Shaquille O'Neal, the former basketball star who once told CNN he tries to "stay away from the sodas" to avoid diabetes, is now pitching a soda line carrying his name. The irony wasn't lost on the Center for Science in the Public Interest that called foul on O'Neal for lending his name to brand Soda Shaq, a line of cream sodas that has 270 calories and 17 teaspoons of sugar per 24-ounce can.
The soda has about two to three times more sugar than the American Heart Association recommends in a single day.
In a press release announcing the distribution of the beverage line in 7-Eleven, Arizona Iced Tea and 7-Eleven tout that O'Neal will promote the "all natural" drinks to his huge social media following on Twitter and Instagram. As part of the marketing blitz, the soda maker is holding a 10-week contest where customers can win "some sweet Shaq swag."
CSPI has been waging an ongoing campaign against soda. It blasted a number of celebrities for pitching junk food, most recently Beyoncé for her lucrative $50 million marketing deal with Pepsi, and mocked Coca-Cola with its own rendition video of The Real Bears.
But CSPI found O'Neal's decision to link his name to a soda line the height of hypocrisy, especially since he shuns soda to avoid obesity and diabetes, has starred on ABC's weight-loss program Shaq's Big Challenge, and is involved in children's nutritional website Super Sprowtz.
"Clearly Shaq knows better. ... Now using his name, face and reputation to make those health problems even bigger. It's shameful hypocrisy, presumably motivated by money," said Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director.