Ronaldo is one of soccer’s most marketable athletes. The Portuguese superstar has won almost everything possible in his sport. His incredible success also led to mesmerizing wealth. He became the face of major brands like Nike and Unilever. He created a clean-cut image that emphasized his hard work. However, Ronaldo has some dark stories he would prefer the media to forget.
First, a Spanish court sentenced him to two years in prison. This came after he avoided paying almost $20 million in tax. They suspended the punishment but hit him with a massive fine. Then there was a rape case after a woman accused him of assaulting her in 2009. It became a civil case after a Las Vegas judge ruled that the evidence wasn’t clear enough to charge him (via CNN).
Bryant became one of the faces of the NBA after his rise to glory with the Lakers. After Shaquille O’Neal departed for Miami, Bryant took over Los Angeles. Fans remembered him with heavy hearts after his tragic death in 2020. Amazingly, he carried a squeaky-clean image into retirement. That’s because of a shocking moment in his history. His rape case was notorious but he rebounded successfully.
A 19-year-old hotel employee accused Bryant of raping her in a hotel room in 2004. The case went to court and attracted a lot of media attention (via ABC). In the end, Bryant apologized for his actions. But he admitted to having relations with the woman. Finally, she refused to testify and settled in a civil court. Bryant’s critics considered seeing him as a rapist but it didn’t hold him back.
Brady is the most successful NFL star ever. The seven-time Super Bowl winner is an American icon. Somehow he balances his sports career alongside a squeaky-clean image. Brady doesn’t even appear in many endorsements because it doesn’t interest him. Some people even think he has a boring personality. But Brady has a darker side than some fans expect. Overall, he will do anything to win.
The former Patriots quarterback played a central role in the DeflateGate scandal. As a result, Commissioner Rob Manfred threw the book at him. Of course, Brady made a mockery of this by bouncing back and winning the MVP award. Meanwhile, he isn’t afraid to make power plays. Bill Belichick discovered this the hard way. Brady insisted on bringing his alternative medicine guru on team flights (via Boston Magazine).
James is one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. The NBA’s biggest star maintains a squeaky-clean image. But sometimes even his dark side breaks through. A clear example occurred in 2021 when his Lakers played the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were ahead before James elbowed Isaiah Smith in the face. Smith reacted furiously with blood dripping down his face. Furthermore, replays revealed James knew what he was doing.
However, the NBA hit their cash cow with just a one-game suspension for the hit. Meanwhile, they suspended Smith for two games because of his reaction. James escaped lightly because he was almost the instigator of a brawl. Nobody disagreed with Smith’s ban. But many people felt like James should have received the same. In the end, the “King” received special treatment (via CBS Sports).