Controversial Athletes Who Made Awkward Returns To Public Life

Darren - February 27, 2023

Controversial Athletes Who Made Awkward Returns To Public Life

Darren - February 27, 2023

There’s truth to the fact that we simply hold elite sports stars to a higher standard than regular people. But the truth is that many of them make mistakes and do dumb things in their regular lives just like we do. Some of them have committed vile acts but their status and fame help them to get off the hook. Today, we’ll look at the elite athletes who returned to mainstream life after doing bad things.

It’s sickening how many of them committed acts of domestic violence but continued to play after. This is depressing because it shows that people have short-term memories and a lack of morals. They say that everybody deserves a second chance but it would be nice if they at least pretended they were sorry.

CBS Sports

Ezekiel Elliot

Many critics believe the NFL doesn’t care about domestic abusers if they pretend they’re sorry. Enter Elliot, who was one of the league’s most exciting running backs. However, in 2017 he received a six-game ban after a domestic violence incident. Elliot allegedly abused his ex-girlfriend for five days and left her with visible injuries.


But this didn’t bother Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who swept it under the rug. Elliot was a top player so it didn’t faze Jones because football is all about winning. We’re being a little bit sarcastic here because the Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1995. ‘Zeke’ stayed in the public eye and lived his life but lost a lot of goodwill (via Bleacher Report).


Mike Tyson

Incredibly, Tyson’s popularity is arguably at its strongest since he broke through as a heavyweight star. The former boxing champion took the world by storm with a series of brutal knockouts. However, he served three years in prison after a rape conviction in 1992. Many people thought they’d never see him again but he returned to action after his release.

NBC 29

Tyson had some of his most legendary moments including his rivalry with Evander Holyfield. Later, after he retired from fighting, he entered Hollywood and enjoyed multiple cameos in The Hangover series. Now, he also has a podcast as he returned to public life. Tyson always maintained his innocence but, miraculously, he shook off this horrific stain (via NBC 29).


Jameis Winston

Many people think that Winston shouldn’t be playing football. They’re not talking about his high interception rate but rather his antics off the field. Somehow the quarterback continues to forge an NFL career in mainstream life. This is despite multiple accusations of sexual assault throughout the years (via InsideHook).

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The first one came during his college days and affected his draft prospects. But the NFL turns a blind eye to this type of behavior in potential first-round prospects. But Winston showed his true colors again when he allegedly grabbed a female Uber driver’s crotch. He received a three-game suspension but that was the end of the story.

World Tennis

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova was once one of the most popular tennis players on the planet. The Russian superstar won a Grand Slam and was the best in the world. But she tainted her legacy when she failed a drug test in 2016. Most people lose all of their credibility after this happens. However, Sharapova retained most of her fans who believed that she didn’t mean to use banned substances.

Sky Sports

She maintained her popularity and continued pursuing her passions in mainstream life. After she retired from tennis she became an entrepreneur and continued modeling. It’s safe to say that nobody mentions her drug test failure much these days. She escaped without receiving any damage to her reputation (via Essentially Sports).

Bleacher Report

Dez Bryant

There was a time when it felt like it was a requirement to have a domestic abuse charge before playing for the Dallas Cowboys. Bryant was one of several high-profile players who tarnished their records with violence toward women. However, the wideout committed one of the most disgusting acts ever.

Sporting News

Most men would never dream of putting their hands on their mothers. But that’s exactly what Bryant did as he allegedly struck her. Somehow he overcame this travesty and continued to forge an NFL career. After he left the Cowboys he joined the Ravens and nobody seems to care about his actions (via Washington Post).


Ronda Rousey

Rousey was one of the UFC’s first mainstream stars. The Olympic Judoka was an unstoppable force after she captured the bantamweight title. Her thrilling run saw her submit her opponents in seconds as they struggled to compete with her skills. But she made waves after she admitted to domestic violence outside of the cage.

USA Network

Women don’t receive the same condemnation for this vile act as men. It’s a twisted double standard but make no mistake, it’s wrong. Rousey admitted to slapping her ex-boyfriend so hard that it hurt. Later, she claimed that he refused to allow her to leave a room but she shook off the scandal (via Bleacher Report).

Live Science

Lance Armstrong

Armstrong brought cycling into the mainstream. He won seven Tour De France titles and also survived cancer as he became an American hero. But then everything went wrong after one of the biggest doping scandals ever. It emerged that he took PEDs throughout his career and forced his teammates to use them too.

New York Times

World Cycling stripped his title and he lost millions in endorsements. But Armstrong showed the resilience of a honey badger. He refused to quit mainstream life and started a successful podcast. The former cyclist also had a cameo in the movie ‘Dodgeball.’ Armstrong is going from strength to strength despite his cheating (via Reuters).

Bleacher Report

Greg Hardy

Hardy was forging a decent career for himself in the NFL with the Panthers. Then the defensive end destroyed his reputation after he allegedly brutally assaulted his girlfriend. In the end, he didn’t face any legal consequences because the defendant dropped the charges. This was very suspicious but there was nothing that the judge could do.


