Sports figures are treated like celebrities, and even ‘gods’, for their greatness. Though with all of the attention they receive for their successes, it is perhaps just a fraction of the amount of hype and scrutiny they get for their faults.
The New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” scandal became the most recent controversy in a long, long history of sports scandals, prompting us to rank out our top 10 sports scandals of all-time.
While many of the events on our list didn't occur during the social media era, which arguably makes the scrutiny even worse, rest assured that these missteps had a profound negative impact on their careers, image, and wallets.
So without further ado, here is AbridgeMe’s top 10 sports scandals…
10. Pete Rose Banned from Baseball
Despite being the all-time leader in hits in Major League Baseball history, Pete Rose is currently not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1989 Rose was banished from the game for betting on the results of games around the league, including on his own Reds. Rose denied the allegations until 2004 when he finally admitted placing bets on the outcomes of games, but claims he never bet against the team he was managing.
9. Jerry Sandusky Child Sex Abuse
In 2011, it became public knowledge that at least eight boys had been molested by Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky and that several prominent members of the Penn State staff had covered up previous incidents of abuse in order to keep the scandal from breaking.
Sandusky was later convicted on October 9, 2012, of 45 criminal counts of sexually abusing boys and was sentenced to 30–60 years in prison.
8. Black Sox Scandal
During the 1919 World Series, eight players for the Chicago White Sox were caught losing games on purpose for the exchange of money.
As a result of the scandal, all of the players on the White Sox were banned from the game for life (though were acquitted of any charges in court). The White Sox fittingly lost the series to the Reds.
7. Reggie Bush NCAA Sanctions
Prior to the 2006 NFL Draft, reports surfaced over whether Reggie Bush and his family had received gifts from the University of Southern California in violation of NCAA rules, which Bush denied.
Sports agent Lloyd Lake sued Bush and his family for not paying back $290,000 in gifts and cooperated with the NCAA during their own investigation. In June 2010, the NCAA announced sanctions against the university that included taking away their 2004–2005 championship trophy, and vacating all wins during that season.
Bush later voluntarily decided to forfeit his title as Heisman winner of 2005.
6. Kobe Bryant Rape Case
In the summer of 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested by police officers of Eagle, Colorado while investigating a complaint filed by 19-year old hotel employee.
On June 30th, 2003, Bryant had checked into The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera prior to having knee surgery in Vail, Colorado. The alleged assault occurred the night before Bryant’s surgery. Bryant admitted to participating in adulterous acts, but insisted that the act was consensual and that no assault occurred.
The suit was settled out of court and Bryant’s image took a huge hit as he lost millions of dollars from former sponsors.
The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, better know as BALCO, was an American company founded by Victor Conte. In 2003, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California began investigating BALCO after U.S. sprint coach Trevor Graham anonymously sent a syringe containing the BALCO designer steroid Tetrahydrogestrinone to the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
After a seizure of BALCO facilities, officers found a list of athletes along with their dosage plans. Among the famous athletes on the list were: Barry Bonds, Bill Romanowski, Shane Mosley, and many others.
4. Tim Donaghy, the “Rogue Official”
On July 20, 2007, it was reported by the New York Post that the FBI had begun an investigation on NBA referees who were betting on the outcomes of the games they were officiating. As part of the investigation, referee Tim Donaghy was found to had placed thousands of dollars on games he called between 2005–2007.
The accusation sent shock waves through the NBA as fans were now unsure if the league was legitimate or not. As a result of his acts, Donaghy was sentenced to fifteen months in prison.
3. Michael Vick Dog Fighting
In April 2007, police searched the home of NFL quarterback Michael Vick and found evidence that Vick was deeply involved in a dog-fighting ring.
Vick’s initial response to the claims was that although he was the owner of the property where the fights were taking place, he rarely was present at the house and it was the activity of his family members.
Vick was suspended by the NFL and was ordered to pay back money to his former team, the Atlanta Falcons. He served 23 months in federal prison.
2. Tiger Woods Crashes
On November 27, 2009, Tiger Woods crashed his SVU into the curb, smashing into a fire hydrant. After intense media speculation over the events leading up to the crash, Woods insisted that it was a “private matter” and credited his wife for assisting him during the accident.
Shortly after, US Weekly released a voice mail message left by Woods to one of his mistresses. After the report, several women came forward publically that they were romantically involved with Woods.
Woods lost approximately $10 billion as a result of the incident. Woods and Elin Nordegren divorced on August 23, 2010.
1. Lance Armstrong Doping
Lance Armstrong’s abuse of performing enhancing drugs (PED’s) ultimately cost him his seven Tour De France titles. Prior to Armstrong admitting to his usage of PED’s he was subjected to allegations for most of his cycling career.
In June 2013, the US Anti-Doping Agency accused Armstrong of trafficking drugs as well as pressuring fellow riders to take them. Armstrong finally admitted taking PED’s in an interview with Oprah Winfey in 2013.
As a result, many of Armstrong’s sponsors dropped him - causing an estimated $75 million loss in just one day.
Honorable Mention. Mike Tyson Ear Bite
On June 28th, 1997, a boxing match took place between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, for the second time. Holyfield defeated Tyson in the first match up on November 9th, 1996.
The bout was stopped in the 3rd round after Tyson repeatedly bit both Holyfield’s ears and was disqualified as a result. Some of the bites were damaging enough to rip parts of Holyfield’s ear off.
Tyson was fined $3 million and his boxing license was stripped away from him (which was later restored on October 18th, 1998).
Bonus balls. Just missed the cut.
SMU Football’s Death Penalty
Donald Sterling Banned From NBA
Duke Lacrosse Case
Pine Tar Incident
Manti Te’o Catfished
Want more? Check out #SportsScandals. Thanks to Ted Weinberg for his contributions to the AbridgeMe knowledge platform.
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