The question is, how do you pay it back? Sometimes the debt is too great--as in O.J Simpson's case. No amount of wrangling will let Simpson back in, even as he has sworn that he would get it all back "in spades."
Michael Richards may have gone a bridge too far with some racial night club epitaphs. Simpson may have gone into the dark side with a supposition about how to, perhaps, commit the murder of his ex-wife and her male friend. Mel Gibson may have offered up some too-revealing feeling about Jews.
The truth is, though there always seem to be ways of coming back from verbal and mental catastrophes, they may not be sufficient. Entertainment tastes change greatly in television over time--but memories of specific incidents stay fresh in viewers' minds, even with apologies from offenders.
Can Richards even be on a TV comedy ever again? Will Simpson do more than just collect monies from his NFL pension? Can Gibson ever be involved in a movie where Jewish people are seen or written into the script?
To a much lesser extent, not nearly so onerous, are those paybacks that are under the radar, reflecting the day-to-day Darwinism of Hollywood's natural selection process. Highly regarded TV producers and creators--once the golden boys of the network airwaves--fall down in attracting average viewer interest. It's another kind of payback.
Bitingly competitive TV executives may sneer at those who have fallen. What is their payback? Low-rated shows; constant interrogation from critics; lackluster marketing interest from studios and network executives; and finally, little or no press.
It's that kind of payback we can be most thankful for, when we don't have to read about horrific racial or anti-Semitic diarrhea of the minds, or even something less offensive, but still objectionable: network executives whining about how things could have gone better with their two-bit TV shows.