Oodles of talent and big contracts do not guarantee that superstar athletes will pull stupid stunts to put their careers in jeopardy.
Look no further than say, Manny Ramirez. While a lot of other athletes dabbled in performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), Man-Ram thought it would be a good idea to take a woman’s fertility drug. What, you say!? Yes, while he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009, Manny did take, in addition to testosterone, human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. That earned him a 50-game suspension.
In another instance a hockey player put a teammate’s career in jeopardy with a moment of sheer stupidity. In December 2009, Florida Panthers’ defenceman Keith Ballard, upset over a goal being scored on his team, took a swing with his hockey stick at the net in frustration. Only one problem, he missed and hit his goalie, Tomas Vokoun. It floored Vokoun and led to him having his ear stitched up. Vokoun survived and Ballard wasn’t suspended but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a dumb thing to do.
Here are 12 really idiotic things high-priced athletes have done to endanger their careers, to varying degrees of self-sabotage.
12. Tiger Woods’ Infidelity
For most of Tiger Woods’ incredible golf career, it was merely a question of “when” he would break the all-time Majors win record, and never a question of “if.” Between 1997 and 2007, Woods rocketed out to 14 Major wins before he even turned 33. He sat just four championships behind all-time leader Jack Nicklaus, and everyone just knew he would inevitably break that mark before long.
Then, in November 2009, Tiger’s entire world fell apart. Reports sprang up about multiple affairs the golf star had with everyone from a Hooters waitress to a well-known adult actress. When his wife Elin Nordegren found out, all hell broke loose. Between dealing with her personal issues and reoccurring leg and back injuries, Tiger’s golf game sunk deep into a bunker. He lost almost all of his major sponsors and ended up divorced. His numerous comeback attempts have been a failure, so far.
11. Diego Maradona Drug Problems
In his prime, Diego Maradona was nothing short of a wizard with a soccer ball. His goalscoring and playmaking brilliance led Argentina to two straight World Cup Finals in 1986 and 1990, winning the first one and losing the second. As a club player, Maradona won the Brazilian Primera with Boca Juniors before moving to Europe in 1982. With Barcelona he won a Copa del Rey before truly turning into a superstar with Napoli in Serie A, winning two league titles, a Coppa Italia, and a UEFA Cup.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t handle fame and fortune nearly as well as he could a soccer ball. His celebrity status went to his head, and he began living a life of excess while with Barca in the early 80s. A serious cocaine addiction developed, and he quickly ballooned out of shape as his unhealthy lifestyle caused him to pack on extra pounds. Despite all that, he somehow maintained his high level of play for a few years before it all finally caught up to him. By the time the 1994 World Cup came around, Maradona had been shipped back to play club football with Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina. He was disgracefully sent home from the tournament after failing a drug test. His career was basically over by the time he hit his early 30s — a result of his addictions and playboy lifestyle.
10. Latrell Sprewell Chokes His Coach
Latrell Sprewell was a first round pick for the Golden State Warriors in 1992, and quickly became a star player in the NBA. He was an All-Star in 1994, 1995, and 1997, but an incident in the middle of the 1997-98 season season quickly spoiled his career. During a team practice, Sprewell became incensed when head coach P.J. Carlesimo barked out that he needed to make crisper passes.
Words were exchanged before Sprewell literally choked Carlesimo, threatening to kill him. Teammates quickly separated the two, but the damage was done. Twenty minutes later, Sprewell emerged from the locker room and landed a punch to his coach’s face. It wasn’t the first “friendly fire” incident for Sprewell and the Warriors, so the team voided his contract and the NBA suspended him for a year. He didn’t play again until he resurfaced in 1999 with the New York Knicks. He had brief spurts of success in New York, but always carried around the shame of being the guy who physically attacked his own coach.
