World-class athletes are constantly in the public limelight. We love their successes but many people also enjoy following their scandals and drama. The best thing a sports star can do is avoid needlessly inviting controversy. They can ruin careers and taint legacies.
However, some athletes simply make life difficult for themselves. It could be because of substance abuse or because they just made some terrible decisions. In the end, they faced the consequences for their moment of madness or poor judgment. Let’s look at 25 athletes who needlessly invited controversy via Sportscasting.
25. Dennis Rodman
Rodman was a key member of the Detroit Pistons before he joined Michael Jordan in Chicago. Fans knew “The Worm” as one of the most colorful characters in the NBA. This was because of his wild fashion sense and his eccentric behavior. His ever-changing hair could give a person epilepsy. Meanwhile, he famously wore a wedding dress to promote his autobiography.
However, his most needlessly controversial moment came when he went to North Korea (via CNN). Somehow, Rodman developed a friendship with dictator Kim Jong Un. He tried to negotiate on behalf of the United States but it didn’t produce any tangible results. Rodman went to Pyongyang on a couple of occasions and attracted intense media attention. Most people shook their heads in disbelief because it was so surreal.
Larson is a NASCAR driver so it’s probably obvious where this is going. The sport needlessly attracts regular controversy because of its relationship with women and minorities. The former GCR driver was competing in an online race during the global health crisis in 2020. But he made a massive error of judgment by dropping a disgusting racial slur. He thought his microphone was off but that doesn’t make it any better.
NASCAR suspended him and GCR dropped him from their team (via NBC). However, Larson bounced back with Hendricks Motorsport and won the NASCAR Cup Series Championship in 2021. It was extremely controversial because of the ongoing social issues. Furthermore, there was only a single black driver, Bubba Wallace, competing at the time. NASCAR obviously still has a long way to go.
All Walker had to do was stay at home and keep his head down. But for some reason, the Manchester City fullback couldn’t manage this. The world went into hiding during the pandemic. The U.K. government ordered citizens and residents to avoid unnecessary travel as they attempted to control the spread of the disease. However, Walker didn’t receive the memo.
First, there was a controversy when he went out for a haircut during a period when all barbershops were legally closed. Then, he needlessly attracted attention again for a more extreme reason. Walker decided that the time was right to host a party at his mansion. This was bad enough but the details were incredible as he paid multiple high-end escorts hundreds of pounds to attend (via The Independent).
Davis is a successful boxing champion. Fans know him as one of Floyd Mayweather’s proteges. Their relationship deteriorated over the years but Davis followed in Mayweather’s footsteps in more ways than one. ‘Money’ went to jail after beating his ex-girlfriend. Davis also beat his partner and even laid hands on her in public. It was shameless and disgusting in equal measure.
The wildest aspect was that they were attending a charity event. Davis needlessly attracted controversy on other occasions. He was involved in a hit-and-run in 2021. Police indicted him on 14 counts of traffic offenses and Davis faced up to seven years in prison (via CBS Baltimore). Meanwhile, “Tank” has priors. This exceptional athlete has an unexceptional brain.
On paper, Woods had everything. He was rich, handsome, and incredibly successful in his sport. Fans believed that he was a genuine contender to Jack Nicklaus as the greatest golfer of all time. But he then suffered one of the most shocking downfalls in sports history. In 2009, a story broke that Woods had an affair with a New York nightclub manager. The golfer denied this but much worse was to follow.
After drunkenly crashing his car a few days later, dozens of women came forward with their own stories (via People), including adult film stars and strip dancers. Suddenly, Woods’ squeaky-clean image was no more. His Swedish supermodel wife, Elin Nordegren, left with their children. He was alone after needlessly ruining his life. Woods checked into rehab and it took him 10 years to find redemption.
Ruggs was having the season of his life for the Las Vegas Raiders. The wide receiver was one of Derek Carr’s most important weapons on the field (via The Guardian). But then he turned his car into a weapon while drunk driving. Ruggs was in his Camaro with his girlfriend after a night of partying. He needlessly decided to drive home instead of getting a Lyft or an Uber like most people. This ended in tragedy after he crashed the vehicle into another car.
