Sports

Cash Only: Athletes Who Sold Their Souls To The Highest Bidder

Darren - December 12, 2023
Sports

Cash Only: Athletes Who Sold Their Souls To The Highest Bidder

Darren - December 12, 2023

Sports Illustrated

Le’Veon Bell

There was a time when Bell was one of the most exciting running backs in the NFL. He was brilliant when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and had a career year in 2017. He rushed for over 2,000 yards but proceeded to ruin everything by refusing to sign the franchise tag. Then he sat out for an entire season as he demanded more money.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the end, he signed for the New York Jets after his Steelers contract expired. This was a disaster because the franchise didn’t know what it was doing under Adam Gase. Finally, he bounced around the league as a backup but barely played again. He sold his soul to the highest bidder and entered the world of celebrity boxing (via Sporting News).

CNN

Lebron James

James’ haters will argue that he quit the Cavaliers twice because he wanted to join the highest bidder. That’s not the full story though because he showed ambition with both moves and has the rings to prove it. However, his dealings with China are another story because he showed that he’s a sellout.

NBC Sports

The NBA icon attracted criticism of hypocrisy after refusing to speak about China’s appalling human rights record. He doesn’t have a problem discussing civil rights in the U.S. However, his Nike deal prevents him from using his massive global profile to do right by the people in the Middle Kingdom (via The New York Post).

Yardbreaker

DeShaun Watson

It’s fair to say that Watson is one of the grubbiest NFL players today. The quarterback left the Houston Texans under a dark cloud after a horrendous sexual assault scandal. This cost him almost two seasons of football but didn’t stop the Browns from signing him. They destroyed the market by offering him a ludicrous fully guaranteed $230 million deal.

The New Yorker

This was one of the craziest contracts ever because there were no guarantees that Watson would be the same player. We haven’t even spoken about the lack of morals in the situation either. Watson had no problem signing his life away for five years and laughed all the way to the bank (via CBS Sports).

POH

Jon Rahm

Rahm is a two-time Major winner and one of golf’s biggest names. He became LIV’s new shiny toy in 2023 after he signed his soul away. Unfortunately, everyone has a price and he joined the highest bidder. It was a cataclysmic moment for the PGA Tour because they lost a massive star.

CNN

Many people instantly accused him of taking blood money and destroying his legacy. There’s a fair chance that LIV will eventually swallow the PGA Tour. But until that happens players have a choice and that’s why there was an outcry. But Rahm is worried about the here and now, so he took the money (via The Guardian).

The New Yorker

Francis Ngannou

UFC haters applauded Ngannou’s decision to leave the promotion behind. It was a stunning decision because the heavyweight champion walked away with his title intact. Then he stunned the world when he signed with the PFL and agreed to compete in boxing matches. He delighted his supporters when he secured a showpiece bout against Tyson Fury.

MMA Fighting

However, there’s a dark side to this that many analysts ignore. Saudi Arabia offered to fund the fight and even created a purpose-built stadium for the event. Ngannou was outspoken about modern slavery in Libya and other countries. But the former migrant sold his soul to the highest bidder here (via ABC News).

Fox News

Arch Manning

Manning shocked the college football world in 2023 when he opted to join the Texas Longhorns. He had offers from the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Remember, these are the two most successful programs of the past decade. Meanwhile, Texas has been treading water for quite some time.

Marca

The young quarterback said that he wanted to work with Steve Sarkisian but the reality is murkier. It’s fair to say he believes that playing in Texas will be better for his image and earning potential. He already has trading card deals and numerous endorsements. There’s no sentiment in sport so money was the reason (via Sports Illustrated).

Toronto Sun

Paige VanZant

Nobody expected VanZant’s career to be this way. The blonde bombshell set hearts ablaze when she joined the UFC as a precocious 20-year-old. They instantly put their full promotional force behind her because they recognized her star potential. However, she never reached the top level and walked away as a free agent in 2020.

The Province

Many experts expected her to join the WWE because it seemed like a perfect fit. However, she rocked the combat sports world by fighting in bare knuckle boxing. This didn’t go well for her but she earned a fortune. Meanwhile, after dabbling in the AEW she turned to full-time adult content creation (via Out Kick).

The Times of India

Neymar Jr.

It’s fair to say that Neymar has had one of the most disappointing sports careers ever. He was brilliant for Santos and in his early days with Barcelona. Meanwhile, he became Brazil’s talisman and the face of the tournament when they hosted the World Cup. But most people think that he continuously sold his soul to the highest bidder.

The Hindu

After wasting his mature years in the French farmer’s league, he joined Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal. The Saudi League team offered him a guaranteed $300 million across two years. Meanwhile, they gave him a 25-bedroom house and pay for everything he needs while he’s in the Kingdom (via Sky Sports).

Sporting News

Kahwi Leonard

Leonard is one of basketball’s least remorseful mercenaries. Everybody thought that he was in the perfect home in San Antonio as Tim Duncan’s heir apparent. But their relationship broke down and he joined the Raptors at the end of his contract. He won an iconic ring in Toronto but again quit the franchise.

NBC Sports

Then he signed a $103 million contract with the Clippers and included an opt-out clause. So far, he appears to be happy in L.A. but nobody knows how long that will last. However, his status as one of the game’s greediest players comes with pressure. Fans expect him to help them win instantly (via The Athletic).

Golf Channel

Phil Mickelson

Mickelson was one of the biggest names of his generation but the golfer is a fading force. He’s in the twilight of his career so that’s why he sold his soul to the highest bidder. In this case, it was the upstart LIV Golf that plunged the sport into chaos. The Saudi investors signed him as one of the faces of the new organization.

Golf Channel

It would be easier to respect him if he admitted it was about the money and that it was too much to say no. But he refuses to admit this and tries to say that golf will bring peace to the world. This is nonsense and many people think that he stained his legacy. That’s a shame because he was a golfing icon (via USA Today Sports).

GOAL

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is possibly the most recognizable athlete on the planet. He has made hundreds of millions from endorsements and contracts with massive soccer clubs in Europe. However, he enraged many fans when he joined Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr in 2023. He sold his soul to the highest bidder despite having more money than he ever needs.

Daily Post

They will pay him $213 million per season which is an insane figure. Meanwhile, he is also a cultural ambassador which means that they’ve bought him to say nice things about their regime. It’s horrific sports washing because Ronaldo is one of the most influential figures on the planet (via 90 Min).

Fox News

Shohei Ohtani

Everybody knew that Ohtani could sign a record contract after he left the Angels in 2023. But it was still insane to see the Dodgers offer him a $700 million deal. He’s indeed a once-in-a-lifetime player. The Japanese star is a genuine dual-threat and a two-time MVP award winner.

New York Times

He joined the highest bidder because he knew that this was the biggest opportunity of his life. Some people criticized him for staying in L.A. but he wants to win now. Meanwhile, Ohtani cannily deferred the majority of the payments until after his retirement because he wanted to help build a winning roster (via The Guardian).

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