Most Hated NFL Players of All Time
According to Pro Football Reference, nearly 27,000 men have played in at least one NFL game. Many of them have been loved and adored by fans, the media, teammates and even opponents, but let’s be honest, most of those 27,000 have achieved little to no notoriety by the average person.
However, some NFL players, including ones that have been loved by many, have also generated unfathomable amounts of hate. They could be hated for their aggressive playing styles, their eccentric personalities or simply hated because they’re just so damn good. Others have garnered hate from their sociopolitical or religious stances, as many think politics and religion should never be mixed with sports.
Whatever the reasons for the hate, the disdain from others that these players have produced should be recognized. We’ve gathered the 30 most hated NFL players to form our ultimate hate list. Which of these players do you hate the most?
30. Steve Smith
Position: Wide Receiver
Career: 16 seasons (2001-16)
Teams: Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens
Stats: 219 G, 1,031 REC, 14,731 YDS, 81 TD
Famous words: “I look in the eyes of all my victims before I take their lunch money.” — Steve Smith
Bottom Line: Steve Smith
If you’re prone to fighting opponents, then you would probably find yourself on this list. But if you get into fights with your own teammates, then you definitely deserve a spot here. Smith drew the fury of his teammates and Panthers fans by sucker-punching his own teammate, Ken Lucas, during training camp in 2008, which earned Smith a two-game suspension.
Besides going after his own teammates, there’s also Smith’s mouth, which also didn't gain him any popularity points in the NFL. He was infamous for his trash talk and went after anybody and everybody, saying that Tim Tebow wasn’t good enough to play on his son’s flag football team and that Mark Sanchez “sucks.”
29. Jim McMahon
Career: 15 seasons (1982-96)
Teams: Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers
Stats: 119 G, 18,148 YDS, 100 TD, 90 INT
Famous words: “I'm the punky QB known as McMahon. When I hit the turf, I've got no plan.” — Jim McMahon in the Super Bowl Shuffle
Bottom Line: Jim McMahon
McMahon’s lyric during the Super Bowl Shuffle pretty much summed up why he was disliked. The punky QB showed up to his first public appearance after being drafted by the Bears with a beer in his hand, and he later pranked the media by mooning them before the 1985 Super Bowl. He had a falling out with his coach and front office, which expedited his departure from Chicago, and the same happened when he left the Chargers.
But perhaps his biggest indignity came during his “celebration” of winning a Super Bowl in 1996 as a Packers backup. The team was invited to the White House, but McMahon wore the jersey of the Packers’ chief rival, the Bears, when he showed up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Once a punk, always a punk...
28. Philip Rivers
Career: 17 seasons (2004-20)
Teams: San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 244 G, 63,440 YDS, 421 TD, 209 INT
Famous words: “We're not best of friends at all ... I’m just not that big of a fan of [Rivers]. I don’t like how he carries himself. I don’t like some of the stuff he does on the field.” — Jay Cutler
Bottom Line: Philip Rivers
If you had to rank football positions in terms of “most likely to trash talk” to least, receivers and cornerbacks would duke it out for the top spot, and quarterbacks would be near the bottom.
That fact made Philip Rivers unique, as he was one of the biggest trash talkers in NFL history. Whether it was calling out a DB for getting burned by a receiver or mocking a defensive lineman for getting flagged by his hard count, opponents had to hear the wrath of Rivers in his Alabama twang. While some opponents would genuinely get upset at Rivers, others just laughed it off, especially since Rivers was known for never cursing while heckling.
27. Bernard Pollard
Career: 9 seasons (2006-14)
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans
Stats: 126 G, 712 TKL, 12 INT, 10.5 SACK
Famous words: “I played the game hard. For me, I just played tough. It was crazy that a lot of the injuries happened to the Patriots when I played them.” — Bernard Pollard
Bottom Line: Bernard Pollard
Pollard was a journeyman safety who never made a Pro Bowl and never spent more than three seasons with a team. But there is one segment of people that thoroughly detest Bernard Pollard, and that is Patriots fans. Here’s why:
- In 2008, Pollard was the one who tore Tom Brady’s ACL in Week 1, thus ending his season.
