Though they are larger-than-life figures in many aspects, even the biggest sports stars are no strangers to public humiliation. They may enjoy the best genetics in terms of athletics, but sometimes, they still can’t escape the chaos of everyday life. Sometimes people make bad decisions that they live to regret. Other times, they inadvertently find themselves in an embarrassing scenario.
We looked at 25 sports stars who suffered public humiliation. These athletes and personalities made poor choices and ended up with the world laughing at them. From Conor McGregor’s penchant for chaos to Brett Favre’s sexting, the bar is quite high. Check out the list below via Fox Sports.
25. Tito Ortiz (2021)
Ortiz is a polarizing figure and often the subject of ridicule in the combat sports world. But he made matters worse for himself after losing to Anderson Silva in a boxing match. The pair fought in the co-main event of a Triller event in Florida. Silva won the fight by knockout when he slept ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ in brutal fashion. However, Ortiz’s humiliation didn’t end there because Silva inadvertently made a fool of him on the flight home.
The pair were on the same flight home when Silva noticed that Ortiz’s wife was in economy. He offered her his first-class seat so that she could sit near her husband in the premium section. Later, Ortiz claimed the airline made a mistake (via MMA Junkie). But rather than give his wife his own seat, he allowed Anderson to make him look like an even bigger fool in public.
As a 12-time Olympic medalist, Lochte was a high-profile member of Team USA at the Rio Games. However, nobody focused on his exploits in the pool because a major scandal erupted. It came after Lochte went to a gas station with three other swimmers. Lochte claimed that gangsters held them up at gunpoint and robbed them. But this didn’t correlate with video evidence.
Police investigated the crime scene and discovered that the swimmers actually vandalized the gas station. Later, Lochte admitted that he may have embellished his story. It was a national travesty because he brought shame upon the Olympic team. NBC News reported that the four swimmers were intoxicated at the time of the alleged holdup.
Covington talked his way into UFC title contention. The welterweight star almost received his marching orders from the promotion before he developed his public persona. His combination of winning fights and insulting everybody in his path, including the entire nation of Brazil, earned him attention. He also developed a toxic rivalry with champion Kamaru Usman.
‘Chaos’ didn’t hold back against Usman and took the trash talk too far. However, Usman silenced his rival in the best way possible. He broke Covington’s jaw in the final round of their title fight (via TalkSport). It was just desserts for the Clovis, California, native because everybody was tired of listening to him. He earned public humiliation because of his horrible antics.
It looked like it was Paul’s time. Finally, after 16 seasons, he made his debut in the NBA Finals. It was also an opportunity for the Phoenix Suns to earn the crown for the first time. Paul was bullish after the Bucks won Game Five and took aim at their star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is a magnificent player but free throws are definitely a weakness. “Everybody is anticipating him to miss, even him,” Paul said afterward (via Clutchpoints).
Unfortunately for Paul, those words came back to haunt him. Giannis put on the performance of his life in Game Six and went 17-for-19 from the free-throw line. His shooting accuracy was sublime and sealed CP3’s humiliation. Milwaukee won the series and lifted the Championship trophy. Paul missed out on the elusive ring and had to deal with all of his detractors on social media.
Holyfield is a boxing icon and four-time heavyweight champion. But many people believe he should have retired earlier to avoid excessive damage. Finally, in 2012, he retired at the age of 49. But almost 10 years later, he returned to action against Vitor Belfort in an exhibition boxing match. Holyfield was 58 and faced a former UFC champion in his mid-40s.
Nobody wanted to see it happen and the California Athletic Commission refused to sanction the bout. However, Florida had no such qualms and allowed it to go ahead. Belfort crushed Holyfield in under one round. Mercifully, the referee intervened to protect the veteran (via Sky Sports). It was a humiliation for Holyfield and a horrible moment for all of his watching fans. This was difficult to watch because of the risk to his health.
Rivera won a World Series with the New York Yankees but his MLB career spluttered out. The franchise traded him from their roster because he committed an unforgivable offense. He stole a glove from Derek Jeter’s locker and broke the circle of trust. Bizarrely, Rivera allegedly sold the item to a sports memorabilia store after robbing it (via ESPN). This came after he signed a $1 million contract with the franchise.
