Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice
Photograph by Matthew Emmons — USA Today Sports/Reuters

After two NFL stars enmeshed in scandal lose their endorsement deals, we look at a slew of other athletes who lost theirs.

By Daniel Roberts and Benjamin Snyder
September 20, 2014

Video footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé out of a casino elevator came to light in February, but it took most sponsors until this month, when new film emerged showing what happened inside the elevator, to take action. Now, as the NFL deals with a major crisis and two of its biggest stars have seen their brands collapse, Fortune looks back at Rice and 11 other big-name athletes who lost endorsement deals due to scandal. Here’s the hall of shame.


Ray Rice

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 16: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens sits on the bench against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of their preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 16, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez—Getty Images

In Rice’s case, Vertimax, a sports equipment company, was the first to defect. It quietly dropped him in June after having initially said in February that it would wait and see. A couple of weeks ago, TMZ released video of Rice hitting his fiancé. It set off the floodgates. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Modell’s pulled his jerseys from stores. The next day, Nike said it would end its endorsement, and EA Sports said it would scrub Rice from the Madden NFL 15 video game. Rice reportedly has no remaining active endorsement deals.


Adrian Peterson

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 28: Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on August 28, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery—Getty Images

As with Rice’s case, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s saga played out over a few days – reminding us it takes a while for sponsors to jump ship. Peterson was indicted for child abuse on September 12, a Friday. Within 30 minutes, his team had deactivated him for Sunday’s game, although it quickly changed its mind. That same night, a second case of child abuse came to light. Radisson Hotels (whose logo was all over the backdrop when Vikings owners announced the team would reinstate Peterson) quickly ended its team sponsorship with the Vikings. Within the next couple of days, both Castrol Oil, Nike and pharmaceutical company Mylan cut their ties. Wheaties removed boxes with Peterson’s face from store shelves – but said it was not because of the charges. One Vikings sponsor that has not pulled out is Verizon, though on Thursday the company’s CEO put a long statement on LinkedIn expressing concern over the league’s current problems.


Michael Vick

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 15: Quarterback Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up before playing the San Diego Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field on September 15, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith—Getty Images

Along with Rice and Peterson, Michael Vick is one of few than 10 athletes that Nike has ever dropped. The Swoosh has a history of standing by its athletes, but crimes (assault, child abuse, dog-fighting) clearly trump personal scandals. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback (at the time) was indicted for running a dogfighting ring. Two days after the indictment, Nike canceled its new Vick shoe, but did not pull existing Vick products from shelves. In the next 10 days, Reebok, Rawlings, Donruss, Upper Deck and AirTran Airways all ended their relationships with Vick. Eventually, Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely from the league. But Vick’s storyline improved. In 2009, after serving jail time, he returned to the NFL, and in 2011, rarest of all, Nike welcomed him back with a new endorsement contract, saying that the athlete had owned up to his “past mistakes.”


Lance Armstrong

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong attends a press conference in Los Angeles on February 28, 2011 to annunce he will serve as co-chair for the campaign seeking to raise more than 600 million USD annually for cancer research in California. Armstrong announced his retirement from professional cycling at the age of 39 on February 16. AFP PHOTO/Gabriel BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP—Getty Images

Lance Armstrong didn’t just lose seven Tour de France jerseys after the news broke in 2012 that he had been taking performance-enhancing drugs. He also lost lucrative sponsorships with Nike, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Trek Bicycle Corp, FRS and Honey Stinger, among others. And it took less than a week for the companies to do it. “Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” Nike said in a statement. 


Tiger Woods

Photograph by Scott Halleran—Getty Images

Tiger Woods’s fall from grace was so public that it has become a standard example for athletes about what not to do. Experts also say the episode led sponsors to beef up the morals clauses in their athlete contracts. On Thanksgiving weekend in 2009, the first hints of the Woods scandal broke – that the pro golfer had been in a mild car accident in his home’s driveway and that his wife smashed a window with a golf club. It took weeks for the full truth to come out—that Woods had cheated on his wife with scores of women. Sponsors didn’t begin leaving Woods until he broke his silence nearly a month later when he announced he’d take a break from his sport. Gillette, Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Tag Heuer soon ended their endorsements. Nike stuck by him, but as Fortune learned in 2011, it slashed the value of his $20 million-per-year deal in half for two years as a punishment. These days, Woods has a smaller portfolio of deals (still lucrative enough to crack the top ten of our Fortunate 50 list) with Nike, Rolex, Japanese heat-rub Kowa, and Asian wristband-maker All Custom Focus. 


