As Singapore’s one and only Olympic gold medalist, Joseph Schooling undoubtedly has the weight of the world on his shoulders. As seen from the widespread disappointment that rippled through the nation when Schooling failed to defend his title at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, there’s this colossal expectation for him to continually “show up” for Singapore.

Fast forward to today, Schooling is making waves once more, not for the 2 gold and bronze medals that he clinched at the 2022 Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam, but for coming clean about having taken cannabis while he was there.

While public opinions have been divided, with some seeing the whole fiasco as a much ado about nothing and others thinking he made a grave mistake, here’s how a couple of public figures and brands have responded to the saga.


The Straits Times 

The Straits Times Joseph Schooling Cannabis Case
Image adapted from: The Straits Times

It was no surprise that Schooling’s blunder was plastered all over the physical – and digital – versions of our national newspaper, The Straits Times. And while national news generally comes from a neutral standpoint, some might argue that the headlines of the commentary pieces that we’ve seen across the last few days have been quite damning of Schooling.

The Straits Times Joseph Schooling Cannabis Case
Image adapted from:
The Straits Times

For news to be riveting, it has to shine light on the atrocities of a certain situation. And in The Straits Times’ latest scoop, it is revealed that an incriminating item that was found upon arrival in Singapore sparked investigations that led to Joseph Schooling’s confession.

The Straits Times Joseph Schooling Cannabis Case
Image adapted from:
The Straits Times

Their Facebook post of the article garnered 100 comments within an hour with some netizens Singaporeans “switching sides” and picking up pitchforks to further crucify Schooling. It’s important to highlight that even though the drug-related item belonged to fellow national athlete, Amanda Lim, who also consumed the drug; the spotlight was only on Schooling as the main target for this witch-hunt.

The Straits Times Joseph Schooling Cannabis Case
Image adapted from:
The Straits Times

Some netizens went on to criticise the newspaper for perpetuating the matter by continuing to add fuel to a small fire.

Singapore Swimming Association (SSA)

Singapore Swimming Association Joseph Schooling drug case
Image adapted from:
Singapore Swimming Association

When the news of Schooling’s cannabis use first hit the headlines, the Sinagpore Swimming Association (SSA) initially said that they would “review the facts of the case and determine appropriate steps to take.” Two days later, the organisation posted a Facebook post reinforcing the SSA’s stance towards drugs and how they “will continue to journey with them and support the athletes so that they do not repeat their misstep.”

Image adapted from:
Singapore Swimming Association

Their support was met with both positive and negative responses from Netizens, with some calling out the irony in their “zero tolerance” stance toward drugs yet continued support of the national swimmers.


Hugo Boss

Fame and free products are some perks of being a brand ambassador, but slip up, and you just might find yourself getting cancelled – brands, this applies to you too. An infuriated online crowd can easily pressure a brand into cutting ties with their brand ambassador they slip up. Xiaxue faced it first hand 2 years ago when brands like Fresh and Daniel Wellington dropped her as brand ambassador when an old, racially-charged tweet came to light.

Now back to Schooling. Let’s rewind to 2016 when the gold medal was his, brands left, right and centre were clamouring to capitalise on the glory, not wanting to miss the golden opportunity to partner with the “nation’s son”. 

Joseph Schooling Hugo Boss
Schooling for Hugo Boss.

Image credit: @josephschooling

Since then, Joseph Schooling has graced the ads as the brand ambassador of Speedo, Yakult, Hugo Boss, Canon, Milo and even Borneo Motors. Today Schooling’s partnership with 4 of the 6 brands have run its course, but he’s still the brand ambassador for Milo and Hugo Boss.

In light of all the controversy surrounding his drug consumption, only one brand has stepped into the limelight to defend their brand ambassador. Hugo Boss’ Managing Director, Steven Lam, came forward a day after Schooling’s public apology on Instagram with a forgiving statement about how everyone makes mistakes, and what’s important is that we own up to them.

For half of the nation and beyond supporting Schooling, this is an admirable – and smart -move by Boss to position themselves as an international brand that is trendy, liberal and empathetic above all.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam

K Shanmugam response to Joseph Schooling
Image adapted from: K Shanmugam Sc

Singapore has always governed its people with an iron fist where the law is concerned. And it’s exactly the country’s hard stance against drugs that has birthed so many opinion pieces around the Schooling drug case. 

In a show of empathy, K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law reminded us that there will be no preferential treatment for the national swimmers where punishment is concerned, but as a nation, we shouldn’t forget all the hard work the duo have put into representing Singapore – Schooling especially for Singapore’s sole gold Olympic medal. 

K Shamnugam response to Joseph Schooling
Image adapted from:
K Shanmugam Sc

The Facebook post garnered 5.6K likes, 372 comments and 243 shares. Netizens were also heartened to see Shanmugam present a more humane side to the law. 


Past brand sponsors: Speedo, Yakult, Canon and more

Joseph Schooling Yakult
Image credit:

On the flip side, it’s been nothing but crickets over on the Facebook pages of Schooling’s past partners such as Speedo, Yakult, Canon and more. While these brands no longer have Schooling as a brand ambassador, what they’re doing now is lying low and hoping that both the news of Schooling’s drug use and his past 3-year stint as their ambassador will get quickly buried in the recesses of people’s minds.

Now that Hugo Boss has stepped forward to back the Olympic champion, it does make us wonder how long his other current sponsor will take to come forward with a statement. Milo – we’re looking at you.

And whether past sponsors will come forward to say anything about the matter or choose to disassociate themselves with the matter, thanking their lucky stars for Schooling’s ambassador contract having ended. Either way, the silence does speak volumes.


AsiaOne response to Joseph Schooling Drug case
Image credit: Author’s own.

AsiaOne is known for giving readers access to timely news, but in a bid to better relate to its younger audience, the news outlet had pivoted its online strategy to include the posting of memes on its Facebook page.

And while memes are a great way into the hearts – or funny bones – of readers far and wide, netizens were certainly surprised to see AsiaOne as the creator behind this meme made a joke of the Joseph Schooling saga and misappropriated a picture of the Thai king, Maha Vajiralongkorn.

AsiaOne response to Joseph Schooling
Image credit: Author’s own.

Netizens were quick to jump into the comment section condemning AsiaOne for making a mockery of the situation and disrespecting the Thai king through the meme that was clearly done in poor taste. The post has since been deleted.

Brand and people’s reactions to the Joseph Schooling drug case

Brands and political figures are held in high regard for the influential power they have on their consumers, and in a case like Joseph Schoolings, it’s been interesting to see how certain brands and certain influential people in Singapore have chosen to react to the case. 

Whether they’ve chosen to approach Schooling’s blunder in a humanised fashion in the case of K Shanmugam and Hugo Boss or add fuel to the fire in the case of AsiaOne and The Straits Times, it’s important to remember that Joseph Schooling, while a national hero, is human like the rest of us and isn’t exempt from making mistakes. 

Check out our other brand-related content here: 

Cover image adapted from: @josephschooling, AsiaOne


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