The Biggest Career Crashes Of 2014

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By Jacquelyn Smith, Aaron Taube, and Emmie Martin

The New Year represents a fresh start. And some of us may need it more than others.

Here are 28 high-profile people (and teams) whose careers or reputations took a big hit in 2014. Many are likely to bounce back - while others may never recover.

The Biggest Career Crashes Of 2014
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The Biggest Career Crashes Of 2014
The Baltimore Ravens running back was charged with assaulting his then-fiancé Janay Palmer in February, but the news didn't initially gain traction in the media.

That changed in September, when the NFL announced it would suspend Rice for a measly two games, prompting critics to point out that the league seemed to take marijuana use and college recruiting violations more seriously than domestic violence.

The story got even bigger when TMZ released the full security camera video of Rice punching Palmer, who by then had become his wife, in an elevator at Revel Casino in Atlantic Casino. Afterward, the camera showed him dragging her out of the elevator.

The Baltimore Ravens cut Rice from the team, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Although though Rice won the appeal of his indefinite suspension in November, it is unlikely that an NFL team will add him to its roster any time soon.

In November, Hagel resigned as US Secretary of Defense under pressure from President Obama. As it turns out, Hagel "just wasn't up to the job," a senior defense official concisely summarized.

Although Hagel was reportedly chosen for the position in order to reorganize the armed forces and cut defense spending, he ended up needing to focus on other projects, including combating the rise of ISIS and the spread of Ebola.

This October a recording from a confidential marriage therapy session in 2012 was made public in which the "7th Heaven" actor admitted to molesting underage girls.

In December, 67-year-old Collins released a statement to People magazine in which he admits to inappropriate sexual contact with three female minors. In that statement he said: "Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret. I have been working to atone for it ever since."

In a massive attack on Sony Pictures, hackers stole an estimated 11 terabytes of data, including unreleased movies, executive salaries and social security numbers, and private emails. Pascal, Sony's co-chairman, came under fire for a number of comments she made in leaked emails, including statements about President Obama that could be construed as racist. 

Pascal apologized for her remarks about Obama, and she hopes the scandal won't be the end of her career. "I don't want to be defined by these emails, after a 30 year career," she said.

Sterling's long, documented history of racist behavior finally caught up to him in 2014 when TMZ published audio of him telling his girlfriend V. Stiviano not to bring black people to Clippers games or pose with them in Instagram photos.

Previously, he had settled for $2.75 million a lawsuit alleging he discriminated against African-American tenants at his Los Angeles residential buildings. He's also accused of saying he wanted a Southern, white coach to lead poor, black players.

The recorded comments, which came out in April, caused an uproar and persuaded new NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban Sterling from the league for life and force him to sell the team.

After some legal wrangling, Sterling and his wife sold the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Of course, some career crashes are less painful than others.

Despite Uber's tremendous growth, CEO Kalanick came under constant scrutiny this year for his explosive temper and Uber's numerous PR nightmares.

Kalanick made some unprofessional comments, like saying, "We're in a political campaign, and the candidate is Uber and the opponent is an asshole named Taxi," at Re/code's Code Conference this spring. Even worse, he's been accused of spying on reporters, collecting data about customers, and treating drivers unfairly.

Aware of his company's reputation, Kalanick said the following in Uber's most recent funding announcement: "This kind of growth has also come with significant growing pains. The events of the recent weeks have shown us that we also need to invest in internal growth and change. Acknowledging mistakes and learning from them are the first steps. We are collaborating across the company and seeking counsel from those who have gone through similar challenges to allow us to refine and change where needed."

The reputation of the University of North Carolina's athletics program has been in decline ever since NCAA investigators arrived on campus in 2010. But things did not hit rock bottom until this past year, when the school's worst fears were confirmed and broadcast to the nation.

In January, former UNC academic advisor Mary Willingham alleged in a CNN story that between 8% and 10% of the school's football and basketball players read below a third-grade level, a claim that tied into a series of internal investigations over no-show classes attended by athletes in the African & Afro-American Studies Department. 

Things fell apart entirely in October when a report issued by former US Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein found that athletes were not only enrolling in the fake classes, but that they were being shepherded into those classes by academic counselors who knew they were bogus.

The report found this corruption had been going on for nearly two decades, leading to the firing of at least nine employees, and incalculable damage to the reputation of a school once hailed as a model of academic and athletic success.

When comedian Hannibal Buress referenced the sexual assault charges brought against Cosby in 2004 in a clip that went viral earlier this year, the allegations resurfaced, with more women coming forward claiming Cosby assaulted and raped them.

In light of the allegations, both Netflix and NBC shelved upcoming projects with Cosby, and TV Land pulled all reruns of "The Cosby Show." Cosby was also forced to cancel several shows on his current comedy tour.

