Elite sports stars are incredible people, that much is true. But it’s important to remember they are only human. Nowadays, it’s impossible not to be noticed because everybody posts their opinions online. This can get you into a lot of trouble if you’re not careful. You need to apologize quickly to get your career back on track.
Actions often speak just as loud as your words. Just ask Drew Brees, who was the latest target of an online controversy due to words said in an interview. So today we’re going to look at 25 athletes who apologized after making poor choices. It’s impossible to know what some of these sports stars were thinking because their statements were just so stupid. Furthermore, some of their apologies were about as genuine as the Houston Astros’ World Series win. Check out the list below.
25. Billy Joe Saunders
In a video, WBO middleweight champion Saunders used a punching bag to explain how to react if “your old woman is giving you mouth” and showing how to “hit her on the chin.” However, the British Boxing Council wasn’t impressed. First, they suspended his license and then hit him with a big fine.
This was a major blow to Saunders as he was close to finalizing a deal to fight Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. But this fight is now at serious risk of falling apart. “If I saw a man touch a woman I would smash him to pieces myself. Apologies if I offended any women,” Saunders later said.
The NBA reacted to the recent health crisis quickly, but not everybody took it seriously in the beginning. Utah Jazz star Gobert is now infamous for touching every single reporter’s microphone at a press conference. Then he high-fived his teammates in the locker room despite NBA advice to the contrary.
Of course, he was the first to be afflicted by the illness. After this, he apologized on Instagram: “The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse.”
Former England and Chelsea captain Terry courted controversy like it was going out of fashion. A brilliant player but an immensely flawed individual, Terry’s international soccer career ended after he racially abused Anton Ferdinand. Ferdinand’s older brother Rio was Terry’s partner at the heart of the England defense.
The FA also banned him for four games. However, Terry wasn’t happy about his. He said: “Although I’m disappointed with the FA judgment, I accept that the language I used, regardless of the context, is not acceptable on the football field or indeed in any walk of life.”
With at least six arrests since 2003, Johnson has made some poor decisions in life. However, he essentially cost himself his Kansas City Chiefs career because he couldn’t stay quiet on social media. A series of incidents piled up before culminating with homophobic slurs on Twitter. He did apologize to try and save his career.
“I regret my actions. The words were used by me in frustration, and they were not appropriate,” he said through a spokesman. “I did not intend to offend anyone, but that is no excuse for what I said.” But he harassed another fan over his low earnings. By this point, the team had had enough and released him.
In 2001, Bonzi Wells was a key member of the Portland ‘Jail Blazers.’ One of the most controversial teams in NBA history, the Trailblazers did no endear themselves to fans at all. Indeed, Wells made their relationship even worse when he said that the players just don’t care what fans think because they’ll still ask for autographs anyway.
Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the most popular comment the outspoken player ever said. He later apologized in a statement: “I should not have said them and there is no excuse. I am a professional and should have kept my chin up and not let my emotions take over.”
Nowadays, Fury is an ambassador for mental health and one of the most popular boxers on the planet. But just a few years ago, nobody could have imagined that after he burst out with a bunch of sexist and homophobic comments. The UK media tore him apart for his dubious remarks.
However, Fury wanted to put it all behind him. He said: “I’ve said a lot of stuff in the past and none of it with intentions to hurt anybody. It’s all very tongue in cheek, it’s all fun and games to me. I’m not a very serious kind of person – it’s all very happy-go-lucky with Tyson Fury.”
One of the biggest baseball controversies in recent years, the Astros finally apologized in 2020 for their sign-stealing exploits. Owner Jim Crane said they were sorry but it fell flat after he tried to make out that it didn’t actually help them win the World Series.
“We especially feel remorse for the impact on our fans and the game of baseball, and our team is determined to move forward, to play with intensity, and to bring back a championship to Houston,” said second baseman Jose Altuve. Subsequently, critics slated Crane for putting his players on display like robots.
