Nutrition Watchdogs Urge Firing of Lynn Swann

Chairman of President’s Fitness Council Shouldn’t Flack for Junk


Nutrition advocates and government watchdogs today called for the firing of Lynn Swann, the chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. According to published reports in Corporate Crime Reporter and The Washington Post, the former Pittsburgh Steelers football player received payment to appear at a public relations event for a vending-machine trade association.

“On the day following the federal government's release of the new guidelines on diet and exercise, it is unseemly to have the chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness act as a paid shill for the junk food industry,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “It is shameful that the Department of Health and Human Services put its stamp of approval on Swann’s behavior. We hereby nominate Lynn Swann to serve as Chairman of Jocks for Junk Food. In his new position he can lord over the many dozens of professional athletes who lease out their names and reputations to soda companies, fast-food restaurants, and salty-snack makers.”

Swann appeared at a press conference organized by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), which was designed to launch an initiative to place labels ranking the nutritional value of vending-machine offerings. CSPI says that the move is just a public-relations ploy to forestall more school systems from banning junk food from vending machines on school grounds.

Jacobson today asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson to urge President Bush to fire Swann. Jacobson also called for the dismissal of any other member of the commission who makes commercial endorsements for junk-food manufacturers. One other member of the Council, Emmitt Smith, the National Football League all-time rushing leader, has endorsed products from Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, according to his biography. Council member Nomar Garciapara, who plays shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, has made commercial endorsements for Dunkin’ Donuts and Twizzlers.

Government watchdogs also criticized Swann for taking money from the NAMA.

“Lynn Swann’s ability to speak out on the need for children to limit their junk food intake will be severely compromised by his role as spokesperson for the vending machine trade association,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. “President Bush should take note of the conflict of interest and immediately request Mr. Swann’s resignation from his position as Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.”

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