7 Celebrities Who Lost Major Endorsement Deals

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

One of the most alluring things about being a celebrity has to be the lucrative endorsement deals. Appear in a few TV commercials and print ads, say how “product X” is the only one for you, and collect a fat check at the end of the day. It’s not a bad gig for a celebrity, so long as they don’t screw it up.

Celebrities lose their endorsement deals for all sorts of bad behavior. Sometimes an endorsement deal can go up in smoke simply because a celebrity had a loose tongue. Here’s a rundown of celebrities who took a pay cut after failing to choose their words a little more carefully.

1. SHARON STONE // CHRISTIAN DIOR

If ever there was a case of terrible timing, Sharon Stone found it in 2008. Over 69,000 people lost their lives when a massive earthquake hit southwest China on May 12 of that year. The Basic Instinct actress took the news as an odd opportunity to get political, suggesting that the earthquake was "karma" because of Beijing's treatment of Tibet. Stone later apologized, but it was too late. The backlash against the actress led luxury retailer Christian Dior to cancel Stone’s makeup modeling contract, with a spokesperson saying, “We don’t support any type of commentary that will hurt the feelings of our customers.” 

2. GILBERT GOTTFRIED // AFLAC

Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Comedy Central

Something about celebrities and natural disasters seems to be a recipe for public gaffes. For years, comedian Gilbert Gottfried lent his squawky voice to insurance company Aflac as the voice of their duck mascot. Gottfried’s voiceover work with the company came to an end in March of 2011 though, after he made a string of jokes on Twitter referencing a massive tsunami that had hit Japan. The dark humor didn’t sit well with Aflac, which reportedly does 75 percent of its business in Japan, and Gottfried’s contract quickly was put on the chopping block.

A day after he was fired, the comedian did apologize for his jokes, though he later claimed that the insurer profited from the controversy. “They fired me, got loads of free publicity out of it, and then hired a guy to imitate my voice for less money, thus bringing closure to a horrible tragedy,” Gottfried told Bloomberg TV.

3. HANK WILLIAMS JR. // ESPN’S MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

“Are you ready for some football?!!!” is not a phrase Hank Williams Jr. likely ever wants to hear again. The country music singer had sung the intro for Monday Night Football—an adaptation of his song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight”—since 1989, but found himself permanently sidelined in 2011 over remarks he made about President Obama. While appearing on the morning show Fox & Friends, the singer criticized the then-president about a round of golf he played with Speaker of the House John Boehner, saying it would be like “Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.”

Comparing Adolf Hitler to anything or anyone is always a bad move and ESPN called a penalty on Williams and dropped the song from its broadcasts of NFL games almost immediately. But it appears that time is able to heal wounds, and bans; in June, it was announced that Williams' tune will be back to serving as Monday Night Football's opening night tune. "I’m feeling at home and it’s a real good thing,” Williams told The Tennessean of its return. “I hope there will be some happy people on Monday night again.”

4. WHOOPI GOLDBERG // SLIMFAST

Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Celebrities have the right to a political opinion, just like everybody else, but things can get dicey when they’re representing a brand and don’t filter themselves. Comedian Whoopi Goldberg found that out the hard way when she shared her opinion of President George W. Bush in 2004. While speaking at a Democratic fundraiser at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, the comic delivered a rather crude sexual zinger at the president. SlimFast, who she was a spokesperson for, expressed that they were "disappointed” with Goldberg’s remarks and deemed them too offensive to continue using her in their advertisements.

The comedian said she understood their decision, telling Bloomberg that, "While I can appreciate what the SlimFast people need to do in order to protect their business, I must also do what I need to do as an artist, as a writer and as an American, not to mention as a comic," adding that, "I've done material on every president in the past 20 years, from Reagan to Carter, from Clinton to Bush. It seems now that people from the other side are using this to further their own agenda."

5. CYBILL SHEPHERD // THE AMERICAN BEEF INDUSTRY

If you’re going to sign a contract agreeing to be a spokesperson for a product, it’s probably not a good idea to confess that you avoid that very product while giving an interview. Actress Cybill Shepherd made that mistake when she agreed to endorse the American Beef Industry in 1987 in a series of radio and TV commercials. All was going well until the actress confessed in a Family Circle magazine interview that part of her beauty regime was not eating red meat. Shepherd was adamant that she had been misquoted in the article and said that quotes given to the magazine by her publicist were to blame. The interview blunder understandably didn’t sit well with the beef industry and they moved away from using the actress in further campaigns.

6. MANNY PACQUIAO // NIKE

Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Title-winning boxer Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao had enjoyed the perks of a lucrative endorsement deal for nearly eight years before he made homophobic remarks in an interview with a Filipino TV station in 2016. The controversy quickly picked up steam in the sports press and Pacquiao apologized within hours of his interview. "Please forgive me for those I hurt," Pacquiao pleaded on Instagram. Nike made no excuses for Pacquiao’s remarks and issued a statement that noted, "We find Manny Pacquiao's comments abhorrent. Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community. We no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao."

This wasn’t the first time the boxer had run into trouble with Nike over his words either. Similar comments landed him in hot water with the company back in 2012, only this time Nike had had enough and his endorsement was KO’d for good. 

