WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- A U.S. food advocacy group is critical of former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal for pitching a line of cream sodas containing 270 calories and 17 teaspoons of sugar.
Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, is calling on the retired athlete to reconsider whether he wants to promote a product that contributes to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.
Jacobson said a press release from Soda Shaq maker AriZona Beverages and retailer 7-Eleven said fans "can satisfy their sweet tooth without the guilt," and that the companies and O'Neal would promote the "all natural" drinks to their "huge social media followings on Twitter and Instagram."
However, last year, O'Neal expressed concern about diabetes. He told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta about his family members' struggle with the disease, and how one of his habits is to "stay away from the sodas."
He's starred on a weight-loss program on ABC called "Shaq's Big Challenge," he's been involved with a children's "nutrition education destination" called Super Sprowtz and is an investor in a company that makes a glucose product for diabetics called "Quick Sticks."
"Clearly, Shaq knows better," Jacobson said in a statement. "He has said he avoids soda himself, and worries about obesity and diabetes. But he's now using his name, face, and reputation to make those health problems even bigger. It's shameful hypocrisy, presumably motivated by money.
"I'm sure this deal is a financially lucrative arrangement, but in all other respects this is Shaq's most flagrant personal foul since his cameo in Freddy Got Fingered."