Jerry Jones decided to give Hardy a second chance because he has no morals. Then the UFC offered Hardy a shot at redemption after he transitioned to MMA. The former football star remained in mainstream life despite destroying his ex’s confidence. UFC fans hated him and enjoyed watching him suffer multiple defeats (via TalkSport).

NBC Sports

Michael Vick

Vick was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL before he ruined his life. The Atlanta star changed the game with his unique rushing skills. He inspired future greats like Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts. But he ruined his legacy when he went to jail for leading a dogfighting ring. This was a major shock and it disgusted millions of people around the world.

Sky Sports

Many fans don’t care about other humans but they love animals. They felt that Vick’s actions were unforgivable but the Eagles disagreed. They signed him after he served 18 months in a federal penitentiary and he performed at a high level. He returned to mainstream life but said that he regretted his previous actions (via NFL.com).

Detroit News

Hope Solo

Solo was one of the best players in the world and the face of the USWNT. However, she faced several scandals throughout her celebrated career. Usually, we don’t think of women being domestic violence perpetrators. But there are horrible cases where they’ve made their partner’s life miserable. Sadly, these men are afraid to speak up because they think people will mock them.

New York Times

A U.S. senator condemned the USWNT for allowing Solo to travel with the squad to the World Cup in 2014. This came after domestic violence charges but eventually, the judge threw them out. Solo quit soccer for a media career and continued to feature on TV in mainstream life. But in 2022 she faced child abuse charges which proved to be a bridge too far (via The Guardian).


Billy Joe Saunders

Saunders is another example of an excellent athlete with a terrible personality. The boxer made headlines after he filmed a video of how to batter a wife. The British Boxing Commission stripped him of his license after this travesty but eventually restored it. He also sent vile insults to boxing legend Barry McGuigan about his deceased daughter.

The Independent

However, Saunders continues to receive opportunities and made a massive payday against Canelo Alvarez. He also maintains a dedicated fanbase who don’t care about the vile things that he says. Britain doesn’t want him to represent them in mainstream life but his success in the ring keeps him in public (via Sky Sports).

New York Times

Adrian Peterson

Peterson was one of the Vikings’ greatest-ever players but he tarnished his legacy in 2014. The former MVP battered his son with a ‘switch’ as he used an old-school punishment. He didn’t realize that most people don’t accept this type of behavior in the modern era. But Peterson’s justification was that his own father did it to him.

Sky Sports

This should have taught him that it’s not a very nice thing to do. His son received slashes to his legs, back, and genitals. In the end, Minnesota only deactivated him for a single game. Remember, he was a very good player and children don’t matter. It felt like that was their message because they didn’t punish him, but he still missed an entire NFL season due to the act (via The Guardian).

Bleacher Report

Brett Favre

Favre is a legendary Green Bay quarterback and won a Super Bowl with the franchise. However, the gunslinger had some problems away from the field. He didn’t achieve much during his late career with the New York Jets. But one notorious incident made waves when he allegedly sent pictures of his manhood to a Jets employee, Jenn Sterger.


He allegedly harassed her online and wouldn’t take no for answer. In the end, an investigation fell apart because the tribunal couldn’t determine if the pictures were of his body. Nonetheless, they fined him because he didn’t cooperate with them. Favre also ripped off the people of Mississippi but people still like him for some reason (via Daily Beast).

New York Times

Brittney Griner

Griner spent 10 months in a Russian jail cell after they convicted her of smuggling drugs. The reality was that she had cannabis oil for personal use. Russia saw an opportunity to turn her into a political pawn. Eventually, the U.S. government traded her for some Russian prisoners and she returned to her homeland.

ABC 15

However, it’s easy to forget that she wasn’t always a sympathetic figure. Griner infamously had a physical fight with her pregnant fiancee in public. Police intervened and it damaged her reputation. Meanwhile, the unhappy couple married but divorced very quickly as they infuriated everybody (via SBS).


Jon Jones

Many UFC fans regard Jones as the greatest fighter in history because of his incredible skills. However, the youngest champion in history has many demons and can’t avoid scandals. He infamously failed multiple drug tests but that’s not the main reason why he’s on this list. His worst moment came in 2015 when he had a notorious hit-and-run incident.


The intoxicated UFC fighter crashed his vehicle into another with a pregnant driver. Jones fled the scene as he tried to avoid the consequences of his actions. In the end, the UFC took the rare step of stripping him of his title. Jones also received 18 months of probation. But he returned and now many people have forgotten about this awful story (via New York Post).


Ray Lewis

Lewis is arguably the greatest linebacker ever and that’s why people are prepared to overlook his private life. We’re talking about how he obstructed a murder investigation that saw a man die in his limousine. Meanwhile, Lewis discarded his clothes from the incident but could afford very expensive lawyers.

Bleacher Report

Now Lewis refuses to answer questions on it because he’s too busy maintaining a wholesome image. He doesn’t like when reporters mention brutal stabbings when he’s on Dancing With The Stars. Somehow he is carving out a lucrative existence in mainstream life while his friends that night are in jail (via USA Today Sports).

Elite Sports N.Y.