Kobe Bryant hated Malone because he flirted with his wife. After Vanessa Bryant asked Malone why he was wearing a cowboy hat and boots, he responded, “I’m hunting for little Mexican girls.” Vanessa told her husband, who was furious at Malone for his audacity.
Bryant told ESPN in 2004: ” He said aw, you know, I’m sorry if I said anything that was out of line. He was like a mentor, like a brother to me, so when something like that happens, you’re upset, you’re hurt.”
The entire world was stunned when Tyson bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear. ‘Iron Mike’ once threatened to eat Lennox Lewis’s children, but literally sinking his teeth into Holyfield’s flesh was sheer insanity. However, the pair made up years later in an iconic appearance on Oprah.
However, Tyson did apologize before this. He explained: ”I just snapped and reacted the way many athletes have done and paid the price for it. I couldn’t tell you why I acted exactly as I did. For an athlete in the heat of battle to lose it is not new, but it isn’t right.”
Jones has been in several controversial incidents, so he isn’t a stranger to controversy. However, in 2015, he injured a pregnant woman in a hit-and-run. As a result, the UFC stripped him of his light-heavyweight title and suspended him. It was a shameful moment for a man considered by many to be the GOAT of MMA.
“My actions have caused pain and inconvenience in the lives of others and for that, I am truly sorry and I accept full responsibility,” said Jones. “I have been working hard during this time away from my sport to grow and mature as a man and to ensure that nothing like this happens again.”
The World Trade Center terrorist attack changed the entire landscape of the United States. Joking about it just doesn’t go down well but no one informed Wade. In 2010, the Miami Heat guard made some tasteless comments comparing their collapse to that of the 2001 tragedy. Bad idea.
“I was simply trying to say that losing a few basketball games should not be compared to a real catastrophe,” explained Wade. “While it was certainly not my intention, I sincerely apologize to anyone who found my reference to the World Trade Center to be insensitive or offensive.”
Pistorius was once the most famous Paralympic athlete in the world, but his world descended into chaos. He shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp while she was in the bathroom of their home. He’s currently serving a 13-year prison sentence. However, in court, he took the unusual step of apologizing to her family.
“I’d like to apologize and say that there’s not a moment and there hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family,” he told Reeva’s mother. “I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for.”
In 2004, Rooney was England’s golden boy. The then-18-year-old looked like a potential world-beater. But then police found him asleep in a brothel. Rooney reportedly had sex with a 48-year-old grandmother in a rubber catsuit and a mother-of-six dressed as a cowgirl. Later, he did apologize.
‘Foolish as it now seems, I did on occasions visit massage parlors and prostitutes,” said Rooney. “It was at a time when I was very young and immature and before I had settled down with Coleen. I now regret it deeply and hope people may understand it was the sort of mistake you make when you are young and stupid.’
Former Atlanta Braves star Jones has courted controversy on multiple occasions. One of the worst came about in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. It was a terrible tragedy but Jones decided to leap on board the conspiracy train and questioned if it was a hoax on Twitter.
He did apologize but it was already too late because people were furious. He tweeted: “My apologies for my Sandy Hook tweet yest. I had heard something from someone which I thought to be credible and tweeted w/out researching.” Not his best moment.
In 2013, Spanish golfer Garcia had a tenuous relationship with Tiger Woods. Before the US Open, the Golf Channel asked him if he would have Woods over for dinner. Garcia promise to have him over every night and to serve his rival ‘fried chicken.’ Obviously this went down like a hot dog at a vegan festival.
“I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during The European Tour Players’ Awards dinner,” Garcia later apologized. “I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.”
There are certain words you just should not say as Larson found out the hard way. The NASCAR driver used a racial slur during an iRacing event but didn’t realize his microphone was on. In short, NASCAR suspended him for his idiocy. Later he apologized, but it was too late.
“Last night I made a mistake and said the word that should never, ever be said and there’s no excuse for that,” Larson said in a video posted to Twitter. “I understand the damage is probably irreparable and I own up to that.” Overall, it was as dumb as it was disgraceful.
