Fans often like to put our sports stars on a pedestal but the reality is that they are human just like us. This means they make the same mistakes as ordinary people. But their problem is that these struggles gain widespread media attention. Especially when an athlete is arrested for a violent crime, it becomes massive news.
So today we’re going to look at successful athletes whose careers were tainted by violent arrests. Some of these arrests were violent because the star resisted arrest or assaulted a police officer. Others involved third parties and forced law enforcement to get involved. Check out the list below via Bleacher Report.
25. Mike Tyson
Law enforcement arrested ‘Iron Mike’ 38 times before he was only 13. That’s an insane figure but it goes to show the kind of tough upbringing he experienced. Tyson started out as a street fighter before he became a professional boxer. This made him into the person he became. However, one violent incident stained his career and still divides fans to this day.
In 1991, Tyson went to prison after a jury convicted him of raping Desiree Washington. He emerged after three years in prison and continued to box. After his retirement, Tyson’s life went down the toilet. He suffered with issues involving drug abuse and had problems with the law. Fortunately, he rebounded and is now in a better place.
‘Fast Eddie’ was a talented athlete but an appalling human overall. He was a two-time All-Star and found success with the Atlanta Hawks. But cocaine and manic depression ruined his life. He had the potential to be a Hall of Famer but couldn’t stay clean. As a result, he racked up over 100 arrests. It seemed like he spent his offseasons in and out of the Florida justice system.
These charges included violent assaults, drug possession, and various petty charges. In short, Johnson created many unnecessary problems for himself. His worst moment came when he sexually assaulted a young girl and received life in prison. It was a horrible ending to a miserable story.
Kane demonstrated his immaturity in 2009 when he punched a taxi driver. The reason he punched him was incredibly stupid. The taxi driver assumed that Kane and his friend left him a tip and didn’t return the change. However, this upset Kane and he attacked the cabbie. It was a dumb move and one that landed him in court. Obviously, it wasn’t good for his reputation either.
This is the sort of situation that young athletes find themselves in too often. They don’t drink often because that would inhibit their performances. But as a result, they have no tolerance. Combine this with their competitive arrogance and it’s easy for them to make idiotic decisions. This one came back to haunt Kane because the case was high-profile. Kane ultimately apologized to the driver.
Barton enjoyed a lengthy career in the Premier League with teams like West Ham and Burnley. He also played for Marseille in Ligue 1. The Scouser developed a notorious reputation because of his criminality. Barton was involved in numerous violent incidents. The most notorious of these came when he played for Manchester City. That’s because he demolished teammate Ousmane Dabo in a brawl.
It was one of the most disgraceful incidents ever to occur on a practice field. An argument broke out between the two men but there is no excuse for Barton’s violence. Another time, he punched a man over 20 times in Liverpool’s city center. He spent 74 days in prison after receiving a six-month sentence. The court also banned him from the area.
Boykin rose to fame with TCU. The young star’s skills convinced the Seattle Seahawks to draft him. However, that’s the end of this happy tale because it all goes downhill from there. The young quarterback sat behind Russell Wilson and featured in five games for the Seahawks. But the team released him after his disgusting, violent treatment of his girlfriend.
In 2018, he broke his girlfriend’s jaw. This was disgraceful but it wasn’t the first nor the last time he was brutal. He once punched a police officer and he also attacked a family member with a blunt instrument. In sum, Boykin proved that he is an unstable and unpleasant person. He had all the skills to play in the NFL and make millions. But he threw it all away.
Manchester United captain McGuire is one of the most expensive defenders in the world. A mainstay for club and country, he is a reliable presence at the back. However, he became embroiled in controversy in 2020 when Greek police arrested him. It was a major scandal because they alleged he resisted arrest. They also claimed he attempted to bribe his way free.
But McGuire said that the police acted aggressively toward him and his friends. He also claimed that he defended his sister from violent thugs in the bar they were in. It was a messy situation but he got out on bail and left the country. Then, further denting his pride, McGuire received a red card in his next game. The off-field chaos clearly distracted him.
