Sports

30 Star Athletes Who Ruined Once-Pristine Reputations

Darren - May 25, 2021
Sports

30 Star Athletes Who Ruined Once-Pristine Reputations

Darren - May 25, 2021
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

29. Maria Sharapova

Russia’s Sharapova built a global reputation as an elite tennis player and model. The former world number one has wins over both of the Williams sisters in a glittering career. Meanwhile, she earned millions of dollars from her wins and marketability as a beautiful champion. However, she ruined her legacy when she tested positive for a banned substance after the 2016 Australian Open.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

Sharapova was unlucky because a doctor actually recommended that she take the substance. As a result, a court of arbitration reduced her period of suspension. But there is major mistrust toward doping violates and Russian athletes these days because of the Olympic scandal. Sharapova rebounded but she was past her peak and less effective as an older player.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

28. Manny Pacquiao

‘PacMan’ is an unprecedented eight-weight world champion, which is simply insane. His countrymen in the Philippines venerate him and boxing fans celebrate him as one of the best of his generation. However, the oldest four-time welterweight champion in history is also a problematic figure. He infamously compared gay people to animals before the 2016 Filipino presidential elections.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Pacquaio attracted outrage because he said at least animals knew the difference between men and women. A staunch Christian, the boxer is as devout as they come. But this comment definitely didn’t endear him to a section of the Filipino population and ruined his standing amongst LGBT fans. However, the majority of Western boxing fans couldn’t care less as long as he is entertaining in the ring.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

27. Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers established himself as a Green Bay icon but discovered quickly that fans are a fickle bunch. When he announced in 2021 that he wanted to leave the Packers, many Green Bay natives turned on him. They believed that he should have felt more grateful. Firstly, they sent Brett Favre on his way to make him their franchise quarterback, and more recently they gave him a massive contract.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, there wasn’t even a clear-cut contender in need of a quarterback outside of Green Bay. There were rumors that he simply wanted to move back out West. Rodgers served the Packers with distinction but ruined his image in the eyes of many fans who lost trust in him. While it’s true that Mike McCarthy wasted the best years of his career, there remained the chance of future glory.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

26. Michael Phelps

The most decorated Olympian of all time, Phelps won a sensational 28 medals. There was also always something very clean-cut about the American. He was like a fish out of water when he wasn’t in the pool. Despite possessing a powerful physique, he was clumsy on dry land and almost nerdy in his mannerisms. However, he wasn’t the innocent and naive figure that everybody envisaged.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Phelps enjoys a good party and loves to smoke marijuana. Indeed, his love for the herb has cost him millions of dollars because it ruined his relationship with several sponsors including the Kelloggs company. Meanwhile, he has received DUI charges on a couple of occasions. It just goes to show that even the very best athletes are not perfect examples of humanity.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

25. Marion Jones

If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Jones was one of the most exciting figures in the Sydney Olympics. She captured three gold medals at the Games in a series of electrifying races. Her profile increased and she also became a role model for many young women across North America. Sadly, it couldn’t last because she cheated and ruined her own career in the process.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The BALCO scandal named her as one of several high-profile athletes who took PEDs to gain an unfair advantage. As a result, World Athletics suspended her and the IOC stripped her of her gold medals. This was a shameful experience for the athlete but deserved. Jones played in the WNBA for a season before embarking on a TV career. Her legacy was never the same and she serves as a warning to many athletes.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

24. Ben Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger is one of the greatest Pittsburgh Steelers but that doesn’t make him a good person. A two-time Super Bowl champion and a six-time Pro Bowler, ‘Big Ben’ is instantly recognizable. However, women have accused him of abusing his fame. The quarterback allegedly hits on women much younger than him in nightclubs without inhibition.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, sexual assault allegations have arisen on numerous occasions. These have ruined his image in the eyes of some fans. In one case the alleged victim dropped her challenge because she didn’t want to endure the experience of being dragged over the coals by the media and public. The fact they have continuously reoccured is a poor indictment of his life decisions.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

