Elite athletes maintain an aura on the playing field. However, when fans encounter them in real life, things can be different. The only saying says not to meet your heroes. In some cases, this is very true. Today we’re going to look at 30 strange encounters between sports fans and athletes.
Some of these terrible behavior on behalf of the sports star like barfights and leaving tiny tips. In other cases, they have some defense for their behavior. Meanwhile, online encounters add a new dimension to fan and athlete relationships. Many stars shoot their shot and slid into DMs with hilarious consequences. Check out the list below via The Sportster.
30. Conor McGregor
Athletes and other celebrities have to maintain a thick skin in real life. Sometimes, people will try to rattle them and the famous person struggles to stay composed. Usually, a fat bank account and a big entourage are enough to keep their pride intact. But sometimes, they lash out. That’s exactly what McGregor did in 2019 after a man annoyed him in a Florida nightclub.
The fan and his friend allegedly followed McGregor all night in Liv, a Miami Beach nightclub. When they were outside the building, McGregor didn’t walk away. Instead, he snatched the man’s phone and smashed it off the ground. Then, the ‘victim’ pressed charges and police arrested the Irishman on multiple charges of damaging property. They settled out of court, but it was an embarrassing incident.
Jones was a wide receiver for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2021. The college star thought that he was the big man on campus when he went into a campus bar. He allegedly picked a fight with the wrong man in the bathroom of the establishment. Instead, of maintaining class in public, Jones acted like a bully but it was a big mistake. Walker Brown alleged that one of Jones’s friends shoved him before he went on the attack.
As a wrestler and MMA aficionado, this was a mismatch. Brown took down the bigger man and pummelled him mercilessly. Jones actually suffered a broken orbital and required five hours of surgery to rebuild it. Not many people showed sympathy for Jones because he clearly thought that he was able to do whatever he wanted. But instead, he received a real-life beatdown.
Nowadays, social media allows athletes and celebrities to interact with the public in real life even easier than before. However, this often results in embarrassing stories. Prescott is the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback and one of the biggest names in the NFL. He tried to shoot his shot with an Instagram model by sliding into her DMs. However, it left him with a red face.
Jahnea Aleece is an adult model with a couple of thousand Instagram followers. She didn’t play it cool when Prescott reached out and even posted a screenshot that he had followed her. When Prescott realized this, he quickly unfollowed her. But they already had exchanged DMs and the damage was done. The media seized on his private life.
Woods is one of golf’s most decorated athletes, but it’s a shame that he doesn’t show the same skills in real life. The multiple-time Major winner has disappointed fans on numerous occasions. One time a young kid asked Woods and his fellow golfers for autographs. Woods was the only one who didn’t oblige and turned away with a look of disgust. Considering his scandals, he should have tried to show a nicer image.
He also used a helicopter to fly to the Canadian Open because he wanted to avoid fans. While this seems reasonable, he didn’t give them any of his time. Considering his status and fan loyalty to him despite his antics, he could have behaved better. Woods is a golf legend but he is also a very flawed human being. It’s unfortunate that he disappointed the public so often.
James is one of the most famous athletes on the planet. By extension, he’s also one of the wealthiest. The NBA superstar makes about $55 million per year in endorsements alone. Meanwhile, he is a loud advocate for social justice and civil rights. Unfortunately, in 2008, the staff at XO Prime Steaks in Cleveland didn’t see his charitable side. In fact, they were extremely disappointed in his behavior in real life.
The restaurant’s official opening hours were until midnight but LeBron stayed until 4 am. Of course, they were anxious to accommodate the city’s biggest superstar and he spent over $800 dollars. That was fine except for the fact that he only left a $10 tip. This was shameful considering he kept staff there for four hours longer than they expected and his massive wealth. He misbehaved by being a cheapskate.
Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Ortiz is infamous for his larger-than-life personality. He has some contentious opinions and regularly makes fans roll their eyes. However, his fanbase is clearly large in Florida because they elected him as mayor of Huntington Beach City Council. But unfortunately, it wasn’t smooth sailing for Ortiz or his constituents.
To say he disappointed members of the public is putting it mildly. Ortiz refused to wear a mask in public spaces despite the ongoing global health crisis. Meanwhile, he regularly shared conspiracy theories and lacked basic knowledge of administrative policies. It was a real train crash to follow but Ortiz was oblivious to his ineptitude. Furthermore, his colleagues loathed him.
Gibson was a very good MLB player but not quite at the level to make the Hall of Fame. He was a two-time World Series winner and has one Silver Slugger award. But he never made it into Cooperstown. Perhaps this is why he has a bad reputation amongst fans in real life. There are some stories about the NBC color-commentator that definitely don’t help his image.
In 1985, a fan revealed that Gibson slapped a ball out of his hand when he asked the baseball star to sign it. He also allegedly cursed at the man. Now, Gibson may have been having a bad day, but it was still not a good look. Meanwhile, Lance Parrish, Gibson’s teammate in Detroit, witnessed the incident. He showed class because he signed the ball and gave the fan a Spring Training jersey.
Sometimes athletes can’t win. That’s especially true in real life. Former Oklahoma star Roberson discovered this in 2017 when he received significant criticism after leaving a small tip in a bar. His bill was around $487 dollars and he left $13 dollars extra to round it up to $500. The bartender accused him of being a cheapskate and the media wasn’t kind to him. However, Roberson came back firing shots.
He pointed out that he simply bought a bottle at the counter and didn’t receive any other service. Furthermore, Roberson scathingly said that the bottle was marked up about three times more than its retail cost. He also explained that he had already left a $200 tip on $100 worth of shots. It’s safe to say that this bartender had an egg on his face after this ridiculous incident.
One of West Ham United’s best players, Antonio is an exciting attacking talent. However, the Londoner had one of the most bizarre fan encounters when he crashed his car into a house on Christmas Day. The strangest aspect of this story is not that he smashed up his white Lamborghini. No, it’s the fact that he jumped out of the vehicle and ran down the street in a Santa Claus costume.
He was on his way to West Ham’s Christmas Party and it had a fancy dress theme. The homeowner claimed that Antonio left his car without saying a word to them. However, the forward later paid all damages and apologized for any distress he caused. It’s definitely one of the wackiest stories involving an athlete. Luckily, they became real fans of him after the accident.
Fury is a brilliant boxer but a very flawed human being. The Gypsy King’s tale of redemption is very inspiring but he overcame a very dark period. He admits to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and taking drugs. Meanwhile, his weight ballooned up because of his terrible diet. He traveled to Nice, France for Euro 2016, and fans received a stunning surprise from the champion.
This was right at the beginning of his descent into chaos. A rematch with Wladimir Klitschko was even booked at that point. Fury led a massive group of fans into a bar and bought over $1000 worth of Jagerbombs. Fans couldn’t believe that they were drinking with the champion. One of them told Sky Sports that Fury was a ‘legend’ and that he had his backing for life.
Francona was a solid MLB player but an even better manager. He is a legend in Boston after leading the Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years. Then, in 2007, he won a second with the franchise, sealing his legacy. However, Francona definitely has dubious morals. He’s also not afraid to go after something that he wants, even if it somebody else’s girlfriend.
In 2012, an MLB fan told Deadspin that Francona was in secret contact with his girlfriend. The then-53-year-old emailed the 27-year-old woman bare-chested pictures. Allegedly Francona met her in real life and also received topless photos from her. When the fan discovered that his girlfriend was effectively cyber-cheating on him with the MLB icon, it devastated him. Francona apologized, but the damage was done.
There are two sides to every story, but when it comes to tipping only one receives attention. In 2014, McCoy enjoyed a $7.6 million salary. The two-time Super Bowl winner went to PYT, a burger joint in Philadelphia. His bill totaled $61.56. Another 10 dollars wouldn’t have broken the bank, but McCoy signed off on a much lower number. He only gave them an extra 20 cents.