Nobody knows what kind of situation he was in or what he was thinking. But it ended his time in New York and sent his career on a downward spiral. He was ineffective for the Padres before bouncing around a number of other franchises. Finally, the Panamanian made the move to Mexico where he finished his career. It was a strange and embarrassing time for the outfielder.
Favre is a legendary quarterback but like all of us, he isn’t a perfect human being. Jenn Sterger, a New York Jets gameday host, reported receiving dozens of lewd images from the former Packers’ star. He also allegedly sent her many voice messages and text messages. He believed his status was enough to convince her to fall into his arms. But she wasn’t interested in the married football legend.
Sterger told CBS Sports that she had never even met Favre in person. An NFL investigation was unable to determine if an appendage in one of the images was Favre’s. As a result, he escaped without a sexual harassment conviction. But they did fine him for failing to cooperate with the investigation. Finally, he departed the Jets after a season and Sterger married MLB star Cody Decker. In the end, it was Favre’s wife who suffered the true humiliation.
Robinson spent five seasons with the New York Knicks and played for a number of other NBA franchises. His greatest accomplishment was winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest on three occasions. After he retired from basketball he agreed to meet Jake Paul in a professional boxing match. This raised eyebrows because the fight pitted an NBA star against a YouTuber. But Robinson’s athletic experience made him a favorite.
However, that’s not how the fight turned out. Robinson suffered the humiliation of a viral knockout when Paul floored him in the second round. It was a brutal finish and a harsh lesson for the former basketball player. Many boxers criticized the pair because they believed it set a bad precedent. “You don’t play boxing,” Sugar Ray Leonard said on commentary (via N.Y. Post). Robinson learned this the hard way.
Sanchez was yet another unsuccessful New York Jets quarterback. If things turned out better for him with Gang Green, maybe he wouldn’t be on this list. In a game against the New England Patriots, he suffered total humiliation. The worst part of this is that it’s etched in NFL folklore and the memories of all the fans watching on national TV. Of course, we’re talking about the infamous “Butt Fumble.”
The Patriots took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter when Sanchez tried to make something happen. Sanchez attempted to offload to Lex Hillard but he wasn’t there. The QB scrambled to make something else happen. But he ran headfirst into Brandon Moore’s backside (via Sports Illustrated). The replays were immediate and cruel because it was a hilarious moment. Unfortunately, it became Sanchez’s legacy.
Rooney had an incredible soccer career. He was England’s top goalscorer and won a ludicrous number of trophies with Manchester United. But he is a controversial figure away from the playing field. One of his earliest scandals came when he was just a teenager. He went to a brothel in his native Liverpool where he proceeded to enjoy time with two women for $60 a pop.
One of the ladies was a 48-year-old grandmother (via The Mirror). Needless to say, this spiced up the headlines because of the dubious nature of the encounter. Rooney was already in a relationship with his teenage partner Coleen. She forgave him but he still cheated on her numerous times throughout their marriage. The soccer star suffered public humiliation because of his taste for older women.
One of the most iconic athletes in sports history, Williams is a cultural phenom. As well as being a successful sports star, she’s also an influential public figure. Of course, this leads to stronger public opinions and there’s no doubt that she polarizes the masses. She has generated moments of controversy because of her temper tantrums. One of these came at the U.S. Open in a very embarrassing incident.
After Williams disagreed with an umpire’s decision she accused him of being a ‘sexist and a ‘thief’ (via Boston Herald). This was ludicrous because he was only enforcing the rules. Then, to make matters worse, it ruined Naomi Osaka’s moment of glory. Osaka received boos because a partisan crowd supported Williams. The tennis superstar didn’t even apologize to Osaka after the showdown.
Edsall’s fall from grace was stark. The former UConn head coach stepped down after results spiraled out of control. After 17 seasons in charge, the writing was finally on the wall for the veteran. The problem was that he lost the respect of his players. Nobody wanted to play for him or his coaches and they left him in an untenable position. It came to a head when a video went viral during a game against Holy Cross.
One of Edsall’s coaches brought the players into a huddle and attempted to get them to fistbump (via The Spun). But none of them reacted in a moment of sheer humiliation for the coaching staff. In the end, Edsall quit after back-to-back losses. There comes a time when there’s nothing else to do. Even though he has legendary status in Connecticut, Edsall overstayed his welcome.