Police reported that Ruggs was driving at speeds of up to 156 mph before the collision. He killed the 21-year-old woman in the driver’s seat. Law enforcement picked him up and put him under house arrest. Meanwhile, the Raiders cut him ahead of his legal battle. Ruggs faced up to 20 years in jail for his selfish and stupid mistake. All he had to do was get in a taxi but instead, he ruined his entire life.
Maguire is an England international and captain of Manchester United. He became the world’s most expensive defender when United paid $107 million for his services. However, it’s safe to say he hasn’t lived up to expectations. He first needlessly attracted attention in 2020 when he was involved in a bar fight in Greece. The police picked him up and accused Maguire of attempting to bribe them.
Later, Maguire claimed that he feared for his life (via The Mirror). Many fans wished he stayed in jail after his horrible performance in the next game. Meanwhile, Maguire has had some tone-deaf moments. After receiving a lot of criticism in 2021, he scored for England against lowly Albania. He ran across the field with his hands behind his ears. Supporters mocked him because he celebrated as though he had scored the winner in a World Cup final.
Tyson is one of the most iconic boxers in history. However, there’s no denying that he’s a controversial figure. The most obvious episode was his sexual assault conviction in 1992 (via Newsweek). He received a 10-year sentence but only served three before his early release. However, Tyson has been involved in many scandals and wild incidents throughout his life. Some were unavoidable but that’s not true of all of them.
For example, he needlessly bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in their 1997 rematch. Of course, the moment entered boxing folklore but it was shocking. Then he had significant problems with substance abuse. This caused him to blow up in weight and created a lot of legal issues over the years. Later in life, Tyson cleaned up his act and redeemed his image. It was a massive turnaround.
Brees is a hero in New Orleans because of his long tenure with the Saints. He also engaged in a lot of charitable work after Hurricane Katrina. This enhanced his popularity because it showed how much he loves the city. The former Saints quarterback was one of the best in the league and generally maintained a low profile. However, he needlessly stirred up controversy in 2020 when he told Yahoo Sports his thoughts on kneeling during the anthem.
The QB made it clear that he didn’t approve. He thought that it disrespected the flag and his country. Instantly, many players across the league condemned his stance and it also split the locker room. Many people agreed with him but Brees recognized that his words were divisive and unhelpful during a tense period. He apologized in a lengthy post on Instagram and retracted his previous words.
Terry was an incredibly gifted soccer player. The former Chelsea captain was a mainstay at the heart of his team’s defense for his entire career. However, he also needlessly created controversies for himself. All of them could have been avoided with a bit of better judgment. For example, the married star had an affair with his teammate’s ex-girlfriend. This attracted a lot of media attention.
Then, there was his racism scandal with Anton Ferdinand (via Sky Sports). This ended Terry’s England career because it made his position untenable. It also revealed a side of his character that disappointed a lot of his fans. He was like a cockroach because this didn’t end his involvement in soccer. After retiring from playing, he became a coach at the highest level. It was wild but sports often don’t care about morals.
Jones became the youngest UFC champion in history when he won his first title at the age of 23. The promotion thought that they had a superstar in the making but it didn’t turn out that way. Yes, Jones was successful, but he never achieved mainstream fame in the same way as Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey. That was mainly because of his character flaws because he needlessly creates problems for himself.
In 2015, he crashed his vehicle into a pregnant woman’s vehicle before fleeing the scene (via N.Y. Post). The UFC stripped him of his title and suspended him after this shameful act. However, he never learns his lesson. There were a couple of doping violations and multiple incidents related to alcohol. Police picked him up after he fired his gun into the air while drunk on mezcal in 2020. Then, there were allegations of drunken domestic violence in 2021.
There’s no denying that Kyrgios is a talented athlete. But indeed, he hasn’t reached his full potential. Many analysts believe he has an attitude problem. The Australian needlessly attracts unwanted attention with on-court strops and tantrums. Nobody likes a bad loser, but Kyrigos is one of the worst. However, the biggest controversies came when he admitted that he intentionally tanked at some tennis competitions (via Business Insider).
This is ridiculous for a professional athlete because fans invest time and money in supporting them. It goes against the integrity of sports because they aren’t committed to winning. Kyrgios admitted that he didn’t put in his full effort at Wimbledon in 2015 as well as other tournaments. This infuriated many retired players because they see his potential. He has defeated the likes of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic throughout his career but is inconsistent.
