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18 High-Profile Athletes Who Lost Endorsements

Updated August 20, 2019 58.8k views18 items

Despite their tremendous strength, speed, agility, and finesse, athletes are just like the rest of us; they eat, breathe, and sleep. They make mistakes. Unlike most of us, however, their mistakes can cost them millions of dollars. Here are 18 athletes who lost endorsements.

Big time sponsors like Nike and Pepsi hire athletes to market their product and bring a well-known face and image to their brand. When an athlete gets caught doping or falsifying a police report, that sponsor faces the tough decision on whether they think the athlete in question is still marketable. Or, whether they need to cut ties.  

Some sports stars cut by sponsors are released from their endorsement deals immediately, some get the benefit of the doubt. Nike, a company that stuck with Michael Phelps even through two DUI arrests, shredded Jason Giambi's contract after mere allegations of his steroid abuse. Nike initially cut Michael Vick after he was tied to an illegal dogfighting ring, but then returned to the quarterback after his successful comeback to the grid iron, following his 21 months spent in a federal prison.

From getting caught taking steroids to saying really stupid things on social media to even murder allegations, athletes can do 1,000 different things to tarnish their image and lose millions in endorsements. Check out which athletes who lost sponsorships weathered the storm and which could never recover.

  • Deals He Lost: Pepsi, Eastman Kodak, Nintendo

    Why He Lost Them: Perhaps no sports figure was a bigger star in the late 1980s than Iron Mike Tyson. The boxer became the youngest heavyweight world champion of all time. His world started to crumble in 1988, when his ex-wife Robin Givens revealed that Tyson assaulted her. Then, the boxer was convicted of raping an 18-year-old girl in 1992 and spent three years in prison.

    The Aftermath: Tyson returned to the ring in 1995 with great success, setting pay-per-view records. Then, during a bout with Evander Holyfield in 1997, he was disqualified for biting both of his opponents ears. One of the bites removed part of Holyfield's ear. Tyson stepped away from the ring and now dabbles in entertainment. In 2013, he took his Vegas-born one-man show Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth on a 36-city, three month tour.

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  • Photo: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

    Deals He Lost: Mugler, Nike, Oakley, Thierry

    Why He Lost Them: Sponsors dropped the South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius after he admitted to shooting and killing his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorious claimed he thought she was an intruder. The Paralympic Champion was tried and found guilty of murder.

    The Aftermath: In 2016, Pistorious is in jail, where he is serving a six-year sentence.

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  • Deals He Lost: Charles Schwab, MasterCard

    Why He Lost Them: Major League Baseball's all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, told a grand jury in 2011 that he used performance-enhancing drugs without realizing it in 2004. He claimed he was misled, and believed he was taking arthritis cream and flax seed oil. Bonds served one month under house arrest for obstruction of justice.

    The Aftermath: The 14-time All-Star serves as a hitting coach for the Miami Marlins in 2016. Bonds has been eligible to make the Hall of Fame since 2012, but has failed to receive the required number of votes. Without the steroid controversy, Bonds is considered one of the best players to ever wear a baseball uniform. However, it remains to be seen how baseball historians will judge players tainted by the steroid controversy.

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  • Photo: Arvee / Flickr

    Deals He Lost: Castrol, Nike, Radisson

    Why He Lost Them: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted in September 2014 on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. TMZ.com released photos of Peterson's 4-year-old son's legs covered with slash-wounds. Peterson said that he used a switch (a piece of tree branch) on his son, the form of punishment used when he was a child. Peterson was suspended by the NFL for the entire 2014 season.

    The Aftermath: The seven-time Pro Bowler returned to the grind iron in 2015 and had a very strong season with the Vikings. The sponsors also returned. Peterson signed a shoe a deal with Adidas, the sneakers the running back wore during his 2012 MVP season.

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