Needless to say, the restaurant seized on this and made the receipt public. McCoy defended himself by saying he received terrible service from the waiter and wanted to make a statement. That may have been the case, but he didn’t complain to the manager or anything. Instead, he came off as a real cheapskate. This was a bad choice from the multimillionaire NFL star.
Everybody knows Tyson. He is more than a boxing legend. “Iron Mike” is also a real pop culture icon. However, the youngest heavyweight champion ever was incredibly volatile. This wasn’t surprising considering his lifestyle but it made it very difficult for ordinary people to deal with him in real life. One infamous story comes from a time he wanted crackers on an airplane.
The flight attendant said that she would get them for him but didn’t return as quickly as he would have liked. Tyson blew his gasket and left everybody around him quaking in his boots. Furthermore, one woman allegedly whispered ‘be careful of your ears.’ This definitely didn’t help the situation. In the end, Tyson received his crackers but he caused a real fracas.
Soccer stadiums can be toxic places. Fans often shout abuse at players and expect no consequences from their actions. But sometimes, it bites them where it hurts. Tottenham Hotspurs played Norwich in an F.A. Cup game. Norwich won after a penalty shootout, but the real story was about Dier. The Spurs star made headlines after he stormed into the stands and climbed over seats to confront a fan.
The fan allegedly shouted abuse at Dier’s brother and his family. This infuriated Dier who didn’t mind people targeting him personally. However, to go after his family was crossing the line. Fans held him back to protect him from himself before security escorted him away. He received a four-game ban as well as a fine for his actions but nobody really blamed him for his emotional reaction.
To say that Manziel didn’t live up to expectations in the NFL would be one of the understatements of the century. The former quarterback is one of the biggest draft busts of all-time. Many teams passed over him because they didn’t trust his attitude. This proved to be correct because he proved to be a real disaster for the Cleveland Browns. He only managed 15 appearances across two seasons for the franchise.
That marked the end of his NFL career, but he still engaged with fans. However, he charged an arm and a leg for these meetings. Despite his lack of status within the game, fans revealed that Manziel charged $99 for an autograph. Meanwhile, an inscription – a maximum of four words – costs an extra $29. Those who wanted a simple selfie had to fork up $50.
‘Bones’ is one of the most successful UFC fighters ever. The four-time light-heavyweight champion is practically undefeated except for a single loss by DQ in 2009. Jones is exceptionable but is also a volatile character. He has suffered multiple arrests for reasons including an infamous hit-and-run involving a pregnant woman. However, he can show real heart too.
During the 2020 protests in the U.S. Jones intervened to stop youngsters from spraying graffiti in Albuquerque. Despite hailing from New York, Jones is a long=term New Mexico resident because of his gym. Fans appreciated the UFC fighter having their backs. Also, homeless people praised Jones for giving them warm coats in the winter. He’s a wild man but can be fantastic.
Nobody likes a diva, but the problem with fame is that it sometimes goes to people’s heads. That’s exactly what happened to Lawrie. He played for the likes of the Blue Jays, the Oakland Athletics, and the White Sox. However, he developed a reputation for being unpleasant to ordinary people in real life. This was unfortunate because he was a great player but allegedly not the nicest person.
One well-documented incident revealed how Lawrie tried to exit the players’ garage in Toronto. The female parking attendant didn’t instantly raise the barrier for him and Lawrie became angry. He repeated honked his horn and turned the air blue with profanities. It was totally unnecessary because it wasn’t as though his wife was pregnant or anything. It was just ignorant behavior.
A truly phenomenal talent, Thomas was one of the biggest NFL stars of his generation. The former NFL MVP was immensely popular during his time with the Buffalo Bills. However, he enjoyed the rockstar life a little bit too much at times. While he wasn’t nasty to people like some of the athletes on this list, he had his own real flaws as one hotel manager revealed.