Saunders is one of the best boxers to come out of the U.K. in the last few years. He held multiple WBO titles over the years before dropping the super-welterweight title to Canelo Alvarez. There’s no denying his skill in the ring. But it’s difficult to root for him in life. That’s because he has a history of needlessly making horrible comments about different groups and people (via The New York Post).
The boxer made a video where he showed the “best way to beat your wife.” This almost cost him his boxing license because it encouraged violence toward women. He also made horrific comments about boxing legend Barry McGuigan’s deceased daughter. Furthermore, he’s in cahoots with Irish drug lord Daniel Kinahan. He defended the cartel leader despite his links to over 20 murders.
Balotelli had all the potential in the world. But he needlessly destroyed his career through a series of foolish incidents. He showed a lack of commitment to greatness and preferred to focus on his life off the field. The Italian star had flashes of brilliance for Inter Milan and Manchester City but failed to sustain it. Meanwhile, his list of ludicrous misdemeanors is remarkable.
Only Balotelli could crash his Lamborghini into a women’s prison. He once used the City youth team for darts practice. Another time, the fire department rushed to his home after he lit fireworks indoors. Despite this, his teammates loved him because his personality made it impossible to hate him. But he was an unreliable player and his career stagnated (via The Sun).
Malone is arguably the greatest player in Utah Jazz history. But this doesn’t make him a good person. He’s one of the worst deadbeat fathers in the world. He had twins but failed to play any role in their lives until they turned 17. Then, a tabloid ran a story on them and he decided he was interested. Meanwhile, he once got a 13-year-old girl pregnant. The family decided not to press charges because he was a local.
Then, there were all of the times that he hit on his teammates’ wives. These included Kobe Bryant’s partner Vanessa. The public reacted with extreme negativity to this and Malone eventually apologized. Meanwhile, he refused to pay any child support for his offspring despite a net worth of millions of dollars (via Medium). Somehow he escaped without a lot of criticism during his playing career.
Covington would argue that his controversy was necessary. This is because they attracted public attention and forced the UFC to retain him. However, the MMA fighter needlessly crossed the line on multiple occasions. He’s a great fighter but he’s not a pleasant person. His fake persona is also extremely polarizing (via Sportskeeda). It’s not safe for him to go to Brazil after he referred to the population as ‘filthy animals.’
However, one of the worst things he did was take a selfie with Polyana Viana and then make lewd comments about her. She was a fellow UFC fighter and this was in extremely poor taste. Many people thought that this was too far because she took the photo with him in good faith. In the end, Covington does what it takes to stay relevant. He’s a product of the world that we live in, unfortunately.
Kidd was a very talented NBA star but he made life difficult for those around him. Kidd faced multiple counts of domestic violence and sexual assault in 2001. Somehow he escaped without charges despite evidence towards his guilt. It’s difficult to shake those kinds of allegations because nobody likes an abuser. This made his appointment as Mavericks’ coach all the more controversial.
He did plead guilty to spousal abuse but this didn’t stop him. His former wife claimed that he beat her repeatedly over the next few years. Finally, she filed for divorce and left him. Kidd was in a position where he could meet some of the most glamorous women in the world. But he needlessly inflicted pain upon one poor woman. In the end, he didn’t pay much of a price (via USA Today).
Durden was an obscure UFC fighter in 2021. He attracted attention after he defeated Qileng Aori in Las Vegas. It wasn’t a dominant victory but he did enough to secure a close decision. Then he made everybody uncomfortable with his post-fight interview. “I knew he was going to be tough, but I had to send him back to China where he came from,” Durden told Daniel Cormier (via SBNation).
The outcry was instantaneous. Most people agreed that he had needlessly ruined his moment with a racist comment. Later, Durden apologized and explained that the words came out wrong. However, his Twitter feed revealed a host of abuse toward China, including derogatory comments about Chinese women. His interview was mild in comparison to the horrible things he said online.
Barton was a decent soccer player but not a good human. He had a solid career with several mid-tier Premier League teams but needlessly invited controversies all of the time. There was something wrong in his mind because of the things he did. For example, he stubbed a cigarette in another player’s eye. Then there was the time he battered Ousmane Dabo on the Manchester City training ground.