Technically, Harding didn’t commit a violent crime. However, the incident itself tarnished her entire legacy. A two-time Olympian, she was also the first American woman to successfully pull off a triple-axle in a competition. This was a defining moment for the former U.S. national champion. But over time, Nancy Kerrigan rose as her main challenger and an even bigger medal hope.
Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly organized a violent assault on Kerrigan. A hired thug attacked her and left her with severe bruising. Initially, Harding claimed that Gillooley acted alone and that she had no knowledge of the assault. However, it emerged that she knew about the assault after it occurred and concealed evidence. The incident landed her community service and a lengthy time on probation.
Harrison was one of Britain’s best boxers but he had a dark side. He spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the law. A two-time WBO featherweight champion, there’s no doubt that Harrison had amazing talent. But his problems outside of the ring tarnished his reputation. He was even violent at times because of his relationship with alcohol. In short, he had a major issue.
His first major conviction came in 2008 when the police arrested him for drunk driving and assault. He spent almost six months in prison in Scotland before his release. Harrison then endured two more prison sentences. One was in Spain for another violent assault. Finally, in 2013, he spent four years in a maximum-security facility before his release yet again.
Cantona is one of the most polarizing figures in Premier League history. The former Manchester United star captured the imaginations of fans with his eccentric personality. It also helped that he was brilliant on the playing field. But one moment against Crystal Palace defined his entire career. Of course, this was when he launched a flying kick at a fan in the stands.
This moment was destined to be replayed forever. The fan in question verbally harassed Cantona throughout the game. Finally, the player had enough. He went full Bruce Lee and launched himself feet-first into the crowd. Law enforcement charged Cantona for his action because it was violent and could have seriously harmed the individual.
Penn is a former UFC two-weight champion, The Hawaiian was a fan-favorite for his entertaining, action-packed style. He came from a rich family and really had no need to fight. But he loved MMA and made it his career. Unfortunately, he also stayed active for far too long and lost eight fights in a row while his life outside of the cage fell apart. Penn received a restraining order from his own wife.
He also demonstrated increasingly erratic behavior. Hawaiian police arrested him in 2019 for his involvement in a street fight. Penn challenged a man to hit him and he did, knocking Penn out cold. But when Penn woke up, he wasn’t happy. He came after his rival and beat him up. Penn’s wild antics made his UFC contract untenable. In the end, they let an icon walk away.
Hernandez’s story is simultaneously one of the most violent and tragic on this list. The former New England Patriots star should have enjoyed an incredible career. He was successful at the college level and had the potential to be one of the league’s best tight ends. Then, along came a murder conviction and it all disappeared in a flash. Ultimately he committed suicide while serving a life sentence.
He made one Super Bowl appearance but could have and should have played in more. If his twisted mindset hadn’t caused him to kill Odin Lloyd, this would be a very different story. But sadly, that’s exactly what he did. Some people believe that CTE caused his mindset to deteriorate. After his death, a postmortem revealed the extent of the brain damage that he suffered. However, the brutality of his violent actions should not be forgotten.
Bradley had an 11-year MLB career but never lasted more than a couple of seasons with any of his franchises. He played most of his games for the Dodgers while also spending time with Oakland and the Indians. Bradley made one All-Star appearance after his career season in 2008. That was his crowning achievement, but he still lasted for over a decade at baseball’s highest level.
One of Bradley’s worst traits was his violent temper. In fact, many of his coaches believed that this held him back from reaching his full potential. In 2013, he rocked MLB when he battered his wife. This includes a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Tragically, she died later that year, leaving Bradley in the sole custody of his children. It was made worse because the whole story was so unnecessary.
Another murderer, Bruno’s story is one of the worst if not the worst on this list. He starred as a goalkeeper for Flamengo and fans even expected to be Brazil’s starting goalkeeper in the World Cup. But nobody counted on him making one of the most disgusting decisions ever. In 2010, he almost moved to Italian giants A.C. Milan before the transfer collapsed. The reason for this was because he arranged the murder of his pregnant mistress.