One time, Thomas stayed in a historic inn in Buffalo, complete with historic furniture. The establishment had national landmark status but Thomas and his family showed no respect for this. They proceeded to allegedly trash the place, destroying the art and damaging everything. It was disgusting behavior and display of childish entitlement from the running back.
Many analysts tipped Ibe for the top when he first broke through with Liverpool as a teenager. However, he failed to push on and the Reds sold him to Bournemouth. The hope was that Ibe would flourish as a talented player in a less pressurized environment. Unfortunately, his off-the-field problems affected his progress. One incident saw him crash his car into a cafe in London.
Fortunately, nobody suffered injuries. However, rather than deal with the situation, Ibe ran away from the scene, abandoning his Bentley. What he hoped to achieve, nobody knows. In the end, he created a real problem for himself because the coffee shop sued him. A court fined him almost $9000 and banned him from driving for 16 months. Not the best way to meet an elite athlete.
Griffin was all about love on his wedding day. The problem was that he wasn’t too interested in his bride to be. He was set to marry Rebecca Liddicoat but something else distracted him. A Hooters’ waitress and a student named Meredith Barber revealed how he tried to hook up with her on that exact day. She didn’t respond to his advances and screenshotted his messages.
The former Redskins’ star sent her a shirtless picture and encouraged her to meet up with him. She responded by sending the messages to Busted Coverage. In the end, Griffin’s marriage lasted for three years. That was much longer than most people expected considering the fact that he was a real player. Unfortunately, it went about as well as his NFL career.
Perry is one of the most controversial UFC fighters on the roster. ‘Platinum’ is the most Florida man alive and creates a lot of unnecessary drama for himself. However, his most dramatic incident in real life saw him get into it with an old man in a restaurant in Texas. The pair were seated near each other in Table 82 when an argument broke out and it all became rowdy.
Obviously, the old man didn’t know who Perry was because he wouldn’t have cursed at him. But Perry, being the volatile human being that he is, responded by punching the elderly gentleman. His girlfriend tried to hold him back and the restaurant called the police. It was a messy situation and very unnecessary. Furthermore, it was disgraceful behavior from a professional fighter.
Restaurants and bars pull out all of the stops for regular celebrities and professional athletes. It’s good for business because typically they spend a lot of money and might even promote the establishment on their social accounts. The Edmonton Oilers liked one bar in the city and the management instructed their staff to make sure they kept the team happy. However, this wasn’t always easy.
Hall was a real nightmare for them to deal with. A young star at the time, he behaved like a spoilt child. Bartenders revealed how he just grabbed bottles off of the counter without paying for them. He regularly caused a scene and was very stressful to deal with. The management was happy because they made a lot of money from the Oilers. But they didn’t have to deal with them in real life like their staff.
What is it about soccer players named Eric charging into the crowd? We already saw how Eric Dier stormed into the stands after a fan insulted his brother. But in 1995, Cantona went full Bruce Lee. Manchester United played Crystal Palace in a tense game in London. Cantona received tough challenges from the Palace players and reacted with a heavy tackle of his own.
The referee issued him a red card and then Cantona literally saw red. A Palace fan told him in strong language to return to France. Cantona responded by doing a Kung-Fu kick over the stand into the fan. It became one of the most iconic moments in Premier League history. It later emerged that the fan was a racist and a neo-Nazi so nobody listened to what he had to say.
A larger-than-life personality, Canseco had an excellent MLB career. He was a two-time World Series winner and also a six-time All-Star. However, Canseco also openly admits to steroid use throughout his time as a professional baseball player. But it’s alright because according to him everybody did it. Canseco still has his fans, even though he wasn’t very nice to them in real life.
In 2010, Canseco played for the Laredo Broncos in the Independent League. He hit a home run into the bushes. Later, two brothers found the ball and hung around after the game to meet the former MLB star. But they said that Canseco brushed them off and called them ‘scumbags.’ It was very disappointing because they were very excited to meet one of their heroes.
A former Vanderbilt star, Cutler spent most of his NFL career with the Chicago Bears. Of course, the Bears have had their quarterback problems for a long time but he spent significant time in possession of the starting shirt. His only Pro Bowl appearance came as a member of the Broncos. Meanwhile, Cutler had a bizarre meeting in real life with one of his fans in a Chicago washroom.
It’s always strange when celebrities meet fans in bathrooms because they often want to shake hands. In this situation, the fan in question revealed that he also went to Vanderbilt. He was in the middle of asking Cutler if he knew any of his friends when Cutler allegedly shouted “I don’t care!” This stunned the fan into silence because he didn’t expect the quarterback to just stop him and walk out.
Penn was a massive star in the UFC as a two-weight champion before his downward spiral. In 2019, he was involved in several street brawls. He fought one man outside The Lava Shack in Hawaii’s Big Island. Allegedly, he gave the man a single free shot to punch him in the face. Unfortunately, his adversary knocked Penn unconscious with a single blow.
However, that wasn’t the end of their confrontation. ‘The Prodigy’ returned to punish his opponent. He took him down to the ground and unleashed a pounding on the fellow. Never in his life did he think he would go head-to-head with a former UFC champion. It definitely wasn’t an ideal situation. The UFC cut Penn after this because it wasn’t his first crazy incident and he lost a lot of fights.
A Steelers icon, Roethlisberger won two Super Bowls with the franchise. The first saw him become the youngest starting quarterback ever to win a ring. Meanwhile, he is also a six-time Pro Bowl selection. ‘Big Ben’ is extremely popular across the league and a familiar face in the Steel City. However, this has led to some strange encounters with fans in real life.
Roethlisberger is not afraid to shoot his shot. One blogger claimed that ‘Big Ben’ rode up to him and his sister on a motorbike and invited the woman to come home with him. She told him where to go and declined his offer. Furthermore, he frequented the city’s bars and nightclubs. ‘Big Ben’ hit on much younger women while very drunk.
Professional athletes should hire social media managers as soon as they become famous. This because the online world is a dangerous place. Furthermore, it can be very dangerous to engage with fans online because they can create trouble. Or in Mathieu’s case, he created trouble for himself. He slid into a young girl’s DMs because he thought she was attractive.
But the problem was that she was literally a young girl. He asked her how old she was and she told him that she was 17. He didn’t immediately end the conversation by saying sorry, you’re too young. No, he asked her when she would turn 18. It was definitely creepy and not a good look for the NFL star. However, in the end, he technically didn’t do anything wrong.
A Liverpool legend, Carragher spent his entire career with the Reds. After retiring, the former central defender became one of the most high-profile analysts in the Premier League. In 2018, his former team played their arch-rivals Manchester United. Unfortunately for ‘Carra,’ his team lost the game. A Manchester United fan and his 14-year-old daughter stopped beside Carragher’s car at an intersection after the game.
They saw this as a fantastic opportunity to tease the former soccer star. Carragher responded by spitting toward their car. The girl claimed that his spit actually landed on her. It created a massive scandal and Sky Sports suspended him. However, credit where it is due because the girl and her father accepted his apology and told the media company not to fire him.
McGregor’s second inclusion on this list was one of the craziest fan encounters ever. He was drinking in his local watering hole in Dublin, Ireland when he decided to buy a round of shots for the entire bar. However, one older gentleman in his fifties decided that he didn’t want to drink McGregor’s own brand of whiskey. The Notorious pressed the issue and the man firmly declined.
Then, the UFC fighter punched the man in the face. In fairness to him, he took it well, but it was shameful behavior from a younger man, nevermind a professional fighter. He went to court and was lucky to escape with just a fine for the incident. Some things tarnish a reputation forever and this was definitely up there with the worst for the volatile Irishman.