The news that New York Jets corner back Darrelle Revis was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault and robbery for his alleged involvement in an altercation that took place in Pittsburgh in February 2017 is yet another reminder of the criminal problems that befall many NFL players. Over the years, numerous professional football players have been charged with some truly heinous crimes. And while many players have subsequently been acquitted or had the charges dropped, other have been sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives. It is a sad state of affairs for many of these athletes, especially when you consider the ridiculous money they earned and the lifestyle they enjoyed before throwing it all away with a criminal conviction. While we wait to find out the fate of Revis, here is a list of 10 other NFL players who were charged with truly terrible crimes.
10. Michael Vick: Dog Fighting
We’ll start off with a player and situation that actually had a somewhat happy ending. Michael Vick was riding high when his world came crashing down on him in 2007. The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who had a $100 million contract under his belt, was arrested in August 2007 for running an illegal dog fighting ring at his house in Virginia called “Bad Newz Kennels.” The case drew widespread publicity and brought attention to the issue of animal cruelty. Vick was charged with illegal dog fighting, gambling, and brutal executions of dogs. Vick served 23 months in jail and was suspended by the NFL. Fortunately, this story has a positive outcome, as Vick seemed to generally rehabilitate himself and emerged from the experience a changed person. He was able to resume his NFL career in 2009 and played for the Eagles, Jets, and then the Steelers (often as a back-up quarterback) before officially retiring in February 2017. He has also begun working to help authorities eliminate dog fighting, in an attempt to make amends for his actions.
9. Ben Roethlisberger: Sexual Assault
Ben Roethlisberger is another NFL player who has managed to tame some demons and emerge as a better person and athlete in the second half of his career. After winning two Super Bowls as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Roethlisberger was known to party and travel around with a posse of friends and relatives. This hard partying lifestyle led to Roethlisberger being investigated for sexual assault on two separate occasions. In 2009, Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a Lake Tahoe hotel, and in 2010, a woman claimed Big Ben sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub. While Roethilisberger was never formally charged in either case, he settled a civil lawsuit out of court in the first incident. The second case was abandoned by prosecutors when the alleged victim decided she didn’t want to pursue the case anymore. Despite that, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first six games of the 2010 football season, saying that the star quarterback had violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The suspension was reduced to four games on appeal. But after counselling and getting married and settled down with kids, Roethlisberger seems to have tamed his previous wild ways and settled into domestic tranquility.
8. Rae Carruth: Conspiracy to Commit Murder
Rae Carruth, a former wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, committed one of the most bizarre and sensational crimes on this list. In 2001, Carruth hired a friend of his to carry out an execution-style assassination of his girlfriend at the time, Cherica Adams, who was then eight-months pregnant with his child. Carruth apparently wanted his girlfriend to terminate the pregnancy, but when Adams refused, Carruth put out a hit on her. According to court documents, Adams was driving near Carruth’s home, when the NFL star stopped his car in front of hers while his friend-turned-hitman fired multiple shots into the car, hitting the pregnant woman five times. Both cars fled the scene. Unfortunately for Carruth, Adams survived the shooting long enough for her to call 911 and tell authorities what happened. She later died of the gunshot wounds she suffered. Carruth was sentenced to a 24-year prison sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2018.
7. Leonard Little – Vehicular Manslaughter
Leonard Little seemed to have the world at his feet in 1998. The star college player was drafted as an All-American into the NFL by the then St. Louis Rams. However, the same year the defensive end from North Carolina entered the NFL, he decided to leave a birthday party drunk and drive home. In an inebriated state, Little drove through a red light, crashed into another car, and killed a mother and two children. He was lucky and didn’t go to prison but instead received four years probation and 1,000 hours of community service. That seemed like a lucky break and many people thought it would be the wake up call that Little needed to turn his life around. But in 2004, he was arrested again for driving drunk after he failed three roadside sobriety tests. He was later sentenced to two years worth of probation. He continued playing for the Rams until his retirement in 2010.
6. Ray Rice – Domestic Violence
Anyone who has paid attention to the news in the past few years will recall the infamous video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out cold in a casino elevator. The 2014 images of Rice punching his then-fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer and then dragging her limp body out of the elevator were truly horrifying and shocking. Arrested and charged with assault and domestic violence, Rice was quickly cut by the Ravens and suspended by the league. The Ravens issued a statement after the video was made public, calling Rice’s actions a “serious matter.” The criminal charges were later dropped after Rice agreed to undergo court-supervised counseling. However, the NFL never took Ray Rice back. No NFL team signed him after he was cut by the Ravens.
