Worst Parents In Sports History
When children show promise in sports at a young age, parents are supposed to nurture that talent, if possible.
Part of that nurturing process means making sure children enjoy what they’re doing and don’t get pushed too far. The opposite approach can produce disturbing outcomes.
The need for parents to live vicariously through their sports-playing kids is nothing new, and some of the best athletes of all time can come from some twisted backgrounds.
Here’s a look at the worst parents who ended up with children as pro athletes.
30. John Hernandez (Keith Hernandez)
Keith Hernandez, one of the greatest fielding first basemen in baseball history, grew up in a different era.
As a small child, he ran home and told his father, former minor league baseball player John Hernandez, that a local bully was chasing him and wanted to beat him up. "If you don’t fight, you can’t come back in this house," John Hernandez said, slamming the door in his son’s face.
John Hernandez was relentless teaching his son the game — and knew his swing so well that he fixed slumps throughout Keith’s entire major league career. Each time he made sure to remind his All-Star son: "You could never do this without me."
29. B.J. and Bo Wie (Michelle Wie)
How great could Michelle Wie’s career have been if not for the mistakes made by her parents early on?
Wie turned pro by the age of 16, and with lucrative endorsement deals waiting, Wie’s parents — father, B.J. and mom, Bo — made the puzzling decision to have her play in men’s tournaments for the first several years of her career with disastrous results
Michelle Wie, to her credit, pulled it together once she got out on her own and won a major at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
28. Aleta Kiel (Gunner Kiel)
Gunner Kiel was almost the consensus No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation for the class of 2012 and could’ve gone to school anywhere. So he tried.
First, he committed to in-state Indiana. Then he committed to LSU, which seemed like the perfect fit and a smart move. That’s when his mom, Aleta Kiel, decided to drop all pretext and make an emotional plea for her son — to do what she wanted and play for Notre Dame. Which he did.
One year later he transferred to Cincinnati. Three years later, he wasn’t playing football anymore.
27. Tony Rasmus (Colby Rasmus)
The importance of becoming an adult and maturing into your own person, separate from your parent’s influence, can’t be understated. Nobody remembered to tell this to Tony Rasmus, the father of former major league player Colby Rasmus.
Dad wrecked relationships with at least two teams, the Cardinals and the Blue Jays, because of his meddling, and took shots at legendary manager Tony La Russa and outfielder J.D. Drew along the way.
In summary, Tony Rasmus thought he knew baseball better than one of the greatest minds to ever coach the game.
26. Pamela McGee (Javale McGee)
Pamela McGee, a two-time NCAA women’s basketball champion at USC and the No. 2 overall WNBA draft pick in 1997, was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. Her knowledge of the game is vast.
That’s why it was so confounding when she said her son, middling center Javale McGee, was the future of the NBA in 2012. Pamela McGee never could let a perceived slight to her son go unanswered and couldn’t withstand the criticism of him.
When TNT commentator and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal gave him the nickname "Tragic Bronson" (the opposite of Magic Johnson), mama stepped in and told Shaq to stop bullying her son.
25. Francesc Fabregas Sr. (Cesc Fabregas)
There’s something about what Francesc Fabregas Sr. did that transcends languages or continents, and any loyal follower of any pro team can relate to.
When he started trying to influence a trade of his son, soccer star Cesc Fabregas, from Arsenal to play for FC Barcelona in his native Spain, he was messing with the thing people in Europe love the most — their soccer clubs.
The damage to Cesc Fabregas’ reputation was done. He couldn’t think to speak for himself or even take the time to tell his father to butt out of team business.
24. Mike Agassi (Andre Agassi)
How tough was Mike Agassi, the father of tennis legend Andre Agassi? He was an Olympic boxer from Iran who immigrated to America. So start there.
By the time Andre Agassi was 6 years old, his father was running him through a brutal, unforgiving training regimen that included 5,000 balls a day on homemade, dirt courts with a ball machine cranked to the max.
In his autobiography, Andre Agassi admitted he “hated” tennis for a long time because of his father, who once criticized his performance after winning Wimbledon in 1992, telling his son, "You shouldn’t have lost that fourth set."
23. Annie Apple (Eli Apple)
Every now and then when an athlete comes into the spotlight, there will be a parent who decides to seize the moment and further their own "career" — and usually with disastrous results. Such is the case of Annie Apple, the mother of NFL cornerback Eli Apple, who starred at Ohio State.
She used her son’s newfound fame after the 2016 NFL draft to generate interest in her social media presence and blog. Her criticism of New York Giants ownership, among other ill-timed comments, put her son’s career in jeopardy.
He was traded to the New Orleans Saints in 2018.
22. Andrea McDonald (Alex Collins)
Good parents encourage their children to aim high and do what will make them happy as far as picking a college. Andrea McDonald had different ideas when it came to her son, five-star running back Alex Collins.
When McDonald found out her son was going to sign with the University of Arkansas, she ran off with his national letter of intent and refused to sign it.
Collins had his father sign the letter, and McDonald hired an attorney to try and make her son play for the University of Miami. The move didn't work.
Collins played three seasons at Arkansas, was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2016, then played with the Baltimore Ravens.
21. Roy Jones Sr. (Roy Jones Jr.)
Roy Jones Jr. has his name in the conversation as the best pound-for-pound boxer of all time after a career in which he won titles in four different weight classes. His father and first coach, Roy Jones Sr., credited his coaching prowess more than his son’s prodigious talent.
Because of that, he insisted on his son’s fights being held in a too-small venue in their hometown of Pensacola, Florida, to showcase the other boxers in his stable.
This strong-arm tactic worked for a while, but eventually, Jones Jr. got out from his father’s iron grip, and his career soared.
20. Domitru Moceanu (Dominique Moceanu)
World champion gymnast Dominique Moceanu’s earning potential was at its highest when she was in her early teens — a time when she alleges her father, Domitru Moceanu, squandered millions of dollars she earned in endorsements.
Dominique Moceanue sued for and was granted emancipation from her parents when she turned 17 years old.
After striking out on her own, Dominique Moceanu had to go back to court against her father — this time to prevent him from stalking and harassing her — and the courts stuck a restraining order on him to stay away.
19. Gloria James (LeBron James)
The world first got to know LeBron James and his mom, Gloria James, while he was in high school and she allegedly took out a $50,000 loan based on her son’s future pro basketball earning potential. He was suspended by the state activities board, then later reinstated after a court battle.
During his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gloria James was arrested for DUI in 2006.
During his time with the Miami Heat, she was arrested for assaulting a hotel car valet, who ended up settling the case out of court for a hefty sum.
18. Minna Wilson (Tony Wilson)
British boxer Tony Wilson was taking a beating in the ring from Steve McCarthy in 1989, getting pummeled on the ropes. Wilson appeared ready to drop to the canvas. Out of nowhere, a woman entered the ring and attacked McCarthy with her high heels.
It was Wilson’s mother, Minna Wilson. McCarthy required four stitches from being hit with a shoe, and Minna Wilson was dragged from the ring by her hair by a bodyguard.
McCarthy didn’t return to the ring, and Wilson got the win by default. His mom was banned from any future fights.
17. Cecil Fielder (Prince Fielder)
If you have a long enough baseball memory, your first recollection of Prince Fielder would be sitting in the Detroit Tigers’ dugout next to his father and MLB star Cecil Fielder. So how did the two become estranged for over a decade after Prince Fielder made it to the big leagues?
It starts with Cecil Fielder taking $200,000 of Prince Fielder’s $2.4 million signing bonus from the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002 without his son’s permission and blowing it on gambling, among various other misuses of his son’s finances.
The two appeared to have reconciled somewhat after Prince Fielder announced his retirement from baseball in 2016.
16. Carl and Bonnie Lindros (Eric Lindros)
One word seemed to come up over and over throughout the career of NHL star Eric Lindros when it came to dealing with his parents: tiresome.
Bonnie Lindros and her husband, Carl Lindros, made life hell for various coaches and general managers throughout their son’s career, starting with insisting they pick everywhere he played, which included refusing to play for teams that drafted him No. 1 in the 1990 OHL draft (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and No. 1 in the 1991 NHL draft (Quebec Nordiques).
How controlling were they? They kept detailed spreadsheets of which teammates passed to their son — from pee-wee hockey through the NHL.
15. Marc O’Hair (Sean O’Hair)
The bottom line on Marc O’Hair was that he looked at his son, pro golfer Sean O’Hair, as a commodity.
Marc sold his stake in the family business for $2.75 million to jump-start Sean's career and made his son sign a contract for 10 percent of his earnings for life when he was only 17 years old.
"I know how to make a profit," Marc O’Hair told "60 Minutes" in 2002. "It’s material, labor and overhead. [Sean] is pretty good labor."
After years of physical and mental abuse, Sean O’Hair cut ties with his father and was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2005.
14. Stefano Capriati (Jennifer Capriati)
The pressure to play tennis — and win — started while Jennifer Capriati was still in diapers and her father, Stefano Capriati, began "training" her to be a champion player.
He made his daughter turn pro at just 13 years old (for money), and, big surprise, when things didn’t go well on the pro circuit several years later, she melted down, and her problems culminated in a drug arrest in 1993 at 17 years old.
USA Today columnist Ian O'Connor described Stefano Capriati best in a 2003 article: He treated his daughter like she was a "ponytailed ATM."
13. Lavar Ball (Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball)
Lavar Ball, the father to NBA guard and 2017 No. 2 overall NBA draft pick Lonzo Ball, has etched his face onto the Mount Rushmore of terrible sports parents.
It was Lavar Ball who decided to turn his back on major shoe deals worth upward of $20 million for his son to create the disastrous “Big Baller Brand” shoes. His youngest son, Charlotte Hornets star point guard LaMelo Ball, famously turned his back on the brand in a Facebook documentary series about the family.