The famed 77-year-old comedian denies the allegations. 

In September, Gross left Pacific Investment Management Company, the investment management firm he co-founded, to work for Janus Capital, another investment firm. Despite his respected reputation on Wall Street, Gross has struggled in recent years, and reportedly quit to preempt his own firing. He had been exhibiting eccentric behavior before his departure, even wearing sunglasses and taking the stage to Rob Thomas and Carlos Santanna's "Smooth" at an investment conference.

By that time, PIMCO employees were complaining about Gross' management style and threatening to quit if he didn't step down.

It's hard to overstate the importance of the 2014 World Cup to host nation Brazil, a country known around the world for its soccer prowess.

Going into this summer's tournament, the men's national team had not lost a competitive match on its own soil in 39 years. Even without its star playmaker Neymar, who suffered an injury earlier in the tournament, Brazil was favored to beat Germany in the semifinals and advance to the championship match. 

Instead, the team was obliterated, giving up four goals in six minutes during the first half of an embarrassing 7-1 defeat that brought members of the team to tears.

Brazil would lose once more, 3-0 to the Netherlands, in the tournament's third-place game. Unsurprisingly, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's contract was not renewed.

Although the American Apparel CEO was first fired in June, he stayed on as a consultant with the company until it officially ousted him in December.

Charney, who is known for his erratic behavior, founded the company in the 1980s and built it into an iconic brand — but he was fired abruptly in June because of "concerns about his trustworthiness," The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

Charney recently told Trish Regan at Bloomberg TV that he has since fallen on hard times, revealing that he's down to his last $100,000 and is sleeping on a friend's couch in Manhattan.

In June, Cantor suffered a shocking loss in the Virginia Republican primary to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat. As the House majority leader, Cantor seemed like a shoo-in to win, and his defeat shocked supporters.

Cantor was up over 30 points in the polls merely days before and had outspent his opponent by a 25 to 1 ratio. However, Cantor kept his composure after the loss, noting that serving Virginia was "one of the highest honors" of his life.

Bieber fell from grace in the eyes of his fans when he was caught racing a Lamborghini while allegedly intoxicated in Miami this January. He was arrested and charged with drunk driving, resisting arrest, and driving without a valid license.

In response to his erratic behavior, 273,968 people signed a petition to have the singer deported back to Canada. While Bieber hasn't been removed from the US yet, his popularity has certainly dwindled.

From a public relations perspective, it would be difficult for any pro sports league to have a worse year than the NFL did in 2014.

In addition to the lingering issues of the league's concussion problem and its continued use of the Washington Redskins name — which many consider a slur — the NFL faced heightened scrutiny over its handling of players accused of domestic violence.

In September, TMZ released security camera video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his wife (then fiancé), Janay, in an Atlantic City elevator. The league's initial response to suspend Rice for just two games, made in July, was met with outrage after the video was released, and things only got more embarrassing for Goodell when reports surfaced that the NFL failed to request video tape of the incident from police.

Goodell was widely criticized, with many people calling for his resignation. He declined to step down and remains the league's commissioner, even as it deals with the fallout from star running back Adrian Peterson's indictment for allegedly assaulting his 4-year-old son with a tree branch.

Michael, Uber's senior vice president, came under fire in November after suggesting — in what he thought was an off-the-record conversation — that Uber spends millions of dollars to investigate and dig up dirt on prominent journalists. Although Michael apologized for the comments and kept his job, the incident added to Uber's series of PR blunders this year.

Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison this October after being convicted of "culpable homicide" for the 2013 killing of his girlfriend, Reva Steenkamp.

Culpable homicide is the South African equivalent of manslaughter, a decision judge Thokozile Masipa chose because there was not enough evidence to prove that Pistorius intended to murder Steenkamp. 

Pistorius, who was once a hero for becoming the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, claimed in court that he had mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired four shots at her through a locked bathroom door.

The prosecutors in the case filed an appeal earlier this month.

Kheradpir took over as CEO of the networking equipment company Juniper Networks on Jan. 1 and was immediately met with pressure from activist investors to cut costs.

He didn't make it to the end of the year. His board of directors asked him to resign in November for reasons that remain somewhat mysterious.

All the board said at the time was that Kheradpir had exhibited poor conduct during a negotiation with a customer.

In September, Minnesota Vikings running back and 2012 league MVP Adrian Peterson was charged with reckless or negligent injury to a child for allegedly hitting his 4-year-old son with a branch so hard that it left cuts on the boy's thighs. Nike dropped him as a sponsor immediately.

With his personal life under scrutiny, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune published a long article with claims, later disputed by Peterson, that the running back had been promiscuous and that his charity for at-risk children, Adrian Peterson's All Day Foundation, might not have made the donations it had represented in its financial reports. 

