LOS ANGELES – It sounds like Wayne Gretzky had some stern words with his future son-in-law, Dustin Johnson, long before revelations of his hard-partying ways hit the press.
Sources tell FOX411 that the hockey great previously talked to Johnson – who is engaged to his 25-year-old model daughter, Paulina – cautioning him to clean up his act, or the wedding was off. We’re told that the family was aware of his penchant for partying, and that Wayne sought to be a positive influence, and offer help.
Johnson and Gretzky started dating in 2012 and got engaged in August 2013. In January, it was announced that the two were planning a Fall 2014 wedding, but in May, Gretzky told Golf Digest that they had postponed the ceremony, citing Johnson’s busy schedule.
Representatives for Wayne and Paulina Gretzky did not respond to comment requests.
Last week, Johnson, 30, suddenly announced that he was taking a voluntary leave of absence from the PGA tour to “seek professional help for personal challenges.” The PGA later insisted that despite allegations to the contrary, he was not suspended. But according to Golf.com, Johnson’s behavior has been an inside topic for quite some time as he is often spotted at local bars near his Florida home, and it has been reported that he has broken up at least one marriage with indiscretions involving other players’ wives. The publication also alleges that he tested positive for cocaine in 2014 and 2012 and for marijuana in 2009.
“He’s had drug problems for a while and the PGA always tried to keep it on the low. But because of his high-profile relationship, people figured it would come out sooner or later,” an insider connected to the sport said, adding that rehab rumors have been swirling in golfing circles.
Paulina has also been subjected to press criticism throughout the relationship, being called a “distraction” to Johnson’s game. The social-media savvy model routinely posts pictures of the two romping in an array of hip and exotic places, and just two days after news of her partner’s “personal problems” surfaced, she posted an Instagram photo showing her and her mom in skintight black suits holding up paintball guns.
However, Johnson’s antics have also raised questions over the PGA and its transparency policies. The PGA Tour is not required to disclose violations, disciplinary measures or sanctions against players found to have used recreational drugs, which differs from other major sports organizations like the NBA or NFL.
“The term ‘punishment’ can be pretty elastic when everything happens in secret,” Matthew Rudy wrote for Golf Digest, adding that the tour’s primary concern appears to be a player’s marketing value rather than “enforcing basic fairness.”
But sports marketing consultant Michael Grippo argues that the PGA Tour typically does a good job at enforcing a fair playing field and is “very protective of its images and chooses to deal with its players conduct internally as opposed to the public stage.”
Johnson makes several million dollars off the course per year, endorsing several brands including NetJets and Adidas. His sponsors did not respond to inquiries regarding whether their contracts with the golfer are in jeopardy, with the exception of Adidas who simply said that while they will not comment on any “allegations,” they support his decision to step away from the tour and emphasize that he was not suspended.
Typical athlete endorsement contracts state that the sponsor has the legal standing to terminate the agreement based on “any act” they deem to reflect unfavorably on the company. In this case, experts anticipate that they’ll wait to see how the situation pans out.
“Dustin isn’t a household name yet the way Tiger Woods or Alex Rodriguez are, so companies will likely sit it out and see how he performs when he’s back on the course,” noted leading sports philanthropy attorney, Andrew Morton.
Reps for Johnson and the PGA Tour did not respond to requests for further comment.
While some fans have expressed their disappointment in Johnson, he has also received an outpouring of support from fans on his official Facebook page.
“Golf is not the most important thing in the world, get well buddy,” one wrote, as another weighed in: “You will make it through this, even the toughest days you will make it.”
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