Needless to say, this turned the Serie A team off. As well as killing the woman, Bruno also dismembered her body and fed her to dogs. However, that’s not even the wildest part of this story. He received a 22-year prison sentence but only served six-and-a-half years. Then, he joined a lower-league Brazilian soccer club and played again. It was an insane turnaround for a convicted murderer.
Perry is a walking Florida Man stereotype. The UFC fighter rose to stardom because of his wacky personality. Fans loved his attitude and his gung-ho fighting style. But as his career progressed, he began displaying increasingly erratic behavior. This culminated with him leaving his fight camp and using his girlfriend to corner him in fights. It was crazy but fans found it funny.
However, things escalated to a darker level in 2020. Perry went to a Texas steakhouse and became embroiled in an argument with some patrons. Then, he pulled a trick out of the Conor McGregor playbook and punched an old man in the face. It was pathetic and violent at the same time. Nobody respected him after this because it was such a low blow. Perry received a visit from law enforcement afterward.
Rider’s career has multiple highlights. First of all, he was an NBA champion. Some of the best players in the league can’t say that. Meanwhile, he was also a Slam Dunk Champion. The basketball star played for the likes of the Timberwolves and Blazers before the downturn of his career. Fans also knew him for his crazy antics off the court.
In 2007, Rider received a seven-month jail sentence after he went for a wild ride. It’s difficult to know where to start with the charges. First of all, he had cocaine on his person. Then there was the violent battery. Finally, he attempted to evade the police. In sum, there was a lot going on. Rider spent only three months in jail because he was famous but successfully tarnished his image.
‘Mace the Ace’ was a very talented darts player before he left the sport. He competed at the highest level and he featured in multiple world championships. Mason was reasonably successful and made a lot of money from his career. But away from his sport, he was a difficult person. In fact, he spent a year in prison because of his violent nature. In sum, he allowed his heart to rule his head.
In 1990, Mason received the first serious legal effects of his antics. He resisted being arrested and a judge hit him with community service. But his worst criminal conviction came in 2002. He entered a house with two accomplices and attempted to rob it. Nobody knows why a minor celebrity thought that this was a good idea but it ended with him spending 12 months in jail.
Probably the most despicable person on this list, War Machine is a notorious figure in combat sports. We also use the term successful ‘loosely’ in this case. He fought for both the UFC and Bellator throughout his MMA career. While he didn’t come close to winning a title with either promotion, he did enough to attract the attention of porn star Christy Mack. The pair became a hot and heavy couple, but love wasn’t in the air.
In 2014, he brutally assaulted Mack and her male friend. He left her with 18 broken bones and multiple broken teeth amongst other serious injuries. This wasn’t the first time that he was violent. Police arrested him multiple times before because he assaulted people. He received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 24 years. He doesn’t expect to see the sun again.
Ferguson currently serves as Everton’s assistant manager. A club icon, he spent two spells as a striker for the club before his move into coaching. Fans love the Glaswegian because of his tough exterior. He is one of the toughest men in soccer and suffered nine red cards throughout his career. But his most notorious moment came in 1994 when he assaulted an opponent on the field.
It’s rare that players receive criminal convictions for on-field brawls. But this was Ferguson’s third assault charge. Previously, he headbutted a police officer, so the law didn’t take too kindly to him. In sum, his volatile personality excites the fans but got him into a lot of trouble. Luckily, Ferguson mellowed with age and only spent three months in prison for his actions.
A former heavyweight contender, Etienne had a very distinctive style. He never won a major title but fought some of the best in the world including Mike Tyson. Fans loved him for his high-intensity style. Etienne’s problem was that his life was too intense outside of the ring. In 2005, he was the ringleader of a major robbery in Louisiana that did not go well.
