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April 20, 2021

Sports stars who've lost big-time endorsement cash

Much was made over a certain troubled golfer and his lost sponsorships earlier this year.

But we never really realized the effect of Tiger Woods’ endorsement crisis until he showed up at the Masters two weeks ago with a bag stripped of most brands and swatches.

Tiger, as you no doubt read, cost shareholders of the companies that endorse him as much as $12 billion when it was revealed he, um, couldn’t keep his ball on the fairway.

And while that scandal will probably define this year where “disgraced athletes having their lucrative sponsorships stripped” is concerned, Ben Roethlisberger is putting his name in the hat for consideration.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback, amid allegations he sexually assaulted a 20-year-old woman in a bathroom stall, was recently dumped by Big Ben’s Beef Jerky, a Pennsylvania-area brand that employed the Pro Bowler for an undisclosed amount.

It may be a paltry sponsorship drop compared to Tiger’s, but it’s enough to make us want to look back at athletes who’ve lost big endorsement bucks because of scandal.

Without further ado, in no particular order:

Kobe Bryant, dumped by McDonald’s, Nutella, Nike

At the time of Bryant’s 2003 rape allegations – a case settled out of court – the Lakers’ superstar earned about $13 million per year from endorsements. But the highly-publicized trial led to his deals with Nutella-maker Ferrero and McDonald’s not being renewed, and while Nike didn’t totally dump the shooting guard, his likeness was not used in any advertising for a year during his legal proceedings. It was estimated Kobe lost some $50 million in endorsement cash.

Ben Johnson, dumped by Diadora

After his record-breaking, gold-medal sprint at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Ben Johnson was Canada’s pride. But a positive steroid test not only turned the sprinter into our nation’s pariah, he also lost lucrative endorsement deals that – at their peak – earned the ex-medalist as much as $900,000 per month, adjusted for inflation.

Michael Vick, dumped by Nike, Donruss, Rawlings, Upper Deck

The days following Vick’s dog fighting revelations weren’t kind to the superstar QB, who quickly lost deals with his signature Nike shoe, among other items. Card makers Donruss and Upper Deck both agreed to remove his likeness from future products, and Reebok – who Vick did not have a deal with – still decided to remove his Atlanta Falcons jersey from retail stores.

O.J. Simpson, dumped by Hertz

The Juice was a prominent spokesperson for Hertz, the car rental agency, dating as far back as the 1970s – he appeared beside the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jamie Lee Curtis in TV commercials. Believe it or not, Hertz actually got out of its deal with Simpson before his take-the-world-by-storm double murder case broke, dropping the running back in 1992 when reports of domestic abuse surfaced about the former USC star. Just two years later, Simpson was arrested and tried for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...