23. Rose Namajunas

‘Thug Rose’ is a two-time UFC strawweight champion. After earning a title shot against China’s Weili Zhang, she ruined her relationship with the Middle Kingdom. When a reporter asked her about how she felt about Zhang, she replied: “Better dead than red.” Namajunas has Lithuanian heritage and lost family members to communism. As a result, she holds a grudge against left-wing ideologists.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, many people felt that she went too far in her comments. Some said that while her opinions about communism and China’s political system were reasonable, her attitude toward Zhang was unfair. At the end of the day, Zhang was a fellow competitor with the same dream. Namajunas tried to clear it up after but the damage was done. She did knock out the champion to win back her belt, so it worked out in that sense.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

22. Michael Vick

Vick reinvented the quarterback position but later became a figure of great notoriety. He should have been a generational icon as he played brilliantly for the Atlanta Falcons. Then, the news broke of his dog-fighting ring. This scandal shocked the nation and ruined his status as a marketable star. Vick lost all of his sponsorships and served a jail sentence for his troubles.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

After he emerged from jail, he played in the NFL again. He was decent for the Pittsburgh Steelers and less effective for the Jets. However, there was definitely a sense that he had lost some of the best years of his career because of his criminal activity. Animal lovers never forgave him for his treatment of dogs. Ultimately, he was a great player but not an incredibly flawed human.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

21. Pete Rose

A quick look at MLB records shows just how good Rose was. A true Cincinnati Reds icon, he both played for the franchise and coached them. Unfortunately, the legendary baseball star will never make the Hall of Fame unless Cooperstown has a radical shift in opinion. Rose ruined his legacy by gambling on his own team. It emerged that he had done so in both of his capacities with the Reds.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The issue about Rose’s potential inclusion in the Hall splits fans. Cincinnati has already honored him despite the fact that the offenses took place while he was a member of their franchise. Some fans believe that he should be integrated as a player instead of as a coach. But others are adamant that he violated the spirit of the sport and that there’s no room for this in baseball.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

20. Ashley Cole

Cole was quietly one of England’s best players for around  10 years. The left-back established himself as an elite defender and as effective as any of his global counterparts. First of all, he played for Arsenal and blossomed into one of their most integral stars. However, he became enraged when it came to contract negotiations. This was because they offered him far less than he believed he was worth.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

As a result, he handed in a transfer request and ended up moving to the nouveau-riche Chelsea. The transfer dragged on and angered Arsenal fans. They labeled him as greedy and questioned his professionalism. This was an accusation that Cole struggled to shake for the remainder of his career. Despite the fact that he was excellent for all of his teams, money ruined his image.

Mandatory Credit: Olympic Channel

19. Ryan Lochte

The strangest of lies ruined Lochte’s credibility in an instant. A 12-time Olympic medalist, Lochte was one of the faces of the U.S men’s swimming team alongside Michael Phelps. A major controversy arose at the Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games when Lochte claimed to have been the victim of a robbery. He said that attackers with police badges targeted him and his teammates during a night on the town.

Mandatory Credit: Olympic Channel

This proved not to be the case. It emerged that they were gas station security guards and that the swimmers urinated on the ground outside of a restroom. Meanwhile, Lochte also destroyed property at the station. In the end, he received a lengthy suspension for bringing the sport into disrepute. But the worst damage was done to his reputation because he became the butt of several jokes.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

18. B.J. Penn

There was a time when many believed that Penn was the greatest UFC fighter ever. The Hawaiian won titles in the lightweight and welterweight divisions during a long and productive career. Meanwhile, he was also a K-1 champion. The problem with Penn was that he continued long past his prime. He went on an eight-fight losing streak that ruined his reputation as one of the greatest.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