Penn was the first two-weight champion in UFC history. The Hawaiian was one of mixed martial art’s elite performers during his prime. However, he fell off the wagon toward the end of his career and went on a horrible eight-fight losing streak. His loss of form in the cage correlated with badly deteriorating behavior in his daily life. Finally, he ended up unconscious after a bar fight.
“The Prodigy” was involved in a war of words with another patron outside a Hawaiian bar. He offered the man a free punch but ended up seeing stars. Penn didn’t enjoy his humiliation and proceeded to sucker-punch his rival later that night (via USA TODAY). In the end, the UFC cut him from their roster because he had sunk to a new low. Nobody likes to see a true great go down this road but Penn couldn’t help himself.
Richardson earned global infamy when she tested positive for marijuana before the 2020 Olympics (which took place in 2021). It cost her a place at the Games in Tokyo and triggered a massive debate. Some believed she should receive a reprieve because her biological mother recently died. However, many fellow athletes shrugged their shoulders and pointed out that the sprinter knew the rules.
All eyes were on Richardson when she returned to action after the Olympics. Unfortunately, she endured total humiliation as she finished last at the Prefontaine Classic. Some of her haters enjoyed the moment and gave her horrible abuse on social media. On the other hand, The Guardian described it as a case of too much too soon for the young star. It was a tough learning curve.
Daly is one of the most shameless human beings on the planet so perhaps he shouldn’t be on this list. But there’s no doubt that he is familiar with public humiliation. The veteran golfer broke onto the scene as an everyman and was a refreshingly real personality. Things changed when he began to consume more alcohol and continued to smoke like a factory. In the end, he became a laughingstock.
His worst moment came in 2008. That’s when he passed out on the ground outside a Hooters in a pool of his own urine (via Sportscasting). Some fans thought that this was hilarious and it endeared Daly even more to them. But a lot of them thought that it was extremely embarrassing and that he tarnished the sport. It was sad to see him at his lowest point because he is genuinely talented.
A former UFC middleweight champion, Rockhold is also a successful model. As a result, he’s a very confident man and tried to shoot his shot with a fellow fighter. Valerie Loureda is one of the most visible MMA athletes on social media because of her revealing photographs. Rockhold slid into her DMs and tried to flirt with her. But it didn’t end well for the California native.
Below The Belt reported the cringeworthy exchange after Loureda won a fight. Rockhold sent her a congratulatory message before he pushed his luck. Loureda stung his pride because she said she trained with the best team in the world. Then, she namedropped Yoel Romero, the terrifying Cuban who knocked Rockhold unconscious. Fans enjoyed his rapid comedown.
Former MLB star Canseco broke the baseball world when he went public about doping in the sport. He admitted to taking steroids before naming other cheats in his notorious book. However, Canseco’s star rose and he attempted to maximize his earnings. He even took an MMA fight against gigantic Korean Choi Hong Man, which predictably ended in defeat.
In 2021, he took another bout against a Barstool Sports intern. But he earned the ire of viewers after he went down in just 10 seconds (via DAZN). Canseco lost all of his credibility because he went into the ‘fight’ with an injury. He took the paycheck and allowed it to end quickly. Fans considered this a humiliation because of the cheap manner of his defeat. He also cost many people a lot of money.
Odom played for the Los Angeles Lakers and was a two-time NBA champion. He was also the Sixth Man of the Year in 2011 but never hit the heights that he should have. He is more famous for his relationship with Khloe Kardashian. However, this was very toxic and ended with humiliation for the basketball star. Kardashian was tired of his drug abuse and filed for divorce.
But matters escalated when Odom overdosed in a brothel located in Nevada (via CNN). He went into a coma and there were genuine fears for his life. Kardashian put her divorce plans on hold because she wanted to help him recover. Finally, the pair split in 2016. It was a horrible experience for all parties and even worse because it was all in the public eye.
Rodgers rocked the NFL and the Green Bay franchise after his MVP season. He demanded a trade to another team because he was tired of the Packers. After a summer of controversy, Rodgers committed to a final season in Green Bay. Many people thought that they were potential Super Bowl contenders. With their added depth and the retention of Rodgers, they had all of the pieces.