- In 2009, Pollard’s impending hit forced Wes Welker to make a sudden move, which tore his ACL.
- In 2011, Pollard’s hit on Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship Game led to a high ankle sprain for Gronk, which limited his ability in Super Bowl XLVI, a Patriots' loss.
- In 2012, Pollard’s helmet-to-helmet hit caused a concussion and fumble for Stevan Ridley in the AFC Championship Game, another Patriots' loss.
Besides that, there are really no other reasons to dislike Bernard Pollard!
26. Tiki Barber
Position: Running Back
Career: 10 seasons (1997-2006)
Teams: New York Giants
Stats: 154 G, 10,449 YDS, 55 TD, 4.7 AVG
Famous words: “I'm not going to lose any sleep about what Tiki has to say. I guess I could have questioned his leadership skills last year, with calling out the coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the season.” — Eli Manning
Bottom Like: Tiki Barber
From time to time, you’ll hear a player throw a teammate under the bus, but you rarely hear about a player throwing his own coach under the bus. But that was the case with Barber, who criticized Tom Coughlin after a Giants’ postseason loss that resulted in Barber having to apologize.
If that didn’t alienate him enough from his teammates and the Giants’ faithful, Barber then oddly decided to announce his intention to retire after the 2006 season during the middle of that season. That created a season-long distraction for the entire team, which would, perhaps coincidentally, go on to win the Super Bowl after Barber had left the team.
25. Michael Irvin
Position: Wide Receiver
Career: 12 seasons (1988-99)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Stats: 159 G, 750 REC, 11,904 YDS, 65 TD
Famous words: “Hated [Michael Irvin] when he was a player. There was nothing more obnoxious than when he caught a pass and he got up and he signaled for a first down, and he just gave it to you right in your face.” — Longtime Eagles Announcer Merrill Reese
Bottom Line: Michael Irvin
Just playing for the Cowboys in itself is a reason to hate for many fans, but Michael Irvin’s flamboyant personality and brashness generated more hate than the likes of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. Irvin was one of the first receivers who would trash talk his opponents so much that it took them out of their game and led to lapses of concentration.
Let’s also not forget the fact that he was a great player even without his mouth running, but his cockiness and play often made him the target of opposing teams’ fans. That is best exemplified when Philadelphia fans cheered when Irvin was injured and laid motionless on the turf of Veterans Stadium in what proved to be a career-ending injury.
24. Brett Favre
Career: 20 seasons (1991-2010)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings
Stats: 302 G, 71,838 YDS, 508 TD, 336 INT
Famous words: “I love Brett. I always had a great appreciation for him, but we were caught in the middle of a power struggle that unfortunately broke apart Brett and the Packers and Brett and myself.” — Aaron Rodgers
Bottom Line: Brett Favre
As a three-time MVP, Favre’s play was enough to warrant hate from the fans of opposing teams. But his waffling on retirement, seemingly every year, actually brought upon hate from even his team’s fans. The most infamous “retirement” of Favre came in 2008 when issued a statement announcing his retirement only to call the Packers back four months later saying he wanted to return.
He then forced a trade to the Jets where he played for one year before signing with the Packers’ rival, the Minnesota Vikings. That seemed to be a way to get back at the Packers, but the Green Bay fans showed their displeasure for their once-icon by doing something we thought we would never see — lustfully booing Brett Favre at Lambeau Field.
23. Steve Wisniewski
Career: 13 seasons (1989-2001)
Teams: Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Stats: 206 G, 8-time Pro Bowler, 2-time First-team All-Pro, 1990s All-Decade Team
Famous words: "He chops from behind. He'll shoot knees ... I'll take sides with any old lineman, but this m----------- had me cursing and swearing on TV. I couldn't believe the shots he took." — An unnamed opponent of Wisniewski
Bottom Line: Steve Wisniewski
Roughly 99 percent of NFL fans pay no attention to offensive linemen and only hear about them when they’ve been flagged. But defensive linemen are well aware of the dirty tricks that offensive linemen use, and those tricks earned Wisniewski a reputation as a dirty player.