While older fans remembered his achievements, the new generation didn’t care. Many fighters don’t know when they should walk away and sadly, this was the case with Penn as well. Furthermore, his life outside of the cage became unpredictable. Allegations of domestic abuse arose while he also became involved in numerous barfights. These didn’t help him in the eyes of the public.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

17. Adrian Peterson

Peterson is on this list for one of the more disturbing reasons. In 2014, video footage revealed him violently beating his child with a wooden switch. Many believe that he’s one of the greatest running backs in NFL history but that doesn’t make him one of the best people. The former Minnesota Vikings star lost a lot of fans after the controversial footage. He tried to explain that his own father used similarly harsh methods to raise him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

His father was also a money-laundering convict so he didn’t exactly make the best life decisions. While Peterson didn’t go to jail, he received community service and spent time on probation. In hindsight, most people forget that he did this to his son because they just see his amazing record. However, at the time he ruined his image and damaged his relationship with many fans.

Mandatory Credit: Eurosport

16. Ben Johnson

It looked like Johnson was a Canadian icon before he betrayed the love of his nation. He took home the gold at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988 before he broke the hearts of all his fans. The reigning world champion tested positive for an anabolic steroid called stanozolol. Furthermore, it emerged that he used the same drug before his World Championship-winning run.

Mandatory Credit: Eurosport

This was a massive story at the time because Johnson was a massive star in Canada. After his World Championship victory, the spotlight was on him before the Olympics. In the end, he ruined his career and legacy by cheating. Johnson attempted several comebacks after his first suspension but failed drug tests on numerous occasions. He lost the respect of his country and became a figure of parody.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

15. Adam Johnson

There really wasn’t anything interesting to say about Johnson before his arrest in 2016. A court convicted him of grooming a 15-year-old schoolgirl. The winger starred for Middlesbrough in the Championship before he attracted bigger fish. Manchester City swooped for the England international, but he failed to establish himself as a first-team player. Then, he departed for Sunderland.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

Johnson was a regular starter for the Black Cats. However, he ruined his reputation when a massive scandal broke. He attempted to enter into a relationship with an underage girl and police duly arrested him for it. It was a bizarre turn of events because he had a model girlfriend and a job that paid millions. In the end, his own warped sense of morality ruined everything for him.

Mandatory Credit: Golf Channel

14. Dustin Johnson

Johnson is an outstanding golfer and has held the world number one spot on numerous occasions for many weeks. The American is also a winner off the course because he married Wayne Gretzky’s daughter Paulina. We’re not sure which is the bigger achievement. Meanwhile, he has won the likes of the U.S. Open and the Masters in a glittering career. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.

Mandatory Credit: Golf Channel

The South Carolina native loves a good party. As a result, he failed three drug tests before 2014. Johnson tested positive for cocaine on two occasions as well as marijuana in another. Needless to say, the PGA Tour doesn’t approve of athletes consuming illegal drugs. He took some time away in rehab before he ruined his career. Since then, he’s been on the straight and narrow.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

13. Anderson Silva

Silva was a force of nature when he entered the UFC and destroyed Chris Leben. He quickly became the UFC middleweight champion and defended his title a record number of times. With his incredible slick striking and amazing movement, he was like nothing anybody had seen before. Then, he suffered two shocking back-to-back losses to Chris Weidman and his career changed forever.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Silva rehabbed after he broke his leg in the Weidman rematch. Finally, he returned to action against fellow fan-favorite Nick Diaz. He won a decision against Diaz but ruined his reputation as a clean fighter. He tested positive for PEDs. The hilarious aspect of this was that he attempted to blame it on Thai sexual enhancement pills. It came as no surprise that nobody bought that excuse.

Mandatory Credit: GOAL

12. John Terry

Terry was captain of both England and Chelsea before a terrible scandal ruined his career. Most people agreed that he was the best central defender in the Premier League but a nasty piece of work. He severely damaged his image in 2010 after news emerged that he had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of a former teammate. Immediately soccer fans were on his case and opponents resented him.

Mandatory Credit: GOAL

But things got worse in 2011. The police got involved after Anton Ferdinand alleged that the Chelsea star racially abused him in a game against QPR. These allegations proved true and the English FA banned him from playing for his country. He received a suspension and a hefty fine. Unfortunately for Terry, the worst damage was done to his reputation as a human being.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Serena Williams

Williams is a gloriously gifted athlete with a magnificent record. But there is no doubt that she divides opinion. Many women hold her in high regard as a role model and civil rights activist. However, a significant portion of the population lost respect for her because of her reputation as a poor loser. While no athlete should like losing, Williams has a history of over-the-top reactions.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

She once made Naomi Osaka cry after the latter defeated her at the Australian Open in 2018. It should have been the happiest moment of the Japanese player’s life but instead it became a living nightmare. Williams abused the officials and her fans booed Osaka for the simple fact that she won the game. On another occasion, Williams threatened to physically assault an umpire. Not everybody likes her.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Brett Favre

Favre was an icon in Green Bay before he departed amongst acrimonious circumstances. But that isn’t he is on his list. No, the reason he is here is that he allegedly sent an unsolicited picture of his genitals to a woman. This is never a good idea because it’s extremely perverted and uncomfortable for the recipient. Jenn Sterger alleged that he sexted her and sent her unwanted photographs but he denied this.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Analysts were unable to prove that the images were Favre’s personal parts so he escaped a misconduct charge. However, they did hit him for $50,000 because he interfered with the investigation. While his achievements in the NFL deserve respect, he ruined his public persona. Meanwhile, his wife wasn’t impressed with the situation either. To sum up, this was not destined to end well.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

10. Jon Jones

Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history when he defeated Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua in 2011. While he was never the purest human being on the roster, he was doing fine until 2015. Then, he was involved in a hit-and-run that left a pregnant woman injured. The UFC duly stripped him of his light heavyweight title as he tarnished his legacy. However, Jones still couldn’t avoid trouble.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The problems with his everyday life are clear but things became worse inside the cage. He failed a drug test in 2018 when he tested positive for Turinabol. Instantly, fans called his legacy and record into question because nobody likes a cheater. Whether or not he intentionally took banned substances is a moot point. The act of testing positive ruined his professional reputation to a degree.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

9. Antonio Brown

Brown secured redemption when he won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021. However, it was a long road back for the wide receiver. Sexual assault allegations linger even if nothing comes from them in terms of prosecution. This occurred in 2019 and effectively ended his Steelers career. The Patriots picked him up but wanted nothing to do with him after the story developed.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

However, the first time his reputation took a hit was in 2018. An infuriated Brown threw furniture out of his hotel window and almost smashed a toddler in the process. Needless to say, this ruined any chance he had of creating a nice guy image. Brown is an extremely effective player but a flawed personality. Fortunately for him, he will always be somewhat a hero in Tampa.

Mandatory Credit: BBC

8. Oscar Pistorius

Pistorius won the goodwill and respect of the world when he won a silver medal against able-bodied opponents in the athletics world championships. The South African was a serial winner in the Paralympics. He became a recognizable face and even competed against able-bodied athletes in the Olympic Games in London. The world was at his feet but he ruined everything with one fatal decision.

Mandatory Credit: Sky News

In 2013, he shot his wife Reena Steenkamp to death when she was in the bathroom of their home. Pistorius claimed that he thought that she was an intruder but a court found him guilty of murder. It was the ultimate fall from grace because he was a superstar and a role model. But he tarnished everything he had achieved by becoming a cold-blooded killer throughout the shocking story.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Wayne Rooney

Rooney broke onto the scene with Everton as one of the most exciting young attackers in soccer. As a 16-year-old, he scored a famous goal against Arsenal. In the eyes of many fans, he was a captivating talent. In 2004, he admitted he had solicited prostitutes, including a 46-year-old grandmother. Meanwhile, he was dating his future wife, Coleen, throughout this time period.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

But Rooney didn’t learn his lesson. In 2010, during his wife’s pregnancy, a pair of reality TV stars revealed that he had a threesome with them. It was a scandalous story at the time because it was just so grubby. For some reason, the soccer star’s marriage survived. All the same, it ruined his reputation as a reformed character. Rooney still maintained his soccer career because fans don’t care about that kind of thing.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. Lance Armstrong

Armstrong was cycling’s first megastar. The seven-time Tour De France champion put the sport on the map but he also made it notorious. Nowadays, the sport’s reputation is as tainted as athletics and baseball. That’s because the likes of Armstrong ruined everything. It could have been very different for him. After all, he even won the good will of fans when he returned from a battle with cancer to win the famous race again.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Then, a federal investigation revealed that he was a serial cheater. Armstrong destroyed his own reputation because he was a PED user and bullied his teammates into using banned substances too. He ruined his earning power because he lost $15o million worth of sponsors in a single day. World Cycling banned him for life and stripped him of his previous wins. This also destroyed his legacy in addition to his credibility.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. Kareem Hunt

The Kansas City Chiefs picked Hunt up in the third round of the 2017 draft. He was an under-the-radar selection after playing for the University of Toledo. However, Hunt found himself as a regular starter throughout his rookie year because of injuries to Spencer Ware. The pressure didn’t overwhelm him and he performed beyond expectations. Hunt earned himself a place in the Pro Bowl.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

After this stunning season, it seemed like the only way was up for the running back. Then, he ruined everything. A video emerged of Hunt kicking lumps out of a woman in a hotel. As a result, the Chiefs released him because he also lied to them about the situation. But the Cleveland Browns offered him a second chance. Only time will tell if he uses it wisely.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. DeShaun Watson

Watson established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL despite playing for the ailing Houston Texans. Finally, at the end of the 2020 season, he announced that he wanted a trade. This was because Watson lost patience with the front office after they allowed some of his best teammates to leave. He wanted to move to a team with the potential to win a Super Bowl in the future.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Almost immediately, a scandal erupted as over 20 women made allegations against him. They unanimously said that he behaved inappropriately in massage parlors and forced some of them to commit lewd acts upon him. At first, the timing seemed convenient but the more women that spoke out, the more serious it became. It ruined Watson’s hopes of a move to another franchise as well as his reputation.

Mandatory Credit: Golf Channel

3. Tiger Woods

Woods was one of the most recognizable and marketable athletes on the planet before his incredible sex scandal erupted. The golfer enjoyed a stellar career and maintained a pristine image. The likes of Nike and Gillette used him as brand ambassadors while he was the face of an EA Sports videogame franchise. But he lost it all when the news broke of his incredible cheating exploits with dozens of women.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In short, Woods was a sex addict and slept with an incredible number of women. These included porn stars as well as barmaids and waitstaff. In the end, he went to rehab, and his Swedish supermodel wife Elin Nordegren left him. The golf legend effectively disappeared for a few years because of personal issues and injuries. Finally, he bounced back to win the Masters in 2019.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

1. Kobe Bryant

Bryant was the LA Laker’s golden boy in the early 2000s. He didn’t put a foot wrong as he blossomed as one of the most exciting players in the NBA. Then, in 2003, a woman accused him of raping her in a hotel room. This story ruined his clean-cut reputation and put him in serious legal trouble. Things became worse when he admitted that he had slept with her in the hotel.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Basically, he admitted that he cheated on his own girlfriend. However, he avoided a criminal conviction because the alleged victim failed to testify against him. They settled out of court and Bryant apologized for his behavior in their encounter. Many sponsors dropped him but picked him back up again. Meanwhile, this was before the dawn of social media so nobody canceled him. It ruined his nice-guy image but not his career.

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