No Respect: These Sports Stars Showed Truly Bad Sportsmanship

Darren - May 19, 2023

No Respect: These Sports Stars Showed Truly Bad Sportsmanship

Darren - May 19, 2023

It goes without saying that bad sportsmanship is one of the most frowned-upon aspects of athletics. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team or individual sport, as fans and players expect competitors to behave correctly. Sometimes this means following unwritten rules like shaking hands with opponents after the game. But some athletes embarrass themselves with pathetic moments of bad sportsmanship.

So today we’ll look at some of the most infamous incidents in sporting history. We’ve seen stars go off on crazy rants after they lose and lose control. Others technically don’t break the rules but they do something that leaves everybody shaking their head in disgust. Check out our list of athletes who showed horrible sportsmanship below.

Bleacher Report

Serena Williams

Williams is one of the greatest female tennis players ever. There’s no denying her brilliance on the court but she also had notorious moments of bad sportsmanship. Part of this was because of her competitive spirit. Williams had an incredible winning mentality and reacted badly when things didn’t go her way.


One of the worst moments came in 2018 when she lost the U.S. Open against Naomi Osaka. It was the highest point of the Japanese star’s career but Williams ruined it for her. She complained about the loss and the fans booed Osaka on the court. Later, Williams apologized to the young star for tarnishing her moment (via People).


LeBron James

Shaking hands is a simple thing but James didn’t do it in 2009. His Cavaliers suffered a Game Six loss against Orlando and this put him into a rage. James failed to shake hands with any of the Magic players as he stormed off the court and disappeared. Yes, he was disappointed but he let himself down at this moment.

Sports Illustrated

This moment attracted national attention and many analysts condemned him. But James was unrepentant and shrugged his shoulders. ESPN asked him if he regretted his inaction because of the effect on his image.  “I still haven’t had a black eye, for one,” James said. “Two, I don’t regret anything that I do. The only thing I apologize for that night is not doing the media.”


Nadia Kassem

There are many unwritten rules in sports about the etiquette between athletes. Usually, combat sports fighters touch the gloves of their opponent before engaging. It’s a sign of respect but sometimes people try to trick their rivals. Kassem did this in a UFC bout against Kim as she faked a glove touch. Kim acknowledged it but then Kassem sucker-kicked her in the ribs.

Essentially Sports

But it didn’t work out for the Australian because Kim immediately dropped her with a punch. Later, she suffered a TKO loss but the main damage was to her reputation. Many fans criticized her bad sportsmanship because they thought she was very disrespectful. Nobody likes seeing stars break the code of conduct in the cage (via The Sun).

Sports Illustrated

Tom Brady

Brady is the most successful NFL player in history and a serial winner. He had one of the strongest mentalities in gridiron football but wasn’t afraid of turning to the dark arts. Scandals including DeflateGate arose when the quarterback cheated on the field. Meanwhile, he attracted negative attention when he trash-talked the Saints after an interception (via USA Today).

CBS Sports

However, nobody can accuse him of lacking self-awareness. Brady acknowledged his bad sportsmanship in a Sirius XM interview. He explained that he tries his best to behave well on the field but it’s not always easy. Brady said: “I’m trying to be a good sport because a lot of times I’m not a good sport, I can be a pretty bad sport.”

Sky Sports

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo has enjoyed a remarkable career but there’s no denying his moments of bad sportsmanship. The Portuguese icon has a reputation for diving and pretending that he has an injury. Furthermore, he hates when things don’t go his way and left Manchester United in 2023 under a dark cloud (via SportsJoe).

Sky Sports

The truth is that he can be incredibly selfish as he showed in 2018. Gareth Bale scored from an extraordinary overhead kick in the Champions League Final against Liverpool. His teammates celebrated with him but Ronaldo had a tantrum because he wanted to be a penalty. He didn’t care about his teammate’s moment because he wanted to be the hero.


Israel Adesanya

Adesanya is one of the most exciting UFC fighters in the world. The middleweight champion has an electrifying kickboxing style but he polarizes fans with his trash talk. He’s not afraid to take things too far and sometimes he shows bad sportsmanship. We saw this when he crushed Paulo Costa in 2020 (via MMA Mania).

CBS Sports

The pair had bad blood but usually, this goes out of the window after the fight. However, Adesanya crossed the line when he stood behind his rival and humped him like a dog. Some people thought that it was hilarious but others felt that it was despicable. The fighter had no regrets and said that the action was ‘justified.’

Sky Sports

Draymond Green

There probably isn’t an active athlete who is more synonymous with bad sportsmanship than the Warriors’ Green. But that’s exactly why the Warriors star is on the team. Golden State knows that he’ll do the dirty work that allows the Splash Brothers and other stars to blossom. Green’s list of flagrant fouls is endless and he has a penchant for attacking his opponents’ groins.

NBC Sports

Rival fans hate him because they know what he’s going to do. Steven Adams, LeBron James, and Marquese Chriss felt the brunt of Green’s dirty tactics. Sometimes he crosses the line and it costs his team dearly. But when it works it can have a great effect on their fortunes. Everybody wants a player like Green on their roster because of his ruthlessness (via Fox Sports).


John McEnroe

McEnroe is one of the best tennis players ever but he had a dark side. He had amazing rivalries with the top stars of his era yet he also had some infamous moments of bad sportsmanship. One of these became iconic and surprisingly enriched his career. He competed at Wimbledon in 1981 when he said the immortal phrase: “You cannot be serious.”

Wall Street Journal

An umpire felt the full brunt of McEnroe’s fury after a call went against the American star. The official said that McEnroe’s shot went out but McEnroe emphatically disagreed. “You cannot be serious,” he roared. “That ball was on the line.” He attracted a lot of criticism but it became the title of his autobiography and his trademark catchphrase (via Reuters).

Sports Illustrated

Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers is one of the most talented quarterbacks ever but he’s a polarizing figure. His contract antics rub many people the wrong way because they think that he’s selfish. Meanwhile, some of his former teammates hate him and think that he’s a bad leader. Jermichael Finley infamously ripped Rodgers apart in an interview.

Larry Brown Sports

Finley told CBS Sports: “He knows he’s doing the wrong thing, and he’s so arrogant and prideful that he thinks he can separate his personal life from his professional life, even though all of us know that’s impossible.” Rodgers has a lot of talent but it seems like he needs to work on his people skills.


Serena Williams

2018 wasn’t the best year for Williams because her powers began to wane. Meanwhile, she had multiple unsavory incidents where she demonstrated bad sportsmanship. Earlier we talked about the embarrassing U.S. Open situation. But there was another shocking moment that involved an interaction with an umpire.

The Guardian

The official, Carlos Ramos, cited Williams for three court violations including breaking her racket. She called him a liar and humiliated herself on the court. Later, she labeled Ramos as sexist and said that a male athlete wouldn’t have received the same treatment. Most people thought that she was being unreasonable because he was doing his job (via The Guardian).

The Times

Allan McGregor

In 2023, Rangers scored a controversial goal against Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup. Thistle Player Kevin Holt was about to pass the ball back to the Rangers after their player received treatment. But then a Rangers player snatched the ball and scored. Rangers manager Mick Beale instructed his team to allow Thistle a free run at goal because it was bad sportsmanship.

The Telegraph

However, this rubbed their goalkeeper up the wrong way. The Thistle attacker ran unopposed toward the goal to score an easy tap-in. But McGregor stormed out and did his best to deny him. He almost succeeded in blocking the shot and attracted a lot of scorn online. He had a winning mentality and valued points over public perception (via The Scotsman).


Danica Patrick

Patrick broke new ground for female racing drivers during a storied career. She received a lot of abuse during her time in NASCAR. Yes, there was blatant sexism but there was also justifiable criticism for her occasional bad sportsmanship. In 2017, she had a three-car crash that put her out of the race (via Tampa Bay Times).


Later, she had an interview and complained for several minutes before it occurred to her to send best wishes to Aric Almirola. The Tampa driver went to the hospital with stress fractures in his back. That was far worse than the inconvenience of losing a race. Many people think that her self-centered approach didn’t help her legacy.

Sky Sports

Peyton Manning

Manning is one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history and enjoyed a storied career. But he let himself down in 2016 after the Saints won Super Bowl LVI. It was a heartbreaking moment for Manning because he was desperate to win a second ring. But he attracted a lot of criticism because he didn’t shake hands with any New Orleans coach or player (via CBS Sports).

Penn Live

He walked past Sean Payton and Drew Brees as he stormed back to the locker room. Some people accused him of bad sportsmanship and compared him to Cam Newton. His opponents didn’t begrudge him because he has such a strong winning mentality. Many of the best athletes are also the worst-behaved losers because they can’t handle it.

The Spun

Cam Heyward

The Philadelphia Eagles stormed to a Super Bowl appearance in 2023 after an exciting season. They made headlines after they mastered one of the most controversial tactics in the sport: the quarterback sneak. They turned Jalen Hurts into a ruthless touchdown machine with the rugby-style maneuver (via Yardbreaker).

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Some rivals tried to force the NFL to ban it because they couldn’t deal with it. Pittsburgh star Heyward moaned about it in one interview. “It’s illegal, they’re never set. If you watch, the O-lineman are never set,” Heyward said. “I’m triggered. Yes, it should be changed, they are never given time, they hurry up to the ball and no one is ever set.

The Guardian

Jessica McCaskill

McCaskill is one of the most talented female boxers today but she’s a sore loser. In 2017, she found Katie Taylor in London for the WBA lightweight strap. The legendary Irish champion outboxed her in a dominant decision victory. McCaskill was a game opponent but there was a clear skill gap (via Irish Mirror).


However, the former investment banker never forgave Taylor for this loss. Now she takes every opportunity to criticize the Irish woman and downplay her achievements. McCaskill outraged diehard fans when she worked as a co-commentator for the iconic Taylor vs. Serrano fight. She repeatedly gave biased views about Serrano and didn’t say a single positive point about Taylor.

Sports Illustrated

Bill Laimbeer

The Detroit Pistons were one of the toughest teams of the late 1980s and early ’90s. They played a brutal brand of basketball that rubbed rivals up the wrong way. Everybody talks about Dennis Rodman but Laimbeer was arguably their dirtiest player. He was the prototype for later stars like Draymond Green (via Detroit Free Press).

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Laimbeer has no remorse about his style of play or how people judged him. “That’s one of the things I’m really good at, I don’t care. I’m going to win the game,” said Laimbeer. “I don’t care what I got to do, I don’t care what people think about me. The most important thing is to win the game, most important thing is to win the championship.”

Sports Illustrated

Cam Newton

Losing a Super Bowl is one of the most devastating feelings for an elite football player. They dream of becoming franchise icons and receiving a ring that immortalizes their achievement. The Panthers had a golden opportunity to break their duck against the Broncos in 2016. But they suffered a heartbreaking loss and it hurt badly (via SBNation).

Sporting News

Their star quarterback, Newton, walked off the field without shaking hands with his opponents. There was a slight media agenda against the reigning MVP but it was still bad sportsmanship. In hindsight, most people agree that it was forgivable because of the wild emotions. Peyton Manning famously did the same thing after the Colts lost against the Saints.

CBS Sports

LeGarrette Blount

It’s never acceptable to attack another athlete even if they say something very insulting. Yes, it may be tempting to teach them a lesson but ultimately it backfires. That’s because it will lead to a suspension and hurts the player’s team. Unfortunately, Blount didn’t consider this when he had a rush of blood in 2009.

247 Sports

Boise State handed the Oregon Ducks a tough loss. The Broncos’ Byron Hout trash-talked Blount in the middle of the field. This was bad sportsmanship because it was disrespectful. Then Blount punched him straight in the face. Hout received a brutal lesson while Blount got a lengthy suspension (via NBC Sports).



Former Brazil goalkeeper Dida enjoyed a lot of success in his playing career. He won European and Italian titles during his time with AC Milan but fans remember him for one incident. Milan played Celtic in 2007 when he produced one of the most embarrassing moments ever. A Celtic supporter ran onto the field and lightly slapped Dida as he passed by.


Nobody condoned the fans’ action but it wasn’t exactly a knockout punch. Dida hit the floor as if someone smashed him with a sledgehammer and required a stretcher to leave the field. It was ridiculous because it didn’t hurt him at all. Later, UEFA hit him with a two-game ban for his antics (via Daily Star).

Fox News

Conor McGregor

Many people would argue that McGregor is a humble loser but that’s not true. Yes, he paid respect to the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Nate Diaz after their victories. But a glance at his Twitter feed reveals his bad sportsmanship. He famously refuses to accept his losses to the point of delusion.


This saw him go back and forth with several rivals including Dustin Poirier and Khabib Nurmagamedov. He often takes things too far and uses racial insults or insults from their partners. It’s not pleasant and leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths. But McGregor lives on the edge and isn’t going to change (via USA Today Sports).


Brett Favre

There are different types of bad sportsmanship as Favre will prove. After Favre departed Green Bay he spitefully gave the Jets all of the information he could about the organization. It didn’t do much good because he was past his prime and the Gang Green was garbage. Then he began holding teams to ransom without backing it up on the field.


Favre taught Aaron Rodgers lessons about how to manipulate a franchise. He refused to report to summer practice and missed conditioning training with the Vikings. Meanwhile, he bullied them into sending his teammates to Mississippi. Favre lost a lot of respect as he entered the twilight of his career (via Time).

New York Post

Yoel Romero

Former UFC fighter Romero possessed terrifying power and athleticism. However, the Cuban was also a master of the dark arts and didn’t mind cheating if it gave him an edge. He fought Tim Kennedy at UFC 178 when the infamous StoolGate went down. Romero’s coach rubbed Vaseline on his fighter’s body. The referee noticed and forced him to wipe Romero’s chest.


However, this also gave Romero extra rest because he sat on his stool as his coach cleaned him. He blatantly cheated and it was bad sportsmanship. Romero is also famous for grabbing his opponents’ gloves and the fence. Some rivals even accused him of deliberately missing weight to gain an advantage (via SCMP).


Myles Garrett

Nobody messes with Garrett because he’s one of the NFL’s best defensive players. The Cleveland star is also a fiery character as Steelers QB Mason Rudolph discovered. The NFL hit Garrett with an indefinite suspension after he removed Rudolph’s helmet and smashed him with it.


This was one of the most controversial incidents of 2020 and shocked the league. It came out of nothing after Garrett tackled the quarterback and took him down. Then they wrestled on the ground before Garrett saw red. It was an unnecessary overreaction but he paid the price for it (via The Guardian).

Sky Sports

Luiz Adriano

Adriano enjoyed a lengthy career with the Ukrainian team Shakhtar Donetsk. They played Denmark’s FC Nordsjaelland in a 2013 Champions League clash. The Brazilian striker scored three goals but that’s not why people talked about him after the game. His first was very controversial because he showed bad sportsmanship (via Bleacher Report).

Bleacher Report

A Nordsjaelland player received an injury before the game restarted. Then their player kicked the ball back to their goalkeeper. Typically, opposition players allow the keeper to punt the ball upfield before contesting it. But Adriano stole the ball and scored the easiest goal of his life. He didn’t break the rules but UEFA still suspended him for two games because of his poor etiquette.


Mike Tyson

Few combat sports athletes have an aura like Tyson. The former heavyweight champion was a savage knockout artist but he was in decline when he fought Evander Holyfield. The latter shocked the world in their first meeting and Tyson demanded a rematch. ‘Iron Mike’ didn’t enjoy their second clash but he produced one of the most notorious fouls ever.

NBC 29

Tyson bit a chunk of Holyfield’s ear off and suffered a disqualification after round three. This was his second attempted bite of the short match. Initially, referee Mills Lane didn’t realize what happened and allowed the fight to continue. Then, at the end of the round, he called an end to the match (via TalkSport).

247 Sports

Marshall Henderson

There was a time when Henderson was one of the biggest stars in college basketball. The Ole Miss athlete attracted the nation’s attention with his controversial views and actions. We’re not here to talk about his racism because that’s for another day. But he had plenty of moments of bad sportsmanship too.

Fox News

Henderson brought March Madness to another level after Mississippi crashed out in the third round. He infamously lifted his middle finger to LaSalle’s fans during the 2013 NCAA Tournament. This wasn’t the most family-friendly gesture and the NCAA reprimanded him for his action (via USA Today Sports).


Israel Adesanya Part 2

Adesanya enters this list for a second time after an incident in 2023. He finally defeated his rival Alex Pereira in their fourth meeting and the relief was palpable. But he celebrated embarrassingly as he showed bad sportsmanship. Pereira knocked Adesanya out cold in a kickboxing match seven years before. Then the Brazilian’s six-year-old son mocked the stricken fighter.

The Athletic

He collapsed to the ground as if somebody shot him. Adesanya showed that he never forgets because he emulated this celebration after KO’ing Pereira. He cruelly mocked the now-12-year-old boy. Many critics said that this was unnecessary because he was feuding with a little boy (via The Mirror).


Gregg Williams

Williams is one of the most notorious defensive coaches ever because of one illegal scheme. He was the mastermind behind BountyGate, a concept that almost cost him his career. Sean Payton suffered a one-year suspension and Williams almost got a lifetime ban for this villainous practice (via NBC Sports).


In short, Williams offered his players bonuses if they targeted and injured opponents. This rocked the NFL because it was so immoral. However, it emerged that this was nothing new because Williams did the same thing in his previous jobs. Amazingly, he continued to bounce around the NFL and even had an interim head coach job.


Diego Maradona

England met Argentina in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup. It was a heated clash between two rivals on and off the field. These nations fought over the Falkland Islands in 1982 and there was bad blood. The English spent most of the game hacking at the legs of the best player in the world, Maradona (via Sporting News).


But this was the Maradona show because he produced two iconic moments. One was a shocking moment of bad sportsmanship as he punched the ball into the net. The officials didn’t spot the foul and he called it ‘The Hand of God.’ Later, he dazzled the fans with one of the best goals ever as he ran through half of the English team.


Khabib Nurmagomedov

Nurmagomedov was one of the most intimidating MMA fighters of his era. The former UFC lightweight champion retired with an undefeated 29-0 record after beating some big names. He famously had a toxic rivalry with Conor McGregor but beat the Irishman when they finally fought. However, that wasn’t the end of the story because he went crazy.

Sports Illustrated

‘The Eagle’ reacted badly to one of McGregor’s teammates, Dillon Danis. He jumped off the cage and attacked ‘The Notorious’s’ corner as a brawl broke out. It was one of the darkest days in UFC history because it played out in front of the world. Nonetheless, Khabib’s moment of bad sportsmanship enhanced his legacy (via MMA Fighting).