How Ryan Lochte destroyed his earnings potential because of Rio robbery scandal

Lochte apologizes for behavior in Rio
Lochte apologizes for behavior in Rio

This swimmer's financial future could be all wet because of his shaggy-dog Rio Olympics robbery tale.

Ryan Lochte's damage to his future endorsement earnings and reputation "is huge," a sports management expert said just before the gold medalist apologized Friday on Instagram for not being "candid" about what actually happened to him and other American team swimmers in Rio last weekend.

Cops in Brazil said he actually lied about being robbed at gunpoint.

Ryan Lochte
Martin Bureau | AFP | Getty Images

Companies that might have potentially wanted Lochte to endorse their products will be extremely leery of associating with him now, said Rick Burton, a professor of sports management at Syracuse University.

"I think the issue is his reputation and his future earnings rather than [Lochte's current] contractual earnings," Burton said.

"If he's got a million dollars in deals right now, I'm not sure he'd lose that money. It depends on how much he took upfront."

Before the Rio scandal, Lochte "probably would have continued to rake in money," Burton said.

"That part now is in danger, if it isn't already shattered."

Lochte currently has reported endorsement deals with Ralph Lauren, Speedo and mattress maker Airweave.

None of those companies responded to CNBC's request for comment on the heels of Lochte's social media mea culpa. Airweave CEO Motokuni Takaoka, in an email Friday to the Bloomberg News, said: "I respect the athletic performance of Ryan, and as long as he is a respectable athlete, he will remain the U.S. ambassador for Airweave as long as our partnership agreement remains effective."

Burton said that even before Lochte's story about being robbed in Rio was called into question, he was not the most desirable American Olympic swimmer for endorsement and advertising deals, despite the fact that he is the second-most decorated swimmer ever.

Uber-gold medalist Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky are the now "go-to" swimmers for advertisers, Burton said.

That view was echoed by David Carter, a professor of sports business at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.

Carter said that at age 32, Lochte "was probably at the tail end of his career."

"People who are excelling in the pool other than Phelps [age 31] are 10 years his junior," Carter said. "From an athletic standpoint, he was pretty much at the end of his life."

Now, with the claims by Brazilian police that Lochte lied, "he has become a caricature of himself," which damages the likelihood that any companies concerned about its image would align with him for an endorsement, Carter said.

"I think for him to shine and be persuasive as a spokesperson he has to have a message, communicate effectively ... and not have people look at him and roll their eyes, which I think a broad cross-section of the American public is doing currently," Carter said.

"Corporate America has a resistance to engaging controversial athletes particularly when they have other options."

Security video shows US swimmers at gas station
Security video shows US swimmers at gas station

Richard Roth, a New York City attorney who specializes in representing athletes, disagreed with the idea that Lochte's future earnings potential from endorsements are destroyed.

"We don't know down the road how much it will effect him," Roth said. "I don't believe this will seriously hurt him. ... If he plays it right, he may not lose anything from it."

"The big question is, how long will this continue?" said Roth, referring to the negative media attention.

Roth said Lochte could do himself, and his wallet, a big favor by quickly doing a media tour to apologize while highlighting his swimming accomplishments.

"If he comes out and 'fesses up, it will greatly help his image," the lawyer said.

"I can give you case after case with athletes" becoming involved in large scandals "and it just goes away," Roth said. "They did stupid things, and this too shall pass. ... We happen to have very short memories when these things happen."

Despite that, Roth said, "does this mean that Nike is going to touch him, Disney is going to touch him? Absolutely not."

But Roth said he could see a young company that has an edgy public image partnering with Lochte to "leverage" the media attention paid from the scandal.

Burton said his research "on anti-hero endorsements" has found that "American advertisers on occasion break through the culture of everybody using a good guy."

"They use a guy whose reputation has been sullied," said Burton, noting ex-basketball players Dennis Rodman, who appeared on "Celebrity Rehab," Latrell Sprewell, who choked his own coach once, had all their bad-boy images exploited by ads.

"It's possible" for Lochte, Burton said.

"But," he added, "it doesn't happen a lot."

Carter acknowledged that Lochte is "going to find niche opportunities" for endorsement deals, such as for brands that are "interested in athletic performance."

But he scoffed at the idea that Lochte would be able to replace the earnings he could lose as a result of the scandal with money that he would earn because of the scandal.

"He might have the ability to endorse certain companies, but the financial upside relative to that is much less than if he had the opportunity to be on the front of a Wheaties box," Carter said.

Additional reporting by CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace.