The first of a couple of Thanksgiving fails, this one was ridiculous. In 1998 the Detroit Lions were hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the game headed into overtime, there was, of course, a coin toss to see who got the first possession. Who knew that this could be so controversial?
Jerome Bettis called ‘tails,’ but Phil Luckett disputed this. He said that Bettis changed his mind halfway through saying ‘heads.’ After restarting the game, the Lions went and scored with their first play. There was no need for this to be so controversial. However, the NFL often turns ineptitude into an art form and this embarrassing moment was no exception.
What were they thinking? The NFL failed to reach a new CBA with its on-field officials before the start of the 2012 season. This left them with a motley assortment of replacement officials, allegedly including some from the Lingerie League. Needless to say, they were setting themselves up for a fall.
The officials were obviously out of their depth. It all escalated following a Seahawks touchdown on the now-infamous ‘Fail Mary.’ The 10-minute review missed a blatant foul from the Seahawks in the build-up. Even President Obama tweeted about ending the lockout for the real referees. It was ridiculous and embarrassing for a professional sport.
Now, this is definitely something that could haunt the NFL for a long time. Football and concussions are two words that seem to go hand-in-hand. While the league has tried to make changes in recent years, it’s difficult for it to shake this image. For the many former players suffering from dementia, it’s too late.
More than 2000 former players filed a massive suit against the NFL and helmet maker Riddell, Inc. Their grievances related to brain trauma and concussion effects caused by the NFL failing to impose safety regulations. It could be worth billions in damages if they’re successful. This is embarrassing because it reveals how these billionaires care more about money than the health of the athletes they exploit.
Cowboys Stadium hosted its first Super Bowl in 2010. It was a massive moment for Dallas and owner Jerry Jones. However, things didn’t run as smoothly as they had hoped. The stadium hadn’t finished constructing a temporary seating area. About 2000 fans had to sit elsewhere or even stand.
Assorted fraud, breach of contract, negligence, and deceptive sales practice lawsuits stung the NFL, Jones, and the Cowboys. Roger Goodell’s solution was to offer a free ticket to the next Super Bowl including airfare or a face-value refund. It was unnecessarily sloppy and an embarrassing scenario for everybody involved.
It’s not uncommon for players to lose their tempers. When there is a lot on the line, sometimes human emotions just boil over. However, it is much more unusual for this to happen between coaches. As older men, they’re normally better at controlling themselves. So imagine two coaches from the same team fighting.
That’s exactly what happened in 1993 between the Houston Oilers’ Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride. The team’s defensive and offensive coaches got into a verbal altercation after quarterback Cody Carlson fumbled a snap. Ryan smashed Gilbride in the jaw in an embarrassing episode.
As shocking incidents go, this is one of the worst. Carruth conspired to murder his pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams. So he paid off his friend Van Brett Watkins. Carruth stopped his car in front of Adams’s vehicle and Watkins pulled the trigger. They then went on the run.
Adams dialed 911 to save her unborn child but sadly she passed away. Then Carruth became a fugitive and fled across several states. Police finally found him in the trunk of a car in West Tennessee. He spent the next 18 years behind bars. The Panthers were quick to dissociate themselves from him.
You’d think that if you’re a successful sports star and one of the faces of the NFL that you don’t need to take risks. We’re talking specifically about Vick’s entry into the dogfighting world. Police arrested him for holding the illegal ring on his property. Not a good look for the Falcons player.
Atlanta promptly released him and a court jailed him for 19 months. After his release, he signed with the Philidelphia Eagles. Needless to say, this didn’t meet the approval of the entire NFL fanbase. Some of the stories to come out of his Bad Newz Kennels are bloodcurdling.
The USFL was a thorn in the side of the NFL for three years. Conceived by David Dixon, he saw a market for football in the spring and summer outside of the traditional NFL and college football seasons. The main reason why it was an embarrassment for the NFL was the lack of salary caps.
This meant that a significant number of established NFL stars departed for the new league. In the end, the USFL folded after they tried to compete directly with the NFL. They technically won a lawsuit but only won a single dollar. It was very messy for the NFL though, who didn’t want the competition.
This was almost a piece of twisted genius but in the end, it seemed like something from a bad comedy movie. Onterrio Smith decided that he was going to take a few PEDs to improve his performance. The problem with that is juicing is obviously against NFL regulations.
His magic solution to get past the NFL’s doping control program was the ‘whizzinator.’ In sum, this was a prosthetic penis with dried urine. For some reason, he decided to bring his ‘beat-a-drug-test’ kit through airport security. The Vikings running back never played in the NFL again.
Thomas Henderson was a brilliant and charismatic player even though his lifestyle was very self-destructive. A brilliant linebacker, he was excellent for the Dallas Cowboys. At least, he was until the drugs began to catch up with him. This was a problem that totally derailed his career.
‘Hollywood’ used to hide an inhaler in his pants from which he would snort liquid cocaine. He left the Cowboys in disgrace. With just a couple of seasons left to play for the 49ers and the Oilers, he ended up signing himself into a drug rehabilitation program. This made him one of the first football players to admit to a drug problem.
For most casual Super Bowl viewers, the most important part of the event isn’t the actual game. It’s the halftime show which is a massive platform for the biggest stars in the world of entertainment. Some are better than others but one went down in infamy. Enter Jackson and Justin Timberlake.
Timberlake accidentally exposed Jackson’s nipple to millions of people across the world. This, as well as the rest of their salacious performance, caused a massive scandal generating 500,000 public complaints. Even the White House spoke about it. Definitely a humiliation for the NFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers like to pretend they’re new age by not having cheerleaders. As of 2020, they’re one of six teams in the NFL without any. However, the fact is that they did back in the 1960s. They probably won’t like anybody reminding them about the ‘Steelerettes’ or even worse, their male equivalents, the ‘Ingots.’
After the Steelers scored a touchdown, the Ingots would fire off a blank from a cannon. In short, this wasn’t a good idea. They stopped this after Buddy Dial’s soul nearly left his body. Soon the Ingots and the hard-hat-wearing Steelerettes were no more.
Lett had a couple of high-profile blunders during his time in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys were playing the Miami Dolphins when Lett cost his team the game. Even today you can’t help but cringe when you look back at it.
The Dolphins had a chance to win in the dying moments from a field goal. However, Pete Stoyanovich saw his kick blocked. Lett tried to collect the ball, but he slipped on the ice turning it into a live ball. Then he fumbled it and the Dolphins had another field goal opportunity. This time, Stoyanovich didn’t miss.
Whether they like it or not, most successful athletes find themselves becoming role models for the younger generation. You might not want to be that way, but that’s the way it goes. This is why codes of conduct exist so that players have a basic understanding of what type of behavior is acceptable and what’s not.
Renting a couple of boats filled with prostitutes isn’t exactly the most stand-up behavior. That’s exactly what 17 key players from the Minnesota Vikings did in 2005. They went out on Lake Minnetonka with about 70 other people and decided to have a lot of fun. It was a major headache for the NFL to deal with.
The Eagles have a reputation for being no-nonsense. One time even Santa Claus felt the wrath of their fans. The 1968 season was absolutely dismal for the team and this put the fans in bad humor. So it probably wasn’t the best time for them to plan a Christmas pageant.
With their teams losing to the Vikings, Philly fans weren’t feeling too festive. A teenage boy came onto the field dressed as Santa Claus. The fans loudly booed and flung snowballs at the youngster. It was incredibly bad taste but has turned into an iconic moment.
It’s always tough starting out as an expansion franchise. First of all, you have to get people interested in the new team. It takes time to build up that connection. Furthermore, it can also be difficult to attract good players to your roster. However, this still doesn’t excuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ shambolic start to life in the NFL.
In short, they’re lucky that they’ve since won a Super Bowl because otherwise, they’d have this hanging over their heads for eternity. The Buccanneers lost their first 26 games in the league. Surely this was massively embarrassing for everybody involved in the franchise.
This was one of the strangest Super Bowl stories of them all. Robbins went missing the night before Super Bowl XXXVI with no reasonable explanation of why. Most people thought the worst had transpired but then he finally reappeared. Mumbling incoherently, the Raiders had to take him off the roster and they lost the Super Bowl.
Rumors spread that he hadn’t taken his antidepression medication. However, this proved not to be the case. A treatment center diagnosed him with bipolar disorder. Police shot him three times when they arrested him for attempted murder in 2005.
What was Alosi thinking? We don’t know but it was still fantastic. The New York Jets coach infamously tripped the Miami Dolphins’ Nolan Carroll in 2010. At the time, the Jets had a reputation for bad behavior, but this was the most cynical of them all. You just can’t stick your leg out like that.
Carroll approached at full speed as three Jets coaches stood in a wedge formation. Then Alosi stuck out his knee, sending the Dolphins’ star crashing to the ground. The Jets suspended him without pay for the rest of the season. Later, Alosi owned up to his mistake during a tearful interview with the media.
This is one of those situations that’s almost too ridiculous to believe. On Thanksgiving, 1989 the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 27-0. However, the real story was that Eagles coach Buddy Ryan had allegedly taken out a ‘bounty’ on Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas.
Ryan denied the allegations. However, Jessie Small took Zendejas out of the game with a brutal tackle so it’s hard to disagree with them. Two weeks later, the two teams had a rematch called Bounty Bowl II. This time the Eagles fans launched snow, ice, and beer at everybody below them.
The NFL isn’t exactly kind to people with problems. Usually, they prefer to get rid of people instead of helping them recover or rehabilitate. Take the case of Wilson which is one of the sorriest episodes in the history of the league. His cocaine habit cost him his pro football career.
This saw him miss two seasons of football after violating the league’s drug policies. However, worse was to come. On the eve of Super Bowl XXIII, his coach found him in the bathroom taking cocaine. The Bengals had no choice but to leave him off the roster. Then the NFL banned him for life.
How was this ever a good idea? In 2003 Jack Del Rio thought it was a great plan to put an ax and a block of wood in the Jacksonville Jaguars locker room. The idea was that it would motivate his players and drive up their testosterone before their games. Nothing about this could go wrong.
Except, of course, the fact that it did. After several players took a swing at the block, Chris Hanson decided to follow suit. He missed the wood and inside chopped his kicking foot. This put him out for the rest of the season and consigned the locker room ax to Jaguars’ legend.
The only good thing about the birth of the Ravens is that they left the ‘Browns’ name behind them in Cleveland. However, it was still a shambolic way for the franchise to start off live in Maryland. Art Modell might be even more hated than LeBron James in Cleveland after abruptly taking their team away in 1996.
This is the same man who blasted Robert Irsay for sneaking away from Baltimore with the Colts. After promising not to move, he did exactly that. Fortunately for Cleveland, the Browns were reborn in 1999. But to rub salt into their wounds, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls while the Browns haven’t even got to one.
In 2007 the Patriots were a powerhouse. Three-time Super Bowl champions, they looked unstoppable. However, it wasn’t just their brilliance on the field that got them over the line. No, they weren’t shy about using some underhand tactics either. That’s where ‘Spygate’ comes along.
It emerged that the Patriots were videotaping other teams’ training without their knowledge. The NFL fined them and removed a first-round pick because of their behavior. However, things got worse for the NFL when they destroyed all the materials. Even US Senator Arlen Specter called for an investigation.
The main job of a referee in any contact sport is to protect the players’ safety. So when Jim Triplette accidentally struck Brown in the eye with a thrown flag in 1999, he definitely didn’t do his job properly. Brown missed the next three seasons as he tried to rehabilitate.
It was very embarrassing for the NFL who he sued for damages. Finally, he settled for a sum between $15 million and $25 million in 2002. He spent the last three seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens. Tragically, he died in 2011 after complications with his diabetes.
The NFL has spent a lot of time trying to erase Simpson from their history. But he’s definitely one of the most humiliating stories to come from the league in a long time. One of the first black athletes to become a true superstar, Simpson was the face of the NFL during his prime. However, his fame turned to notoriety.
In 1994, police charged Simpson with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. The jury finally acquitted him after one of the most high-profile trials ever. However, a civil court found him responsible for the deaths. In sum, it’s one of the most shameful episodes in American history and embarrassing for the NFL to be associated with.
Robert Irsay was not a popular figure in Baltimore. After taking over the Colts, the hope was that he would reestablish the beloved franchise in Maryland. But he couldn’t manage to get a new stadium in Baltimore. After a legal battle, the city threatened to seize the Colts under eminent domain.
Irsay’s solution was to pack them up in the middle of the night and move to Indianapolis. The moving trucks all took different routes so that state police would struggle to track them. Finally, by 10 am the next day, the Colts were no longer in Baltimore and Irsay became a hated figure.
Almost 60 years later, this is still one of the most astounding moments to ever happen in the NFL. We’ve no idea how Marshall managed this, but the world is a better place because he did. The Vikings were playing the 49ers in San Francisco when Marshall ran in and scooped up a fumble.
Then the legendary Vikings defensive end ran 66 yards into the end zone. The problem was that it was the wrong end zone. He had run unopposed in the wrong direction without realizing it. It ended with him scoring a safety for the 49ers. In the end, the Vikings won anyway, but Marshall knew nobody would forget this.
The Atlanta Falcon’s Robinson had a sterling reputation in 1999. A devoutly religious man, he donated money and time to his native inner-city Hartford. To sum up, all of this led to him receiving the Bart Starr Award. An annual award, it’s a commendation of exemplary character and leadership.
So, of course, that same night, he tried to solicit oral sex from an undercover officer. He didn’t sleep well that night and played terribly in the Super Bowl the next day. Then he returned the Bart Starr award to the NFL. In short, this hilarious misjudgment is one of the greatest moments in Super Bowl history and incredibly embarrassing for everybody involved.