Barry Bonds

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 13: Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds leaves federal court on April 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California. After three and a half days of deliberation, a jury found Barry Bonds guilty on one count of obstruction of justice and was a hung jury on three counts of perjury for lying to a grand jury about his use of performance enhancing drugs. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photo by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The all-time home run king Barry Bonds became a key figure in baseball’s steroids scandal in 2007, causing sponsors like MasterCard, KFC and Charles Schwab to cancel their endorsements. All told, Sports Illustrated reported that he lost an estimated $28 million a year in contracts. He ended his career that same year. Bonds told a grand jury that he used performance-enhancing drugs without knowing in 2004, but he was found to have obstructed justice. Bonds served one-month under house-arrest. 


Mike Tyson

US boxer and former heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson addresses a press conference in Hong Kong on September 12, 2012. Tyson is in Hong Kong to attend the annual CLSA investor forum. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/GettyImages)
Photo by Phillipe Lopez/AFP—Getty Images

After the boxer’s former wife Robin Givens said in 1988 that he abused her, Mike Tyson lost millions in endorsement money from Pepsi. Over the next four months, other sponsors left, costing the heavyweight boxing champion a reported $8 to $10 million that year. He lost a deal with Eastman Kodak and a $750,000 contract with Nintendo to promote his boxing game “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!!” (By 1989 the video game maker had renamed it “Punch-Out!!!”) Problems continued to pile on for Tyson after he was found guilty of raping an 18-year-old in 1992 and spent three years in prison.


Wayne Rooney

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 01: Wayne Rooney of England looks on during traing at Maracana on June 1, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths—Getty Images

After allegedly cheating on his pregnant wife with prostitutes, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney saw the endorsements slip away. His biggest loss was Coca-Cola, whose U.S. executives reportedly said they were “disgusted.” But they did not end the contract until it expired in 2010.  Around the same time, the soccer star also lost a deal with Asian beer brand Tiger to do commercial work. He did hold on to his deals with Nike and EA Sports. 


Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Photo by Ezra Shaw — Getty Images

Basketball star Kobe Bryant’s image took a big hit in 2003 after a woman accused him of sexual assault. McDonald’s subsequently decided not to renew the hoops star’s three-year endorsement deal. Ultimately, authorities dropped the charges against Bryant after he reached a private settlement with the accuser. Endorsements with Sprite and Nike never ended. But one with Italian chocolate maker Ferrero SpA did. At the time, many predicted that Bryant’s clean image had been permanently tarnished. But Kobe’s endorsements soon got back on track—he signed lucrative deals with Nike, Lenovo, and Turkish Airlines. Fortune reported this summer that Bryant raked in about $20 million in endorsements in 2013 making him No. 3 on our 2014 Fortunate 50 list, up a spot from the year before.


Michael Phelps

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 31: Michael Phelps of the United States looks on prior to the Men's 4x100m Medley Relay during Day Sixteen of the 14th FINA World Championships at the Oriental Sports Center on July 31, 2011 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Photo by Ezra Shaw—Getty Images

Owner of the most Olympic gold medals in history, Phelps found himself in hot water after a photo emerged in 2008 of him smoking a bong at a party. Although he was suspended from competition for three months, he only lost a sponsorship with Kellogg’s, which chose not to renew its contract. (Because its deal was going to expire at that time anyway, Phelps’s agent at Octagon, Drew Johnson, has argued to Fortune that it isn’t fair to say the brand “dropped” him.) The other mega brands behind the swimmer, like Speedo, Visa, Omega watches and Subway, all stood by him.


Rashard Mendenhall

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15: Rashard Mendenhall #28 of the Arizona Cardinals warming up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 15, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Cardinals defeated the Titans 37-34. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Photo by Wesley Hitt—Getty Images

After President Obama announced in 2011 that US armed forces had killed Osama bin Laden, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall sent out a flurry of tweets he would come to regret. Mendenhall, who retired this year, scolded those who celebrated bin Laden’s death. “It’s amazing how people can hate a man they have never even heard speak,” he said. “We’ve only heard one side,” he tweeted. Three days later, his most prominent sponsor, Champion, dropped its deal with him. A few months later, Mendenhall took action of his own by suing Hanesbrands, which owns Champion, for $1 million, the amount left on his contract. In the end, the two parties reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount.

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