You’ve got to feel for Sizemore because he didn’t really do anything wrong. The Cleveland Indians’ centerfielder sent some very revealing photographs to his former Playboy bunny girlfriend. However, a hacker managed to access them and leaked them to the masses.
“This is a situation where it’s a private matter and personal photos were stolen illegally,” Sizemore explained to the media in 2010. “I’ve always tried to represent myself and the Cleveland organization as best as possible, and to put everybody through this is a terrible feeling, and I apologize to everybody.”
The most successful Olympian of all-time, Phelps divided his fans in 2009 when photographs emerged of him smoking from a bong. While a lot of people simply don’t care, it did affect his sponsorships as Kelloggs withdrew their partnership with him. Furthermore, the US Olympic Committee suspended him.
“I think it’s hard to really be ready for any of this,” Phelps told WBAL-TV. “But I’ve been able to talk to a lot of people, a lot of people who have been in my shoes in other sports, and I’ve been able to get their perspective and just talk to them a little bit. That’s been helpful the last couple of days.”
Former UFC bantamweight champion Dillashaw stunned the MMA world after testing positive for EPO. It was a massive fall from grace for the fighter because the USADA suspended him for two years. Combat sports athletes see the use of EPO as an unforgivable sin because it gives clear cardio improvements.
In short, Dillashaw was left with no choice but to apologize. “I messed up,” Dillashaw said in a lengthy statement. “I’m having a hard time trying to forgive myself for this, which I should have a hard time. I should have a hard time forgiving myself. … I understand the criticism and the scrutiny coming my way.”
History has been very kind to Bryant but questions still remain about the NBA star’s off-court conduct. The 2003 sexual assault case is a stain on his career because of the seriousness of the allegations. However, the case was suddenly dropped even though he was facing imprisonment.
Bryant made a tearful apology in court. He said: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.” It’s definitely a dark period in his career but we’re unlikely to ever get the answers now.
In 2007, Vick had the most lucrative contract in NFL history. The Atlanta Falcons looked like a superstar but then scandal broke. First of all, the police arrested him for leading a dog-fighting ring. Then a court sentenced him to 11 months in prison. After his release, Vick knew he had to apologize to get back on the playing field.
He told 60 Minutes: “The first day I walked into prison, and he slammed that door, I knew, you know, the magnitude of the decisions that I made, and the poor judgment, and what I, you know, allowed to happen to the animals. And, you know, it’s no way of, you know, explaining, you know, the hurt and the guilt that I felt.”
Baseball loves a good scandal but Rodriguez took it to the next level after the BALCO investigation exposed him. After lying for years, he finally went on ESPN to apologize and admit that he had taken steroids throughout his career. He said he did it because of the pressure on him to perform.
His apology rocked the baseball world because the problems so endemic in the sport hadn’t gone away. “I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time,” Rodriguez said in his apology. “I did take a banned substance, and for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”
In the middle of the worst social upheaval in the US for decades, Brees inexplicably decided to explain why he doesn’t believe in kneeling during the national anthem. First of all, a lot of people agree with him, but the problem was the timing. Then fans slated his apology as self-serving. In sum, you just can’t win.
Brees said: “I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”
McGregor is no stranger to controversy. He has spent nights in jail cells for his actions but went too far in 2019 when he punched an older man in a pub. Then it was all about damage control. ‘The Notorious’ went on ESPN to apologize in a blatant attempt to patch up his image.
McGregor told Ariel Helwani: “In reality, it doesn’t matter what happened. I was in the wrong. That man deserved to enjoy his time in the pub without it ending the way it did. And although it was five months ago and I tried to make amends and I made amends back then, it’s still – that doesn’t even matter.”
After a traffic accident, it emerged that Woods had engaged in affairs with dozens of women. This rocked the world of sport because the legendary golfer had such a clean-cut image. While history has been kind to Woods, at the time, it was a major scandal and he had to apologize.
Woods spoke to a press conference of about 40 people, including his mother. His famous opening words were: “I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated. For all that I have done, I am so sorry.” However, the damage to his marriage was irreparable. Meanwhile, he also spent time in rehab.