5. Alonzo Spellman: Terrorizing Passengers on Plane/Assault/Air Rage
Another criminal incident that can only be described as “bizarre” involved Alonzo Spellman, who was a defensive lineman in the NFL from 1992 to 2001 – mostly with the Chicago Bears. In 2002, during a flight from Cincinnati to Philadelphia, Spellman completely terrorized passengers on the commercial airline and forced the plane to make an emergency landing. Spellman, who was committed to a psychiatric hospital once on the ground, allegedly yelled about the possibility that the airplane would crash, cursed at several female passengers in particular, and tried to smash the face of a flight attendant with this football cleats while the plane was in midair. After the plane landed, Spellman refused to disembark and repeatedly threatened the pilot. Spellman was eventually hit with a Taser and removed from the plane by police. Spellman was charged with terrorizing passengers, assault, air rage and even weapons charges (the cleats). The NFL player was given a suspended sentence and ordered to go to counselling. Spellman was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
4. Darrell Russell: Videotaping Sexual Assault
Before Darell Russell got himself into serious trouble with the law, the defensive tackle with the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins repeatedly got himself suspended from the NFL for drug use – notably ecstasy, which he always claimed was his narcotic of choice. But during one of Russell’s suspension in 2002, he was arrested and charged with videotaping the sexual assault of a woman who had been drugged with GHB, commonly known as a date rape drug. The woman involved told police that Russell had slipped her the drug at a bar. A videotape showing the incident was found and seized during a search of Russell’s home. The case was eventually dropped , because prosecutors believed the jury would not convict the professional football player. Three years later, Darell Russell died in a car crash in Los Angeles.
3. Ray Lewis: Double Homicide
Two-time Super Bowl champion Ray Lewis had a storybook career in the NFL. But the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker almost lost it all when he was charged with a double homicide and put on trial for murder – staring down the death penalty in the process. Following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, a fight broke out between Lewis and some of his friends and another group of people, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Eleven days after the incident, Lewis was arrested and indicted on murder and aggravated-assault charges. A white suit that Lewis was wearing the night of the murders has never been found. Two weeks into the trial, Lewis’s attorneys negotiated a plea agreement with the District Attorney that saw the murder charges dismissed in exchange for Lewis testifying against two of his friends who were with him that night. The friends were later acquitted and no other suspects have ever been arrested for the murders. Lewis was able to resume his career and won a second Super Bowl with Baltimore in 2013 before retiring after a Hall of Fame worthy career.
2. Aaron Hernandez: Murder
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was riding tall in the saddle in 2013, before he was charged and later convicted of murder. At the time of his arrest in June 2013, Hernandez had a $40 million contract with the Patriots and was part of an effective two tight end tandem along with fellow Patriots player Rob Gronkowski. Yet, Hernandez lost it all when he was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player and one-time friend. Apparently, Hernandez decided to shoot Lloyd because he felt that Lloyd had disrespected him at a club by associating with some people Hernandez did not like. Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s house with multiple gunshot wounds to the back and chest. Hernandez is now serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. On May 15, 2014, Aaron Hernandez was also indicted for the 2012 double homicide of two other men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. He is awaiting trial on those charges.
1. O.J. Simpson: Murder/Robbery/Kidnapping
The most infamous NFL player to ever be charged with a crime has to be O.J. Simpson. In fact, Simpson has become so well-known for his crimes that many people forget that he was a Hall of Fame running back and broke many NFL records. A former Heisman Trophy winner coming out of college, Simpson was the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Sadly his accomplishments on the gridiron have been overshadowed by his alleged criminal deeds. In 1994, O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Following what became known as the “Trial of the Century,” Simpson was acquitted of those charges (although he was found responsible in a civil suit). However, in September 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with numerous felonies, including armed robbery and kidnapping, after he robbed some memorabilia dealers who were selling his former football mementos. In 2008, Simpson was convicted and sentenced to 33 years imprisonment, with a minimum of nine years without parole. Simpson is now serving his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada, where he apparently still signs football memorabilia from inside his jail cell to make extra cash.