vote
            Reply#12 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 5:29 PM EDT

            I think it would be helpful if they instituted a sort of deferred compensation for people like Misty. Place any endorsement earnings in a trust while they attend college and maintain their amateur status. A person should have to choose between a rewarding college experience and their momentary earning potential.

            • 2 votes
            Reply#13 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 5:54 PM EDT

            Take the money and strike while the iron is hot. You might be sorry if you don't. You can still attend college. Talk to Kate Ziegler. She attends George Mason University and helps coach their team, attends classes, trains and competes world wide.

              Reply#14 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 6:03 PM EDT

              Missy! Don't forego you college eligibility, it will be the most wonderful four years of your life. By the time you graduate, you'll be in the driver's seat as far as professional sponsorship is concerned. Enjoy your youth; it fades all too quickly!

              • 1 vote
              Reply#15 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 6:34 PM EDT

              With her personality, looks, and drive, she will be successful no matter how she chooses to go about it. I applaud her determination to be true to herself, and I hope she will make whatever decision resonates for her.

                Reply#16 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 6:39 PM EDT

                Good to know this girl has her priorities straight. I'm so proud of our Olympians, they national treasures.

                  Reply#17 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 6:43 PM EDT

                  R U kidding me, there is NO professional SWIMMERS1 but what is the deal, the NBA are professionals, the Tennis players are Professionals, and she will garner millions in endorsements, and remain a Armature! OMG, who cares it is all hypocrisy anyway, of course they are professional, all they do is train on tax payer money, and call themselves amateurs, it s scam and hoax. NO one cares except every 4 years, and I am losing interest because they never retire, they just keep coming back , year after year, and it is getting boring!Swimmers and many others are just professional Olympic athletes, they never get a real job, look at Bruce Jenner! he is a face-lift professional. He is looking like a cadaver!

                    Reply#18 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 6:50 PM EDT

                    there are no professional SWIMMERS.

                    Ever heard of Esther Williams?

                      #18.1 - Tue Aug 7, 2012 1:03 PM EDT

                      Devil's advocate... Does anyone think it's fair for a gold-medal Olympian to compete with college swim teams, regardless of her age? Once you've reached that status, you're a professional, no matter how you label yourself. Be a mentor. be a volunteer coach instead. And take the silly endorsement dollars, moron.

                        Reply#19 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 7:03 PM EDT

                        I think she and her parents are idealistic, but stupid. OR smart like a fox? The Sisters at the convent will not like her tattoo, she is just inking herself up to make more money in the media, they hate goodie two shoes types, they want corrupted christians, so they can point the finger. The next picture we see is of her is bonging!

                          #19.1 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 7:07 PM EDT

                          Her folks should write a parenting book because they did an EXCELLENT job in raising that young lady. I'll bet that would bring in more than a few bucks and not damage her amateur status.

                          Regardless, it is her choice, but thank you for being such a wonderful representative of our country.

                          • 1 vote
                          Reply#20 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 7:33 PM EDT

                          Earn a million? No no. Earn tens of millions! With her smile, her all-American good looks, her clear commitment to her goals, pursuit of excellence and just joy in living as a 17-year-old kid -- Missy Franklin can command huge dollars as spokesperson for almost any commercial venture or brand. Usain Bolt is a multimillionaire as the world's fastest human (and what a name!) and Missy Franklin can do as well or better as the latest and greatest "all-American girl." Along with a number of other Olympic gold winners. I say "good for you."

                            Reply#21 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 8:02 PM EDT

                            She should go to the absolutely finest academic college she can get into that will offer her an athletic grant-in-aid for swimming (Stanford pops into mind). That's $250K right there, just in monetary value, not to mention the value you get from hopefully being "a college kid", and hopefully, getting a decent college education to keep in her back pocket down the road. Those can be immeasurable.

                            There's a lot of risk assessment for the Franklin family to worry about. My suggestion, I believe, would lessen that risk. It's sort of a shame - if she was 20 and already in college, the career path choice would be so much easier.

                            The Olympic Ring tat is a stupid idea, though. Any half-baked tattoo artist would give one to anyone. I'd rather explain what my medals meant to my kids and grandkids than what the tattoo meant when Mrs. Smith next door also has the same tattoo.

                              Reply#22 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 9:00 PM EDT
                              You're in Easy Mode. If you prefer, you can use XHTML Mode instead.
                              As a new user, you may notice a few temporary content restrictions. Click here for more info.