Even one of Wiz’s Raider teammates said he’s probably the dirtiest player of all time, and Wisniewski was known for giving “attitude adjustments” to teammates who he felt weren’t playing hard enough. Those consisted of Wiz and two of his linemen buddies pinning the offender against his locker until he apologized and promised to play harder.
22. Richard Sherman
Career: 10 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers
Stats: 139 G, 374 TKL, 36 INT, 115 PD
Famous words: “My dad taught me at a young age to play with class and respect and give my opponents respect.” — Tom Brady on Richard Sherman trash talking after a game
Bottom Line: Richard Sherman
Many players on this list derive hate from their style of play, but as a cornerback, Sherman’s hate comes from his mouth. He’s a great player, and he has no shame in telling everyone he’s a great player.
The best example of that came in his infamous post-game interview with Erin Andrews. Sherman declared himself the best in the game in the interview, and his aggressive tone also turned off many fans who want nothing more than scripted and cliche answers.
21. Jay Cutler
Career: 12 seasons (2006-17)
Teams: Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
Stats: 153 G, 35,133 YDS, 227 TD, 160 INT
Famous words: ‘‘He’s the best quarterback when it comes to accuracy, power, knowledge of the game … Now, when it comes to leadership? The worst … He don’t know how to communicate. He don’t know how to get his teammates involved.’’ — Former Bears Teammate Devin Hester
Bottom Line: Jay Cutler
The unquestioned King of Bad Body Language, Cutler had all the talent in the world but only used roughly 30 percent of it, which infuriated fans. Also, despite playing the most important position in sports, he had no inclination to bring people together and foster relationships with teammates.
One former teammate called him unsociable and said he would even pick favorites and only throw them the ball instead of hitting the open man. Yet, NFL teams would somehow overlook these intangibles, which is how Cutler made more than $122 million during his career.
20. Odell Beckham Jr.
Position: Wide Receiver
Career: 7 seasons (2014-present)
Teams: New York Giants, Cleveland Browns
Stats: 82 G, 487 REC, 6,830 YDS, 51 TD
Famous words: "You know you don't train like that. That's not you. That's not who you are. You're going to be Michael Jackson and go around and dancing and playing and a lot of other stuff and not be a football player and not train the way you're supposed to train.” — Josh Norman
Bottom Line: Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ has never been arrested, donates to several charities and is a phenomenal football player. However, as evident in the previously mentioned famous words about him, many people see Beckham as more of an entertainer than a football player.
Whether it be the flowing blond locks, the numerous commercials or his attempts to build his brand, Beckham just rubs some people the wrong way with his antics. But others enjoy the flair he brings to the game, both on and off the field, and OBJ would also make just about anyone’s list of the Most Popular NFL Players of All Time.
19. Warren Sapp
Position: Defensive Tackle
Career: 13 seasons (1995-2007)
Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders
Stats: 198 G, 578 TKL, 96.5 SACK, 4 INT
Famous words: “I’m going to make you say ‘please.’ I’m going to make you say it, and then I’m going to leave half the autograph off.” — Warren Sapp on fans asking him for autographs
Bottom Line: Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp has a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the most infamous play of his career is one even he wishes never happened. In 2002, he leveled a blindside hit on the Packers’ Chad Clifton that resulted in a pelvic injury that left Clifton unable to walk without assistance for a month.
To add insult to injury, after the game, Sapp challenged Clifton’s nearly 50-year-old head coach to “put a jersey on” for sticking up for his injured player, which got him blasted for picking on someone he knew wouldn’t fight back.
18. Lyle Alzado
Position: Defensive End
Career: 15 seasons (1971-85)
Teams: Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Raiders
Stats: 196 G, 23.0 SACK, 20 FR, 2-time Pro Bowler
Famous words: "I called him ‘Three Mile Lyle’ because he was a lot like a nuclear reactor." — Former Teammate Howie Long
Bottom Line: Lyle Alzado
Alzado was known for having a short temper on the football field, and he actually inspired the NFL’s rule against throwing helmets after he did so to an opponent’s. But Alzado ruffled the feathers of several players after he retired as he admitted he took steroids while playing and told Sports Illustrated, “Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff.”
He also admitted taking steroids starting in the late 1960s, and his words resulted in increased pressure on the NFL in regard to banned substances.
17. Ben Roethlisberger
Career: 17 seasons (2004-present)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 233 G, 60,348 YDS, 396 TD, 201 INT
Famous words: “[Roethlisberger’s] a drama king.” — Former Linebacker Bart Scott
Bottom Line: Ben Roethlisberger
Quarterbacks are often referred to as many things, such as "face of the franchise" or "team leader." Rarely ever does a QB get called a "drama king" or a "diva" the way that Ben Roethlisberger has been referred to by many.
The names stem from Big Ben’s penchant to embellish injuries in order to make him appear even tougher than he really is. Coach Mike Tomlin was once caught on camera telling Big Ben "No John Wayne today," so even his coach admits Roethlisberger likes to revel in the tough-guy role.
16. Jack Tatum
Career: 10 seasons (1971-80)
Teams: Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers
Stats: 136 G, 37 INT, 10 FR, 1 TD
Famous words: “I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.” — Jack Tatum
Bottom Line: Jack Tatum
You often hear retired NFL players saying, “Oh, I couldn’t play in today’s game,” and that quote is usually hyperbolic. But if Tatum said it, it was most definitely true, as he was a ferocious safety who enjoyed blowing up any receiver who came across the middle.
Tatum was nicknamed “The Assassin'' for his hard-hitting style, and his most infamous hit came in 1978 when he collided with Patriots’ receiver Darryl Stingley. The hit ended up paralyzing Stingley and made him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life, yet Tatum drew ire from the entire NFL community by never apologizing for the hit or the result.
15. T.J. Duckett
Position: Running Back
Career: 7 seasons (2002-08)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Washington Football Team, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks
Stats: 93 G, 2,814 YDS, 44 TD, 3.9 AVG
Famous words: “Thanks a bunch Seattle for cutting TJ Duckett. Now he's a free agent, and we have no clue whose TDs he'll vulture.” — @rambodanbo from Twitter
Bottom Line: T.J. Duckett
There’s really only one segment of people that hate T.J. Duckett, and that segment plays fantasy football. During his four years with Atlanta, Duckett was the ultimate touchdown vulture, as either Warrick Dunn or Michael Vick would do the heavy lifting in running the ball, only for Duckett to get the glory with goal-line carries.
Twenty of his 31 touchdowns with the Falcons were 2 yards or fewer, which led to many expletives for the fantasy owners of Dunn or Vick.
14. Chad Johnson
Position: Wide Receiver
Career: 11 seasons (2001-11)
Teams: Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots
Stats: 166 G, 766 REC, 11,059 YDS, 67 TD
Famous words: “[Johnson] literally started crying after practice one day because they didn’t throw him enough passes, and he’s begging Marvin [Lewis], ‘Coach Lewis can we please just … can we extend practice 30 more minutes?’… He’s literally that upset that he didn’t get the football that day.” — Former Bengals Teammate Andrew Whitworth
Bottom Line: Chad Johnson
From the perspective of a fan, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was mostly harmless, and we enjoyed his ability to both entertain and play football. But for those who shared a locker room with Johnson, he was often a distraction and a “me-first” type of player, as evident by his former teammate's famous words.
