Across all sports, there are unspoken rules about the ways that athletes are expected to act. A lot of this is how you behave towards the opposition, and it is expected that you show them respect and also respect the game. We all applaud sportsmanship and it can be wonderful to see it in action, but, unfortunately, it does not always prevail and there have been many truly shocking unsportsmanlike moments over the years. In these moments, there is clearly no love found between these athletes and their opponents.
10. Bill Romanowski Spit
Former linebacker and four-time Super Bowl Champion Bill Romanowski found himself in a few altercations, but perhaps the most famous occurred on Monday Night Football in the 1997 season whilst playing for the Broncos. After an on-field pileup, 49ers wide receiver J.J. Stokes was taunting Romanowski who responded by spitting in his face. Romanowski refused to apologize for the incident initially and claimed that Stokes goaded him to do it, but he then apologized after being fined $7,500. Over the course of his career, Romanowski also kicked Larry Centers in the head, broke the jaw of Kerry Collins after a helmet-to-helmet hit, threw a football at Bryan Crox’s crotch, attacked his own teammate Marcus Williams during a scrimmage which forced him to retire, and there have also been a few allegations of racism for his controversial and unsportsmanlike behavior.
9. Kermit Washington Punch
Although it is unlikely (we hope) that former basketball player Kermit Washington meant to inflict as much damage as he did, it was still an incredibly unsportsmanlike moment and the thing that Washington is best remembered for. On December 9th, 1977, Washington and the Lakers took on the Houston Rockets and a scuffle broke out at half court after a physical battle for a rebound. Washington punched Kevin Kunnert, which saw Houston’s Rudy Tomjanovich run over to attempt to break up the altercation. Washington thought he was coming in to attack, and delivered a roundhouse punch to Tomjanovich which fractured his face and left him unconscious in a pool of blood. Those that were there speak of the sickening sound of the punch and the chilling silence that followed, and although he survived, Tomjanovich nearly died from leaking blood and spinal fluid into his skull.
8. Todd Bertuzzi Punch
It is common and even expected to see fights in ice hockey, but this incident was extremely controversial and unsportsmanlike. Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore had fought in a match just two months prior, and this was clearly still in their minds going into this fixture between the Canucks and Avalanche on March 8th, 2004. After attempting to instigate a fight with Moore (who had served a five-minute penalty for fighting earlier in the game), Bertuzzi skated after Moore and grabbed his jersey before punching him in the back of the head. Bertuzzi then landed on top of Moore which drove his face into the ice, leaving him unconscious. He lay motionless for 10 minutes, and eventually was stretchered off. He suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, cuts to his face and a concussion—ending his career. Charges were pressed and Bertuzzi faced suspension.
7. Roberto Alomar Spit
Widely regarded as one of the great second basemen, Roberto Alomar had a glittering career, yet he was also known to have a temper. This was most evident in the famous 1996 incident in a game against the Blue Jays during his time at the Orioles, where he struck out and then got into a heated argument with umpire John Hirschbeck about the call. Alomar then shockingly spat at the umpire, an incredibly disrespectful thing to do to anyone. Alomar claimed that Hirschbeck was not fit to umpire following the recent passing of his son from ALD, and this public disclosure of his private life only infuriated Hirschbeck more. Alomar was suspended for five games, and he also made a sizeable donation to ALD research. They settled their differences publicly in 1997 by standing at home plate and shaking hands prior to a game.
6. Boston Marathon Cheater
Rosie Ruiz was named the winner in the female category of the 1980 Boston Marathon, but then had her title stripped eight days later after it was revealed that she had cheated. It is one thing to act unsportsmanlike to another individual or team, but there is something particularly awful about cheating in a competition which involves around 30,000 people. Rosie Ruiz, an amateur, stunned the world when she ran the marathon in 2:31:56, which was the fastest female time in Boston Marathon history, and the third-fastest female time in any marathon. Many were suspicious when she did not appear tired and did not know many common terms from the world of running. It was then discovered that she did not appear on tape until a mile from the finish line. Witnesses then came forward and said that they saw Ruiz burst out of a crowd to run just the end of the marathon.
5. Luis Suarez Bite
One of the most notorious players in football, yet also one of the best in the world, Luis Suarez’s entire career has been shrouded in controversy. This stems back to his youth where he headbutted a referee, but for this list we are focusing on an incident in 2013 during his time at Liverpool in a match against Chelsea. Away from the ball, Suarez was seen tussling with Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, who he then bit. It was not noticed by the officials, and cruelly it was Suarez that scored the equalizer in injury time. The Prime Minister called on the FA to take action, and Suarez was banned for 10 games and fined. It was not the first time he had bitten an opponent, nor would it be the last, as he also sunk his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup.
4. Pedro Martinez Throws Don Zimmer
Although this is an example of poor sportsmanship all round, it is Pedro Martinez who gets most of the negative attention for this notorious incident. The Yankees and Red Sox have a fierce rivalry which always ensures for fiery encounters where sportsmanship is a rarity, and this was most evident during Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS. Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez first hit Karim Garcia near the shoulders with a pitch, seeing a heated argument ensue, particularly with 72-year-old Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer. In the bottom of the innings, Roger Clemens tried to hit Manny Ramirez which resulted in a bench-clearing brawl. Zimmer ran towards Martinez, who threw him to the ground by his head where he remained for a few minutes. Years later, Martinez admitted he regretted the incident but denies being at fault.
3. Zinedine Zidane Headbutt
In the final game of his career, the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy, French midfielder Zinedine Zidane tarnished his career with one hot-headed moment. Prior to this, Zidane was set to retire as a legend, but now he is often remembered for this bizarre moment. He had been awarded the Golden Ball before the game and scored in the opening 10 minutes, but the game eventually went to extra time. In the 110th minute, Zidane turned around and brutally headbutted Marco Materazzi in the chest after an exchange of words, seeing the Italian knocked to the turf. The referee correctly gave a straight red card, and France would eventually lose on penalties. It was later revealed that Materazzi had provoked Zidane with a comment about his sister. Zidane is now the current manager of Real Madrid, but is still remembered mainly for this moment of madness.
2. Nancy Kerrigan Attacked
Generally, unsportsmanlike behavior is contained to the field of play and rivals tend to leave each other alone outside the sporting arena. Not in this case, however, which remains one of the most shocking and despicable moments in all of sport. In 1994, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were the top U.S. women’s figure skaters with the 1994 Winter Olympics fast approaching. In order to take her rival out of the picture, Tonya Harding, her ex-husband and her bodyguard hired somebody to break Kerrigan’s leg so that she could not compete. The attack took place after one of Kerrigan’s practice sessions in Detroit, seeing her have to withdraw from the national championships which Harding went on to win. However, they were both selected for the Winter Olympics where Kerrigan won a medal and Harding did not. Harding later faced charges and was banned from the sport for life.
1. Mike Tyson Bites Evander Holyfield
Perhaps the most infamous moment in sporting history, you cannot get more disrespectful than this. On the 28th of June, 1994, Mike Tyson faced off against Evander Holyfield for the WBA Heavyweight Championship in a fight that was dubbed “The Sound and the Fury.” The two had fought several months earlier where Holyfield surprised Tyson and the world with a victory. It was already known that Tyson was wild and unpredictable going into this fight, but nobody could have predicted what occurred in the third round. Holyfield had Tyson in a clinch, but Tyson then bit Holyfield on his ear and tore off about an inch of cartilage which he then spat on the canvas. After shrieking in pain and a timeout was called, a doctor confirmed Holyfield was able to continue. After another bite, however, the fight was stopped and Tyson was disqualified and lost his boxing license.