9. Zinedine Zidane Headbutts Marco Materazzi
Much like Maradona, French superstar Zinedine Zidane played the game of soccer more like it was an artistic ballet than a physical battle over a round object. He won multiple pieces of silverwear as a member of Juventus and Real Madrid, two of the biggest clubs in Europe. He also led France to a World Cup victory on home soil in 1998, beating the top-ranked Brazil in an epic final that saw Zizou score twice en route to a 3-0 victory. Unfortunately, his next World Cup Final would produce one of the most shocking moments in sports history.
With the game tied 1-1 in extra time (Zidane with the goal for France, of course), the midfield maestro suddenly and inexplicitly laid out Italian defender Marco Materazzi with a vicious headbutt to the chest. He was shown a red card, and was forced to miss out on the penalty shootout, which Italy won 5-3. Zidane had already announced his retirement before the tournament, so everyone watching knew that Zidane’s last action as a soccer legend was a violent outburst that arguably cost his team a historic second World Cup championship.
8. Colin Kaepernick Protests, Opts Out
We debated the merits of including Colin Kaepernick on this list. Whether you agree with his decision to use the national anthem as a means of protesting racial inequality and police violence or not, it took a lot of courage to stand up for what he believed in, knowing their would be backlash. Players from all sports joined his protest, creating a social movement of sorts. However, Kaepernick also finds himself out of a job currently — but that’s partly his own fault.
He was relegated to the role of backup quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers a couple seasons after helping them reach a Super Bowl. In an effort to become a regular starter again, he opted out of his deal with the 49ers in early 2017. The problem was that his protest movement had grown so big (and attracted the attention of a certain Tweeting president), that no teams wants to risk the backlash of signing him, even though he is statistically better than (at least) a half-dozen guys who called themselves starting quarterbacks in the NFL that year. We don’t want to say that the dumb thing he did to jeopardize career was protesting — we have respect for a man who doesn’t bend his morals to public outcry. However, he probably shouldn’t opted out of a contract that would have paid him millions to sit on the bench.
7. Mike Tyson Bites Evander Holyfield’s Ear
In a match billed as the “Sound and the Fury,” Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson squared off for the WBA Heavyweight championship in June 1997. Tyson’s career, at that point, had pretty much gone off the rails, what with the prison sentence for rape and the contentious relationship with promoter Don King. Holyfield dominated much of the first two rounds and in one instance he inadvertently head-butted Tyson, opening a cut over Tyson’s right eye. Tyson, who complained about head-butting, became more incensed as the fight went on.
In the third round, a clearly agitated Tyson decided that he needed to turn the tide of the match with one totally stupid move. He chomped down on Holyfield’s ear, severed a piece and spat it out, but the fight continued. He followed up that imbecilic move by biting Holyfield’s other ear, which ended the match. For his transgression, Tyson had his licence revoked for a year and was fined $3 million.
6. Ryan O’Reilly Crashes Truck Into Tim Horton’s
Ryan O’Reilly really must have thought he had the world by the butt when he signed a seven-year, $52.5 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres in 2015. The rugged forward earned it, having been one of just two non-first round draft picks to make his team (Colorado Avalanche) after being drafted in the second round in 2009. He steadily increased his production, year over year, so much so that the Sabres made a six-player deal to acquire him at this year’s draft.
So, how does a young guy flush with cash, celebrate such a windfall? By allegedly getting drunk at his cottage in southern Ontario, getting behind the wheel of his vintage truck and smashing it into a Tim Horton’s coffee shop, that’s how. He compounded his foolishness by fleeing the scene, only to get arrested anyway. Now, not only does he face ridicule and a suspension, but he could have lost his green card to play in the U.S. if he was convicted (which would negate his large contract). Thankfully for him, he managed to be acquitted when the prosecution failed to prove he was the driver.
5. Ron Artest ignites Massive Brawl
Before he was Metta World Peace, Ron Artest was a defensive specialist with few equals, earning the 2003-04 Defensive Player of the Year and an All-Star nod the same year while with the Indiana Pacers. On a team that featured Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal and fresh off a first-place season, all was right in Indiana. But in November 2004, during a meaningless game in Detroit, Artest wigged out.