Johnson was one of the best receivers of his era and was a six-time Pro Bowler, but he could have been a legendary player if he had fully committed himself to playing football. For all his success on the field, it’s hard to be your absolute best when at the same time you’re also racing thoroughbreds, starring in your own reality TV dating show, riding bulls at PBR events and trying out for MLS teams.
13. Conrad Dobler
Career: 10 seasons (1972-81)
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills
Stats: 129 G, 125 GS, 1 TD, Three-time Pro Bowler
Famous words: “What you need when you play against Dobler is a string of garlic buds around your neck and a wooden stake. If they played every game under a full moon, Dobler would make All-Pro. He must be the only guy in the league who sleeps in a casket." — An unnamed rival
Bottom Line: Conrad Dobler
Some players may hate being hated, but Conrad Dobler embraced it and didn’t shy away when Sports Illustrated labeled him “Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player.” He said he would do anything he could get away with, and that included eye-gouging, twisting face masks, leg whipping and biting.
When you have the reputation that Dobler had, referees would focus on his every move to see if anything was against the rules. With that kind of spotlight, most teams would get rid of the offending player, but Dobler was so good at what he did that teams were willing to take the bad with the good.
12. Deion Sanders
Career: 14 seasons (1989-2000, 2004-05)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Football Team, Baltimore Ravens
Stats: 188 G, 53 INT, 512 TKL, 22 TD
Famous words: “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.” — Deion Sanders
Bottom Line: Deion Sanders
Sanders angered many football purists who hated his flashy play and attitude. He would routinely high-step before he even reached the endzone, which then was followed by a touchdown celebration that was still uncommon in the early 1990s. Sanders’ famous words also ticked off many people who felt that he was more about style than substance even though that substance was damn good, as he was the best cornerback of his era.
From the way he dressed to the people he hung out with to releasing his own rap album, Prime Time was one of the first NFL players to identify with the hip-hop culture. That led to some pushback back in his day, but he’s been arguably one of the most influential people for today’s generation of athletes.
11. Terrell Owens
Position: Wide Receiver
Career: 15 seasons (1996-2010)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals
Stats: 219 G, 1,078 REC, 15,934 YDS, 153 TD
Famous words: "I don't have no friends. I don't want no friends. That's how I feel." — Terrell Owens
Bottom Line: Terrell Owens
For a guy who never had a run-in with the law during his playing career, TO still evoked lots of hate from lots of people. His flamboyant personality and attitude were the main drivers of hate as he burned bridges at every stop of his Hall of Fame career.
Notable examples include Owens implying 49ers QB Jeff Garcia was homosexual, Owens getting into a fight with Eagles ambassador Hugh Douglas and Owens saying the Cowboys had a “TR” problem instead of a “TO” problem, thus throwing Tony Romo under the bus.
10. Ndamukong Suh
Position: Defensive Tackle
Career: 11 seasons (2010-present)
Teams: Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 174 G, 563 TKL, 64.5 SACK, 8 FR
Famous words: “I run this defense, I'm going to be here for the next five years, there is no guarantee any of you will be as well. Only a handful of guys are good enough to play with me right now.” — Ndamukong Suh
Bottom Line: Ndamukong Suh
Suh thinks of himself as a team leader, but his included famous words indicate he doesn’t understand what leadership is. He made that quote during his first year in Miami when he was the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and telling your teammates they’re not good enough to play with you isn’t exactly inspiring.
Suh is also hated for his dirty style of play, which included him stomping on a Packers’ lineman in 2011, netting him a two-game suspension. He’s been fined over $600,000 due to personal foul penalties and was named the league’s least liked player by Forbes.
9. Cam Newton
Career: 10 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots
Stats: 140 G, 31,698 YDS, 190 TD, 70 RTD
Famous words: “I see myself not only as a football player but an entertainer and icon.” — Cam Newton
Bottom Line: Cam Newton
Before he even played his first NFL game, Newton uttered his famous words, and some have viewed him in a certain light ever since. They wondered if he was a me-first player, and even after a decade in the NFL, winning an MVP and setting the QB rushing touchdown record, some still don’t like the “style” in which Newton acts.
And it’s not just the old-school, “get off my lawn” crowd that has gone after Newton, as even high schoolers have done the same. At a recent camp hosted by Newton, a teenage player went after Newton to earn himself his 15 minutes of fame on social media.
8. Tony Romo
Career: 14 seasons (2003-16)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Stats: 156 G, 34,183 YDS, 248 TD, 117 INT
Famous words: "Ten years as a starter, you're 2-4 in the playoffs. You ain't won nothing. Come on man, you know you never won the big one. You know you never won the big one … Nineteen (interceptions) in 2012, come on man, you threw to everybody but me." — Deion Sanders
Bottom Line: Tony Romo
The spotlight is always on you when you’re the starting QB of the Dallas Cowboys, as you’re just as much a celebrity as a football player. Because of that, Tony Romo got many opportunities that others wouldn’t have gotten including endorsements and a comfy TV job, following in the footsteps of Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach and Don Meredith.
But those three predecessors of Romo combined for nine NFL Championship/Super Bowl appearances and five rings while Romo never even reached an NFC Championship Game. Still, he’s one of the most popular and wealthiest football players alive simply because he had a star on his helmet and that doesn’t sit well with many.
7. Rodney Harrison
Career: 15 seasons (1994-2008)
Teams: San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots
Stats: 186 G, 1,206 TKL, 34 INT, 30.5 SACK
Famous words: "That's not a surprise," receiver Brandon Stokley said of Harrison being voted NFL’s dirtiest player. "I would have bet my life savings on that one."
Bottom Line: Rodney Harrison
The hate for Harrison is derived from many different sources. One is that he played for the Patriots, which generates hate from all non-Patriot fans. Another is that he was suspended for using HGH during the 2004 season, including for the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVIII victory.
But the biggest source of hate for Harrison revolves around his reputation as being one of the dirtiest players in NFL history. The former All-Pro safety was voted the “dirtiest player” in the league not once, not twice, but three times in his career. He received the dishonor in 2004, 2006 and 2008 with the first two in a vote by fellow players and the last coming from a vote by NFL coaches.
6. James Harrison
Career: 15 seasons (2002, 2004-17)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots
Stats: 193 G, 811 TKL, 84.5 SACK, 34 FF
Famous words: “Roger Goodell, who's a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league. If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him." — James Harrison
Bottom Line: James Harrison
Nicknamed Deebo after Friday fame, Harrison was the biggest bully in the most testosterone-driven sports league in the world. He had that old-school mentality of “kill or be killed” and once said if he ended up with brain damage for his vicious hits, “so be it.”
Harrison’s quote about Goodell also didn’t do him any favors in the NFL’s eyes, as it seemed that Harrison would get flagged for even breathing on an opposing player after saying that.
5. Tom Brady
Career: 21 seasons (2000-present)
Teams: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 301 G, 79,204 YDS, 581 TD, 191 INT
Famous words: “I don't like him, he don't like me. I don't like his hair." — Terrell Suggs
Bottom Line: Tom Brady
Some people hate goat cheese while others simply hate GOATs. And that's definitely the case for Tom Brady. If you’re a fan of one of the teams he’s beaten (basically all of them), you probably hate his guts. In a league built for parity, Brady has been to 10 Super Bowls, winning seven of them, and now winning with two different franchises.
Even some New Englanders who always rooted for Brady now have some hate for him. Brady winning with the Bucs proved that the Patriots’ success was more about him than about the team itself, which has some Pats fans hating Brady for the fact that he’s no longer with their team.
A poll just before the 2020 playoffs showed that the hate from Brady runs deep and wide. Wide as in coast-to-coast, as Brady was voted the NFL’s most hated player by an overwhelming majority of the country.