Jason Kidd

Kidd was one of the NBA’s best players during his career and became a respected coach. Most basketball fans respected him because they recognized his elite leadership skills. But he had a dark secret because he treated his wife, Joumana, horribly. He allegedly even punched her in the stomach when she was pregnant.


Nobody likes a woman-beater but somehow Kidd escaped without criticism. It’s bizarre that he managed to float through accusations and convictions. Some people can avoid these incidents staining their careers. It’s a shame for the victims because they feel that nobody cares (via Grunge).


Ben Roethlisberger

‘Big Ben’ was one of the best and most successful quarterbacks of his era. However, there’s no pretending that the longtime Steelers star was a good human being. He treated women in the worst possible way and this turned many people away from him. However, he continued to exist in mainstream life with impunity.

Sporting News

Roethlisberger allegedly lured one hotel worker to his room to ‘fix his TV.’ Another woman claimed that he raped her in a nightclub after waiting for her with his manhood out. However, police failed to convict him because of a lack of evidence. We’re not saying it’s true but where there’s smoke there’s a fire (via The Guardian).


Kobe Bryant

Few athletes successfully rehabilitated their image with Bryant’s success. The former Lakers icon enjoyed a glorious career but there was one serious shadow. We’re talking about his 2003 sexual assault case where Bryant apologized to his victim but denied assault. His publicist deserved a major pay rise because that’s some incredible damage control.


Somehow Bryant managed to push this to one side and rebuild his image as a family man. When he died in 2020, people talked about how he was a good father and husband. But he admitted that he cheated on his wife at the very least. Reportedly he engaged in a far more repulsive act but he continued to enjoy mainstream life (via Daily Beast).


Conor McGregor

Sports scientists once marveled at McGregor’s incredible physical gifts. They should check if he shares any genes with cockroaches because he keeps coming back. The former UFC champion became the sport’s first true mainstream superstar. But he also made waves because of his antics outside of the cage (via NBC News).

Fox News

McGregor infamously punched an older man in a bar because he didn’t want to drink his whiskey. He faced multiple sexual assault allegations and treats driving laws with contempt. The Irishman infamously stormed Brooklyn’s Barclay Center and damaged property. But the UFC keeps bringing him back to mainstream life because he is a major cash cow.

Sporting News

Peyton Manning

Manning was one of the greatest quarterbacks to step onto a football field. He won two Super Bowls and was a five-time NFL MVP during his time with the Colts. Most people may find it surprising that he’s on this list because he avoided controversy throughout his career. But they don’t know about one disgusting incident during his college days (via Bleacher Report).

New York Times

In 1996, Manning allegedly sexually assaulted a young woman when he brandished his penis in front of her. This came after the female doctor examined his foot for a stress fracture. According to the woman, he forced his body parts in her face and she later attended a rape crisis center. However, Manning denied these claims and the University of Tennessee stayed silent.

Sky Sports

Tyreek Hill

Hill was one of the Chiefs’ most exciting and popular players before he left for Miami in 2022. The Super Bowl winner evolved into one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He also forged a great relationship with Patrick Mahomes but he has a dark side. Hill is no stranger to controversy and that’s why some people don’t like him.

Larry Brown Sports

First, there was an infamous domestic violence case during his college days. He notoriously punched his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach in a vile act. Oklahoma State kicked him off the team before he joined West Alabama. Hill also allegedly hurt his son in a high-profile NFL scandal in 2018. However, he continues to live a shameless mainstream life (via Sporting News).


Floyd Mayweather

Arguably the greatest defensive boxer of all time, Mayweather enjoyed an incredible career. He went 50-0 before his retirement as he forged an amazing unbeaten record. However, there’s no denying that he is a controversial and problematic person. Mayweather even served time in jail for domestic violence.

Bleacher Report

In the end, money talks, and Mayweather has more of it than any athlete ever. Fans continued to flock to his fights despite his sordid history. Meanwhile, boxing promoters didn’t care because he made them very rich. Unfortunately, the boxing world is corrupt and doesn’t care about right or wrong (via Fox Sports).


Dana White

The UFC President is one of the most polarizing figures in the world of sports. He is one of the most ruthless money-grabbers in the business but that also explains his success. However, he made negative headlines in 2022 after he slapped his wife in a casino. She hit him first but White instantly responded in kind (via MMA Fighting).


White infamously said in 2014 about Ray Rice that no man bounces back from hitting a woman. But the UFC President was leading conferences the following week. He also promoted his slap-fighting tournament which was a glorified way of receiving CTE. White said that he had to live with his actions but has no remorse about staying in mainstream life.


Karl Malone

Bomani Jones made waves in 2023 when he reminded the world about Malone’s dark past. This topic arose because the NBA invited Malone to attend the All-Star weekend. Malone infamously impregnated a 13-year-old girl when he was in college. But somehow he shook this off and enjoyed a long basketball career (via The Sportsrush).


Malone never faced any consequences for this vile act. He also notoriously refused to recognize his biological child until he was 17. This says a lot about the type of man that Malone is. However, he drives his semi-truck around so people think he’s a good guy. But the opposite is true because he doesn’t belong in mainstream life.