With just under a minute to go and his team up 15, Artest put a hard foul on Pistons’ Ben Wallace, who retaliated by shoving Artest hard. What ensued would be dubbed the “Malice in the Palace.” A brawl ensued that saw Artest have a beer thrown at him by a Pistons’ fan, which caused him to totally lose it and charge into the crowd, fists swinging wildly. In the end, Artest was suspended 86 games, while teammates Stephen Jackson got 30 and O’Neal 15 for their part in the melee. The team was never the same, missing the playoffs that year and leading to a dismantling of the roster.
4. John Terry Uses Racial Slur
John Terry led a charmed life as captain of Chelsea. The superstar center back also captained the English national team for a good chunk of time between August 2006 and February 2012. In addition, he helped lead the Blues to five Premiership titles, five FA Cups, three league cups and a UEFA Champions League title. But, even the most decorated and compensated players can lose their minds.
In a match against Queens Park Rangers in October 2012, Terry was miffed that QPR defender Anton Ferdinand didn’t shake his hand pre-match. He responded by hurling a racial slur at Ferdinand that is unprintable here. The ensuing investigation was an embarrassment to Chelsea, who had previously banned a Blues fan for life for abusing former player Didier Drogba. Terry was suspended four matches for his foul-mouthed outburst and fined 220,000 pounds sterling.in
3. Albert Haynesworth Stomps Opponent
Albert Haynesworth did not one, but two, really stupid things to endanger his career. The first and most egregious incident occurred in a game between his Tennessee Titans and the Dallas Cowboys in October 2006. After the Cowboys scored a touchdown, the Titans’ feared defensive tackle took it upon himself to remove the helmet of prone Cowboys’ center Andre Gurode and stomp on his head. Gurode needed 30 stitches to close the cut and after a review of the incident, Haynesworth was suspended five games without pay (which was then only the second multi-game suspension in NFL history).
Later in his career he compounded his stupidity after signing a mammoth seven-year, $100 million contract with Washington in 2009. First, he skipped off-season workouts, then arrived in camp so out of shape he couldn’t pass a basic fitness test. Then, he said he didn’t want to play nose tackle in the Redskins’ defensive scheme. Needless to say, his career floundered after that and by 2012 he was out of football.
2. Plaxico Burress Shoots Himself
Prior to the 2008 season, all was right in star wide receiver Plaxico Burress’ world. After a stellar 2007 regular season with the New York Giants (70 receptions for 1,025 yards), Burress scored the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII. However, after signing a new five-year, $35 million contract prior to the start of the 2008 season, things began to unravel. He had a slow start to the season, compounded by various injuries.
On November 28 that year, he made the idiotic decision to bring a loaded Glock into a New York City nightclub. He had stuffed the firearm in the waistband of his jeans and when it started to slip down the leg of his pants, he reached for it and caused it to go off. Though he wasn’t seriously injured, he was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon and a count of reckless endangerment, for which he would spend 20 months in jail. In addition, he was suspended the final four games of the 2008 season. After a so-so season with the Jets in 2011, Burress attempted a comeback with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012, but was released and gone from football soon after.
1. Michael Vick Runs Illegal Dog Fights
He may have slightly rejuvenated his quarterbacking career with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets after, but there was a time when Michael Vick was the most hated athlete in America. Drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 draft, Vick quickly became a fan favorite in Atlanta for his throwing and running prowess, leading the Falcons to the playoffs twice and appearing in three Pro Bowls. Yet, for all his talent and popularity, Vick involved himself in a criminal activity that would see him go to jail for 21 months and force him to declare bankruptcy in 2008.
What did he do that could have been so bad? Well, he ran an illegal dog-fighting ring, promoting and financing all of it. If that wasn’t bad enough, he had under-performing dogs hanged or drowned. Now, Americans love their dogs and in the court of public opinion, Vick was lower than pond scum. He served 21-months in prison before making his comeback, although he was basically relegated to being a backup by 2013. He officially retired in 2017, but many football fans will never forgive him for what he did. Not to mention the millions of dollars he lost in endorsement deals and contracts due to his own stupidity.