Then the New Orleans Saints smashed the Packers on opening day by a score of 38-3. Furthermore, Rodgers put in one of the worst performances of his career with two interceptions and only 15 successful passes. Former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer said that Rodgers looked miserable (via New York Post). But many people felt gleeful because of Rodgers’ humiliation and the Packers’ meltdown.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but it’s not a good idea to sleep with your brother’s wife. Manchester United Star Giggs committed this unforgivable sin with his younger sibling’s spouse, Natasha. The Daily Mail reported that the soccer legend had an ongoing affair with her for eight years. Meanwhile, Rhodri Giggs revealed that his wife had relations with at least 10 men during their marriage.
Furthermore, Ryan was also married at the time. This was Giggs’ second humiliation after an attempt to silence reality star Imogen Thomas backfired. He also cheated on his wife with her too and attempted to get an injunction against her. This failed and Twitter went crazy because of his high-profile status. It’s crazy that a figure as visible as Giggs would make such public mistakes.
When an Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver attracts national attention it’s usually because of their draft stock. However, Jones found himself on the wrong side of a bar fight with career-threatening injuries. It was a classic case of a football player who was too big for his boots. Jones went into a bar with his friends and allegedly provoked another man in the bathroom.
But Jones didn’t realize that his ‘victim’ and his brother were seasoned MMA fighters. The pair proceeded to unleash a vicious beatdown and broke the player’s eye socket (via People). The worst part was the damage to his pride because of the public humiliation. Many sports fans were delighted to see the viral video and believed that he was too big for his boots. In the end, he learned the meaning of respect the hard way.
Former UFC welterweight champion Woodley ended his MMA career with four straight defeats. It was unfortunate because he looked on course to break records before his bizarre losing spiral. However, he had enough clout and name value to attract Jake Paul’s attention. Then, the YouTuber challenged Woodley to a boxing match. ‘T-Wood’ accepted but this was a big mistake.
The pressure was on Woodley because of his combat sports experience. However, he failed to go after Paul and lost a decision. Woodley said he’d get a tattoo saying ‘I love Jake Paul,’ but this came off as desperate (via Yahoo! Sports). It also added salt to his public humiliation. This was a magnanimous end to his professional boxing career before it even properly began. MMA fans tormented him because he let their sport down.
Kish isn’t the biggest star on this list but endured a horrible humiliation. The veteran MMA fighter fought seven times in the UFC with three wins. Finally, the UFC released her in 2021 after she lost four of her previous five. In 2017, Kish faced off against Felice Herrig in Oklahoma City. She lost the fight by unanimous decision but she also lost her dignity by pooping her pants.
That’s right, the fighter’s body let her down and she defecated in the Octagon. Herrig attempted a rear-naked choke which expanded Kish’s lungs and put pressure on her lower abdomen. This resulted in a disgusting moment for everybody involved (via MMA Fighting). To be fair, Kish was able to laugh it off and tweeted, “S**t happens.” It was a rough moment but at least fans remember her, right?
Woods was on top of the world before his car crash in 2009. Then, the National Inquirer ran a story disclosing the golfer’s extramarital affair with another woman (via Golf Channel). But things escalated even further because a multitude of women came forward claiming that they had slept with the star. They included hostesses and porn stars amongst their number. Needless to say, Woods’ wife wasn’t impressed and duly divorced him.
It was a public humiliation for Woods because the media fixated on the story. Before this, he had a clean-cut image and everything he touched turned to gold. To make matters worse, Woods began to accumulate injuries. He spent time in rehab as he dealt with sex addiction and substance abuse. In the end, he received redemption when he won the Masters in 2019, his first major in 11 years.
McGregor is one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in sports. He suffered another bizarre public humiliation in 2021. He attended the MTV Video Music Awards in Brooklyn but made the headlines for negative reasons. The Irishman became embroiled in a feud with Cleveland rapper, Machine Gun Kelly. McGregor allegedly spoke to Kelly before the artist pushed him. Then, ‘The Notorious’ flung his drink at his foe.
Some outlets reported that McGregor asked for a picture with Kelly and became angry after rejection. However, others said that he slid into Megan Fox’s DMs and infuriated her boyfriend MGK. MMA fans took to social media to lambaste McGregor because he is a walking cliche at this point. After the incident, McGregor claimed he didn’t even know who Kelly was (via Variety).