With his playing days over, Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t need to sweat free throws any longer. Instead, however, he’s got health activists calling him out.
This afternoon, “Shaq” joins Michelle Obama, Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix and former Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes at Orr Elementary in Washington D.C. as part of the first lady’s Let’s Move! Active Schools campaign, which aims to increase physical activity before, during and after school days.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a group of health and nutrition advocates, loves the campaign but sees a problem: Soda Shaq, a new line of cream sodas, jointly launched by O’Neal and AriZona Beverages.
“Shaquille O’Neal’s new line of sugar drinks have 270 empty, obesogenic calories in every oversize can,” CSPI director Margo G. Wootan said in a statement. “A celebrity like him shouldn’t have it both ways: You can’t do a photo-op with the first lady promoting exercise one day, and sell disease-promoting sodas the rest of the year.”
Along with his cream soda line, Shaq formerly endorsed Oreo cookies in 2010 and 2011. In an interview with ESPN.com, Shaq said that the most Oreos he’s eaten in one day is “probably two packs.”
The endorsement deals contrast with a CNN interview featuring Shaq from November 2012. In that interview, Shaq said that to curb childhood obesity, people need to take control now. He also said that the fight against diabetes is personal because he’s watched close family members struggle with the disease.
The CSPI believes that Shaq needs to pick a side.
“Sugary drinks are one of the leading culprits behind obesity in kids and adults, and one of the most important messages coming out of an anti-obesity campaign should be for Americans to drink fewer sugary drinks,” Wootan said in the statement.
AriZona Beverages could not be reached for comment on this story.