7. RYAN LOCHTE // MULTIPLE SPONSORS

It really doesn’t matter how good you look in a Speedo or how many gold medals you have around your neck: if you make your entire country look bad at the Olympics, it’s a safe bet that any endorsement deals you have won’t be hanging around for long. Ryan Lochte played a crucial role in the success of the U.S. swim team at the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro, but when he admitted to "exaggerating" a story that he and three of his teammates had been robbed at gunpoint at a gas station, there was little he could do to save face. Ralph Lauren, Speedo, Airweave, and Gentle Hair Removal all made the decision to terminate Lochte’s endorsement deals in the wake of the scandal.

“We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience,” Speedo said in a statement to the press. The company later donated $50,000 of Lochte’s earnings to the Save the Children charity to help underprivileged youths in Brazil. 

Oddly enough, the swimmer later picked up a new endorsement deal from a company called Robocopp—a product aimed at helping to prevent crime while traveling.

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

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Apple

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Sony

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Sony

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Evachill

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Gourmia

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Townew

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FenSens

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

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Do You Remember? 12 Memorable Events That Happened on September 21—the Internet’s Favorite Day of the Year

Earth, Wind & Fire performs during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival just two weeks ahead of their favorite date: September 21st.
Earth, Wind & Fire performs during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival just two weeks ahead of their favorite date: September 21st.
George Pimentel/Getty Images

“Do you remember the 21st night of September?” Earth, Wind and Fire first asked the question back in 1978. In the years since—with many thanks owed to writer and comedian Demi Adejuyigbe’s viral videos celebrating the song and the day—September 21st has become something like the internet’s birthday or, as some have called it, “the most important day of the year.”

In honor of the ceremonious occasion, here are 12 memorable things that have happened on September 21st. After reading them, not only will you remember the 21st night of September—you’ll remember exactly what makes it worth singing about.

1. The Last Day of Summer

September 21 frequently marks the last official day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, as the Autumnal Equinox often falls on September 22 (which is the case in 2020).

2. The Ganesha Milk Miracle

Palani Mohan/Getty Images

In what has become known as the “Ganesha Milk Miracle,” India was briefly brought to a standstill on September 21, 1995, when statues of the elephant deity Ganesha appeared, when offered, to sip milk by the spoonful. Millions of people stood outside the country’s temples, hoping for a glance of this marvel, which stopped as quickly as it started. Milk prices increased by fourfold.

3. Belize Independence Day

After years of diplomacy talks, in 1981 Belize became a nation independent from the United Kingdom.

4. H.G. Wells’s Birthday

H.G. Wells was born on September 21, 1866. His work later influenced and has been referenced by author Stephen King, who was born on the very same day, 81 years later.

5. Mad Men Made Basic Cable TV History

Jon Hamm stars in Mad Men.Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The Academy of Television of Arts and Sciences confirmed what everyone was thinking in 2008 when it named Mad Men the year’s Outstanding Drama Series, making AMC the first basic cable network to ever win the award. Bonus: Bryan Cranston also took home his first Emmy (of an eventually record-breaking four) for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Breaking Bad.

6. Benedict Arnold Became a Traitor

General Benedict Arnold committed the act that would make his name synonymous with treason and betrayal. In 1780, he met with British Major John Andre, offering to hand over his command of West Point in exchange for money and a high ranking within the British army.

7. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit Was Published

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit—which would eventually go on to sell 100 million copies, be translated into more than 50 languages, and most importantly, introduce the world to the concept of second breakfast—was published in 1937. In its honor, Tolkien Fans everywhere will celebrate Hobbit Day on September 22 (presumably with some second breakfast, amongst other felicitations).

8. Sandra Day O’Connor Confirmed as First Female Supreme Court Justice

Sandra Day O'Connor is sworn into the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Warren Burger while her husband, John O'Connor, looks on.The U.S. National Archives, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

On September 21, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 99–0 to become the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Four days later, on September 25, O'Connor was officially sworn in.

9. Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” Made its Debut

In 1968, Jimi Hendrix released his cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” While this was the first cover of the song, it became the definitive version as well.

10. NASA’s Galileo Mission Concluded

NASA, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

After becoming the first spacecraft to visit an asteroid (visiting two, actually) and successfully completing its mission to gather information about Jupiter and its moons, NASA concluded its Galileo mission in 2003. In order to avoid an unwanted crash between Galileo and the Jupiter moon of Europa—and in a poetic twist, to protect its own discovery of a possible ocean underneath Europa’s icy crust—Galileo was plunged into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

11. Perry Mason Made His Television Debut

Perry Mason premiered in 1957 and with it, we got America’s first weekly, hourlong primetime series to follow one character, which created the DNA for all of your favorite courtroom procedurals to follow (including all the Law & Orders, and then some), and a lawyer with a strikingly high success rate (yes, even for a fictional lawyer).

12. National Pecan Cookie Day

A tray of pecan cookies—just in time for Pecan Cookie Day.rojoimages/iStock via Getty Images

September 21 marks National Pecan Cookie Day, likely because pecan trees become ready to harvest in September. But really, who needs an excuse to eat a pecan cookie?