Peterson avoided jail time by pleading no contest to the child abuse charges in November, but his career was put on hold when the league suspended him without pay for the rest of the season. 

In a controversial move, the Twitter CEO sold more than 500,000 shares in the company. "Selling stock speaks louder than any words. As the CEO, how do you look the employees in the eye when you are busy grabbing a lifeboat? He has lost their respect, and obviously the respect of the market," a major institutional investor explained to Business Insider.

Although Twitter executives emphasized that Costolo only ended up selling about 10% of his total shares in the company, the fact that he sold any at all didn't evoke much confidence in his staff.

Public opinion continued to shift against the Washington NFL franchise's use of the name "Redskins," which many consider a slur directed toward Native Americans.

The name was criticized in 2014 by political figures like President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, as well as the website Etsy, which banned users from selling products bearing the team's name.

A major blow came in June, when the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team's federal trademarks for the name, which the court ruled was disparaging to Native Americans. Meanwhile, the team's on-the-field fortunes haven't been much better. Hampered by the disastrous 2012 trade that landed them quarterback Robert Griffin III in exchange for four draft picks, Washington currently sits dead last in the NFC East division with a 3-11 record.

This October, TLC canceled its popular show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," staring child beauty pageant contestant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson. 

TLC pulled the plug after allegations arose that Honey Boo Boo's mother, "Mama June," had resumed dating an old boyfriend who was convicted of molesting a child related to Shannon.

Shannon initially denied seeing the man after he was released from prison earlier this year, but later admitted to having contact with him. She told TMZ she realizes she "made mistakes and done wrong," and no longer has any contact with him.

The New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez missed the entire 2014 season after being given a 211-game suspension for steroid use in 2013.

Rodriguez appealed the decision and early this year earned something of a minor victory. Arbitrator Frederic Horowitz cut his suspension to 162 games, the number of contests in a full Major League season.

This means the Yankees will have to figure out what to do with the aging slugger in 2015 now that he has been reinstated. Per his contract, the team owes him at least $61 million over the next three years.

The 27-year-old Tinder CEO announced in November that he would be stepping down in the wake of a lawsuit from ousted cofounder Whitney Wolfe that accused Rad and cofounder Justin Mateen of sexually harassing her.

The suit, which according to Forbes was settled for just more than $1 million, alleged that Mateen, Wolfe's ex-boyfriend, had become emotionally abusive and that Rad refused to intervene when the issue was brought to his attention. 

After the resignation of Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, two of The New Republic's top editors, over a dozen other staff members left the next day in support of Foer, creating a massive headache for Chris Hughes, the cofounder of Facebook who purchased the magazine in 2012.

The resignations came shortly after Hughes announced plans to overhaul The New Republic by cutting the number of yearly issues in half and placing a heavy emphasis on digital content. Hughes' leadership of TNR has been widely criticized, and many people blame him for destroying the historic publication.

Wide receiver Eric Decker joined the New York Jets this season on a five-year, $36.25 million deal, but things have not gone as planned since he left the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos.

Decker has struggled with a hamstring injury this year, and the Jets have performed poorly to the tune of a 3-11 record.

Earlier this month, his wife, country singer Jessie James Decker said in a radio interview that Eric Decker had become depressed as a result of the Jets' losing and his own failure to "show his ability."

James Decker had previously angered Jets fans on Twitter by calling them "haters" after her husband's attempt to interact with them."

LaBeouf started the year in scandal after being accused of plagiarism by graphic novelist Daniel Clowes in February. LaBeouf responded by hiring a skywriter to spell out a public apology.

Later that month, he showed up to the premiere of his new movie "Nymphomaniac: Vol. I" wearing a paper bag that said "I Am Not Famous Anymore" over his head.

He then reprised the same bag for an installation of performance art in which LaBeouf sat, unmoving, for five days while fans could enter and observe. Adding to an already rough year, the actor alleges he was raped during the exhibit.

In December, the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO announced he was stepping down after more than 20 years running the company. Although he turned the brand into a powerhouse after taking over the early 1990s, things have been turbulent for a while.

Last year Jeffries was stripped of his role as chairman of Abercrombie's board of directors because of pressure from investors, and resigned amid the store's 11th straight quarter of declining sales.

The 2013-14 NBA season was an awful one for the Los Angeles Lakers, historically one of the league's most dominant franchises. The team finished the year with a putrid 27-55 record — its second worst winning percentage ever — and missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1976. 

The 2014-15 season, which began in October, hasn't been any better, as the team currently resides in last place in the NBA's Pacific Division.

No one has taken the team's fall from 2010 champions to 2014 laughingstocks harder than Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' hyper-competitive aging superstar. At a team practice held in front of reporters earlier this month, Bryant openly complained about his teammates to general manager Mitch Kupchak, calling the squad "soft like Charmin."

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