Then there was an incident in Liverpool where he assaulted a man. He punched him over 20 times and served 74 days in prison for his actions. Barton also had gambling issues as well as a charge of violence against a woman. Furthermore, there are countless stories of bust-ups with his coaches. Barton is a complex figure who brings a lot of drama wherever he goes (via The Mirror).
‘Thug Rose’ is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC today. She prefers gardening to fighting and famously shaved her head despite her good looks. She claimed it was more practical and every fighter should do the same. However, even she needlessly invited controversy when she fought Weili Zhang in 2020. Namajunas infamously used the phrase “Better dead than red,” to describe Zhang.
Many people criticized her for this because they felt it was unfair on Zhang. Critics said that Zhang wasn’t the embodiment of the Chinese state. Yet this was how Namajunas treated her. It also resulted in a toxic reaction from the crowd during the fight. They booed Zhang and chanted ‘U.S.A.’ repeatedly. Namajunas inspired them with her poor choice of words.
Few people court controversy like Adam Jones. The former Bengals star had a lot of talent but unfortunately, fans forget his football. That’s because he needlessly created drama for himself. He partied endlessly and this was his downfall. That’s because he landed in many avoidable situations that ended in a visit to the local precinct. Strippers still shudder in fear at his name.
Meanwhile, there were multiple public brawls and shooting incidents. He even fought with an airport worker in Atlanta. His list of drinking offenses is endless. In 2021, police arrested him for an assault. However, Jones’s worst situation was the Las Vegas shooting that left a man paralyzed. Nobody proved that Jones pulled the trigger but he was an instigator.
Few athletes polarize public opinion like Fury. Some believe he is a role model because of his return from depression and mental health advocacy. However, others remember his comments directed at gay people and women earlier in his career. That’s why he failed to win the BBC Personality of the Year award despite sporting successes. He’s too problematic to receive a mainstream endorsement.
A case in point occurred in 2020. Fury announced that he reached a deal to fight U.K. rival, Anthony Joshua. This was a highly-anticipated bout for the undisputed heavyweight crown. However, controversy arose when Fury thanked Irish gang lord Daniel Kinahan for helping out (via The Times). The Irish government protested and it became a global issue. In the end, the fight between Fury and Joshua never materialized.
McGregor needlessly attracts controversy like a hobby. The Irishman burst onto the scene as an elite athlete. He became the first UFC fighter to hold two titles simultaneously. However, he increasingly became a caricature of himself. ‘The Notorious’ infamously punched an older man in a bar in Dublin. Another time, he foolishly smashed a fan’s phone off the ground outside a nightclub. He even had a face-off with Machine Gun Kelly at the MTV Video Music Awards (via FOX Sports).
Then there was the time he stormed Brooklyn’s Barclay Center with a posse of 20 goons. Meanwhile, somebody should confiscate his phone because of his drunken tweets. There was a time when McGregor galvanized his entire nation but now they mostly treat him with indifference. It’s disappointing because now people forget how good he was but that’s his fault.
Irving had a tough start to life in Brooklyn after arriving from the Celtics. Boston fans expected him to stay for the long haul but he jumped ship to “the Big Apple.” Then he succumbed to injury for most of his first season and missed key games in the second. Fans hoped that they would see the best of him in his third year alongside teammates James Harden and Kevin Durant.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way they thought. That’s because Irving refused a vaccination to play. According to New York State law, all athletes based in the region had to receive vaccinations to play. Visiting sports stars were an exception. Irving refused and played hardball with the franchise (via Fox News). It left them in a tight spot because they were without one of their best players.
Rodgers was a popular and unproblematic figure for the longest time. Even if NFL fans didn’t like the Packers, they still thought that the QB was a decent man. However, perceptions changed in 2021 when he demanded a trade from Green Bay. This was despite their roster enjoying an enhanced strength in depth. In the end, he agreed to stay until the end of the season.
But the drama didn’t end. NFL rules mandated athletes to receive vaccines. When asked if he had his, Rodgers said that he was “immunized” against the disease. It emerged that he used this choice of words for a reason. Instead of taking the vaccine like the majority of other people, he sought alternative treatments (via N.Y. Times). Needless to say, he fell ill and missed a key game for the Packers.