After robbing a business, he hijacked a vehicle. The police came after him and he pulled a gun on an officer. He was lucky because they didn’t shoot him on the spot. In the end, they subdued him and a judge hit him with an extraordinary 105-year prison sentence. However, his violent actions merited the jail time because he did try to kill an active officer.
A longstanding Premier League defender, Tomkins plays for Crystal Palace. He came through the famous West Ham academy and became a consistent presence for the team. However, in 2014, he became embroiled in an incident in a nightclub. It turned violent and soon the police arrived at the scene. An officer moved in to deal with the situation but Tomkins was physical.
It’s not a good idea to put hands on a law enforcement member. Sometimes it’s very tempting but it’s only going to end one way. They arrested Tomkins and he had his day in court. In the end, the judge hit him with a fine and told him that the incident was a ‘blot on his character.’ It was disappointing because his record was clean until that point but everyone makes mistakes.
Chisora is one of the most recognizable heavyweight boxers on the U.K. scene. However, the Londoner is also a volatile presence. Fans know him for his intensity and violent outbursts. He has spent a lot of time with the police because of his wild antics. Chisora assaulted his girlfriend in 2010 and the police came to the scene. But the boxer fought back and resisted arrest.
Meanwhile, he served 12 weeks in prison for assault. Chisora likes living on the edge but many fans despise him as a result. This is a man who spat at one Klitschko brother and slapped another. Furthermore, he brawled with David Haye at a media event. Chisora also bit the ear of another opponent in an imitation of Mike Tyson. In sum, there’s no doubt that ‘Del Boy’ is trouble wherever he goes.
Hardy is one of the least popular fighters on the UFC roster. He fights in the heavyweight division but only because of some appalling life choices. Indeed, Hardy used to play in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys. But his career came to an abrupt end because of his violent behavior off the field. Hardy brutally assaulted his former girlfriend.
The story goes that he threw her onto a pile of guns and physically harmed her in other ways. A judge convicted Hardy for his savagery. The former football star expected to spend time in jail but that isn’t what happened. For some unknown reason, the victim dropped the charges and Hardy walked free. Then the UFC handed him a contract but few in MMA like him.
Nobody parties on a Tuesday night like “Pacman” Jones. The former Cincinnati Bengals star is his own worst enemy because he brings carnage everywhere he goes. At this point, he has probably spent more time in custody than on the playing field. His most profile moment of madness came in 2007 when he slammed a strip dancer’s head against the stage she was performing on.
This came after Jones made it rain with hundreds of one-dollar bills. Apparently it didn’t cross his mind that the dancers would want to keep the money. This infuriated him and he exploded in the most dramatic manner. The police arrested him for his violent protest. However, this is only one of the dozens of incidents he was involved in. In sum, Pacman can’t stay clean.
McGregor is one of the most controversial athletes of the modern era. On the one hand, there is no doubting the UFC fighter’s talent. But he has done some crazy things and spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the law. Arguably his worst moment came in 2019. Irish police issued a summons after the former MMA champion punched an older man in a bar.
McGregor and his cronies passed shots of his Irish whiskey around the bar. When the man rejected his free drink, McGregor exchanged words with him. Whatever the older man said, it struck a chord with “The Ntorious”. That’s because McGregor stood up and sucker-punched him. It was an embarrassing moment for the fighter because he was about 20 years younger. He paid a fine for his violent action but could have spent six months in prison.
NFL legend Sherman made a fool of himself in 2021. He tried to break into his in-law’s home after crashing his SUV. The former Seahawks CB also caused damage to their property. But that wasn’t the main reason why this story seized the imagination of football fans. No, it was because he resisted being arrested as though they planned to lock him up and throw away the key forever.
He fought the police in such a violent manner that they brought the canine unit to the scene. One of their dogs subdued the retired football star, giving him lacerations on his ankle and lower leg. In the end, the intoxicated Sherman felt ashamed of his actions. He issued a statement claiming remorse for the situation. Sherman still faces court for the arrest but there are now some extenuating factors that could result in the case being dropped.