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.

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.
TidyBoard

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

8 Things You Might Not Know About Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis.
Bruce Willis.
Daiki Tomidokoro, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

From his turns as unlikely action hero John McClane in the Die Hard series to smaller supporting roles in 1994’s Pulp Fiction and 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, Bruce Willis has consistently surprised audiences with his eclectic career choices. For more on Willis, including his recording career and how he made movie history with 1988’s original Die Hard, keep reading.

1. Bruce Willis was born in West Germany.

Walter Bruce Willis, the son of a military man, was born on March 19, 1955, while his father was stationed in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Just two years later, parents David and Marlene Willis moved to Carneys Point, New Jersey, where he spent part of his time in both high school and at Montclair State University trying his hand at acting. After his sophomore year, Willis decided to leave college and head to New York City to pursue a performing career.

2. Bruce Willis may have been one of the best bartenders in New York City.

While auditioning for acting roles and scoring the occasional break—he appeared in an off-Broadway play, Heaven and Earth, in 1977—Willis tended bar at Chelsea Central on New York City's Upper West Side. According to actor John Goodman, who knew Willis before either of them became famous, Willis was notable even then. “Bruce was the best bartender in New York,” Goodman told The New York Post in 2017. “He kept an entire joint entertained all night. He just kept the show going. He was amazing.”

3. Bruce Willis was cast in Moonlighting even though ABC thought the role was “uncastable.”

Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting (1985)
Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting.
ABC

Willis had done only some stage work and bit parts in movies like 1980’s The First Deadly Sin with Frank Sinatra and 1982’s The Verdict with Paul Newman before he went in to audition for ABC’s Moonlighting, a send-up of detective dramas. At the time, the role of David Addison was proving so difficult to cast that the network was looking to pay creator Glenn Gordon Caron, director Bob Butler, and co-star Cybill Shepherd to abandon the project. Then Willis auditioned, beating out 3000 other hopefuls and securing the part. The series ran from 1985 to 1989.

4. Thanks to Die Hard, Bruce Willis changed Hollywood salaries forever.

While doing Moonlighting, Willis spent his hiatus shooting feature films like 1987’s Blind Date with Kim Basinger. But it was 1988’s Die Hard that cemented him as a big-screen attraction. The action film about a New York City cop trapped in a Los Angeles skyscraper with his estranged wife and a group of terrorists was a hot commodity, and 20th Century Fox agreed to pay Willis the then-astronomical sum of $5 million for the role. (Richard Gere and Clint Eastwood were also considered.) At the time, major stars like Tom Cruise and Michael J. Fox were getting roughly $3 million a picture. The payday for Willis had other performers taking notice, and salaries reportedly went up as a result.

“It was an enormous amount of money at the time,” Willis told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. “And I was a TV actor! The day after I signed the deal, every actor in Hollywood’s salary went up to $5 million.”

5. The Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk was based on a song.


Getty Images

Following Die Hard, Willis was a proven box office commodity that could help projects get made. In 1991, he starred in Hudson Hawk, a critical and commercial disappointment about a jewel thief with a love of music who is hired to steal from the Vatican. The film was based in part on a song written by musician Robert Kraft in 1981. Kraft knew Willis, then a bartender and actor, and shared it with him. Over the years, the two continued to shape the song, adding characters and stories. Eventually, it wound up in the hands of screenwriters Stephen De Souza and Daniel Waters.

6. Bruce Willis all but disappeared in Nobody’s Fool.

In contrast to conventional wisdom of the era, Willis parlayed his success as an action hero into opportunities to work with actors and directors he found interesting—even if it meant taking a small supporting role. (Willis spent just 22 minutes onscreen in 1994’s Pulp Fiction as boxer Butch Coolidge.) For 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, he passed on his normal $15 million fee to take $1400 a week since it meant working with Paul Newman. (Newman had forgotten the then-unknown Willis was a bit player in Newman’s 1982 film, The Verdict.) Because Willis felt so strongly Nobody’s Fool was Newman’s film, he opted out of having his photo included in the press kit and his name wasn’t in the production notes.

7. Bruce Willis had his own cartoon series.

In 1996, Willis lent his voice to Bruno the Kid, a syndicated animated series about an 11-year-old spy named Bruno who convinces his handlers he’s really an adult. “Bruno” was Willis’s nickname growing up as well as the name of his musical alter ego. In 1987, Willis released an album, The Return of Bruno, along with a cable special. The cartoon lasted one season.

8. Bruce Willis never finished shooting one of his movies.

In 1997, Willis started shooting Broadway Brawler, a romantic comedy about a washed-up hockey player falling in love. Just 20 days into shooting, Willis used his powers as producer to fire director Lee Grant, Grant’s husband and producer Joe Feury, cinematographer William Fraker, and wardrobe designer Carol Oditz—all reportedly over creative differences. The problems continued even after replacement director Dennis Dugan was brought on board. Rather than continue to waste money on the $28 million movie, studio Cinergi opted to shut it down. Cinergi’s parent company, Disney, absorbed the production costs in exchange for Willis agreeing to star in three Disney movies: Armageddon (1998); The Sixth Sense (1999), Willis’s biggest hit to date; and The Kid (2000).