4. Bill Romanowski
Position: Outside Linebacker
Career: 16 seasons (1988-2003)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders
Stats: 243 G, 1,118 TKL, 39.5 SACK, 18 INT, 18 FR
Famous words: “It's about trying to make big hits, like when you hit someone so hard he doesn't get up. Those are the kind of hits you like." — Bill Romanowski
Bottom Line: Bill Romanowski
Whether it was admitting to using steroids, spitting on opponents, kicking players in the head, racism allegations or breaking the eye socket of his own teammate, there are lots of reasons to dislike Bill Romanowski. In 1997, Romanowski was fined $7,500 for spitting in the face of receiver JJ Stokes, and his then-Broncos teammate Shannon Sharpe said the fine would have been higher if Romo was black. Romanowski clearly didn’t like Sharpe’s comments, and a few years later when they were opponents, Romo blatantly dislocated Sharpe’s elbow during a game.
It comes as no surprise that when Sharpe was asked who the dirtiest player in the NFL was, he responded “Romo No. 1 and 2, 3 and 4.”
3. Ray Lewis
Career: 17 seasons (1996-2012)
Teams: Baltimore Ravens
Stats: 228 G, 2,059 TKL, 41.5 SACK, 31 INT
Famous words: “We’ve talked about so much the last couple years of my career. He just helped me get through a lot of hard times, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him." — Michael Phelps, a Baltimore native
Bottom Line: Ray Lewis
Why is someone like Ray Lewis, who had murder charges dismissed against him, hated by some people more than Rae Carruth, who was found guilty of murder conspiracy charges? Because Carruth put on an NFL jersey just a handful of times while Lewis spent 17 years destroying offenses. Part of the reason why so many outside Baltimore despise Lewis was because he was arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history. But another big reason why Lewis was hated was due to his penchant to invoke God’s name as a reason for everything.
An example of that came when Lewis was asked what he would say to the families of the slain men at the center of his murder case to which Lewis responded: "God has never made a mistake … If you really knew the way God works, He don't use people who commit anything like that for His glory.”
2. Tim Tebow
Career: 3 seasons (2010-12)
Teams: Denver Broncos, New York Jets
Stats: 35 G, 2,422 YDS, 17 TD, 9 INT
Famous words: “I have mouths to feed. I don't need a-come-to-Jesus meeting in the huddle. I need you to give me the play, and let's get out there and let's see what the defense is doing.” — David Anderson, former Broncos teammate of Tebow
Bottom Line: Tim Tebow
Many fans consider Tebow to be possibly the greatest college QB of all time, while also simultaneously the worst pro QB of all-time. But what really alienated him from several of his NFL peers was his faith and his desire to profess it publicly.
An example came when Tebow was at the NFL Combine in 2010, and he and others were set to take the Wonderlic Test. Just before beginning, Tebow asked everyone if they could bow their heads and pray, to which one of the other players responded, “Shut the f--- up,” which elicited laughter in the room.
1. Colin Kaepernick
Career: 6 seasons (2011-16)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers
Stats: 69 G, 12,271 YDS, 72 TD, 30 INT
Famous words: “I cannot say it in the strongest, most direct way, that it’s an embarrassment and it’s about as disrespectful as any athlete has ever been ... I don’t care what the cause is. The NFL football field is not a place for somebody to further their political ambitions.” — Boomer Esiason on Kaepernick kneeling
Bottom Line: Colin Kaepernick
No NFL player has been more polarizing than Colin Kaepernick. Some people love him for his courage to protest police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, but many others did not support his actions — to the point that they protested watching the game altogether.
A poll conducted right after he started kneeling had him as the NFL’s most disliked player, with 29 percent of respondents saying they disliked him a lot compared to just 6 percent before he knelt. But “dislike” is a mild term to use in regard to how many people felt (and, in some cases, still feel) about him, as Kaepernick received death threats “via multiple means.”
That hate meant he lost out on millions of dollars from pulled endorsements and essentially being blackballed from the NFL, all for being the face of a social justice movement that the league eventually would embrace.