Lavar Ball’s antics also led in part to his son’s trade from the Lakers to the Pelicans, trashing the Los Angeles coaching staff, management, players, and in one especially tone-deaf comment, Lakers superstar LeBron James' children.
12. John Tomic (Bernard Tomic)
Bernard Tomic didn’t do himself any favors by declaring he would win a Grand Slam and be the greatest No. 1 player who ever lived when he turned pro.
It was a rep burnished by his father, John Tomic, who early on in his son’s career routinely turned down overtures from other players (including superstar Lleyton Hewitt) to hit with Bernard Tomic because they "weren’t good enough."
In 2011, John Tomic was banned from the ATP Tour for 12 months for head-butting his son’s practice partner, Thomas Drouet, and breaking Douret’s nose. Tomic was sentenced to eight months in prison for the assault.
In June 2019, John Tomic was arrested for drunk driving on Australia’s Gold Coast.
11. Marv Marinovich (Todd Marinovich)
Marv Marinovich was a former USC football captain who helped lead the Trojans to the 1962 national title and then, in an interesting turn, re-invented himself as a sort of Dr. Frankenstein for athletes with his son, Todd Marinovich, as his main experiment.
That included monitoring every aspect of his son’s life in a brutally strict training regimen.
It came as little surprise when Todd Marinovich melted down under the pressure, flamed out in the NFL and entered a two-decade spiral of drug abuse and arrests.
10. Peter Graf (Steffi Graf)
Arguably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, Steffi Graf was ranked No. 1 in the world for 377 weeks — the longest for any men’s or women’s player in history. She also had arguably the No.1 worst parent in the history of tennis.
Her father, Peter Graf, was Steffi Graf’s manager, controlling all aspects of her career and life — including her finances.
This was bad because when German officials accused her of failing to pay $7.3 million in taxes, it turned out it was Peter Graf who was at fault, and he was sentenced to over three years in prison.
Peter Graf died in 2013.
9. Jim Pierce (Mary Pierce)
Three-time Grand Slam champion Mary Pierce — two singles, one doubles — said her father, Jim Pierce, made her life "hell on earth," until she was able to leave the family home at 18 years old.
Jim Pierce was physically and verbally abusive with his daughter in public and was ultimately banned from the WTA Tour for being abusive to his daughter’s opponents. At one point, his daughter even issued a restraining order against him.
A born-again Christian, Mary Pierce was able to forgive her father and re-establish a relationship with him before he died in 2017.
8. Don Conroy (Pat Conroy)
Pat Conroy was a standout basketball player for The Citadel in the late 1960s — all of which served as a preamble to a career as one of the greatest American novelists.
His debut book, "The Great Santini," was a fictional account of his life with his father, Don Conroy, a highly decorated U.S. military colonel who fought in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
He also rained physical and emotional abuse down on his children for decades — one daughter was committed to a mental institution, one son committed suicide, and Pat Conroy attempted to take his own life several times.
Don Conroy died in 1998. Pat Conroy died in 2016.
7. Jack and Tina Johnson (Jack Johnson Jr.)
Longtime NHL standout Jack Johnson Jr. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2014, citing $50,000 in assets and upward of $10 million in debt he claimed to be totally unaware of taking on.
His parents, Jack and Tina Johnson, were given the power of attorney when he was 19 years old and blew through his seven-year, $30 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. They also took out loans in excess of $10 million in their son’s name that he was unaware of.
Johnson signed a five-year, $16.25 million contract with the Penguins in 2018 that will get him out of debt. And he no longer speaks with his parents.
6. Shane Ryan (Bobby Ryan)
In 1997, Shane Stevenson brutally attacked his wife, Melody, in a drunken rage, leaving her with four broken ribs, a skull fracture and a punctured lung.
He was charged with attempted murder and went on the run, fleeing New Jersey for Canada, then California, where he created new identities for himself, his wife and 10-year-old son, Bobby, a wunderkind hockey player, who both forgave him and joined him on the run.
They were caught, three years later, when they tried to rent a movie from Blockbuster using an old credit card.
Five years after that, Bobby, who still uses the last name "Ryan" was picked No. 2 overall in the NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks.
5. Karl Malone (Demetress Bell and Cheryl Ford)
Demetress Bell didn’t make his father’s identity public until after he was drafted out of Northwestern State to play offensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills. Turns out his dad was former NBA forward and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone, one the greatest power forwards of all time.
Malone impregnated Bell’s mother when she was 13 years old, and he was 20. Malone somehow avoided arrest and eventually had to pay a hefty settlement to Bell’s mother.
When Bell reached out to his father at 18 years old, Malone told him it was "too late to start a relationship." Bell isn't Malone's only child that became a pro athlete — daughter Cheryl Ford is a three-time WNBA champion.
4. Steve and Sue Jefferson's (Mike Danton)
Steve and Sue Jefferson made the decision to essentially cede control of raising their teenage son, future NHL player Mike Danton, to a junior hockey coach named David Frost.
Frost ran an elite junior team outside of Toronto that hid a world of sexual and mental abuse from Frost toward players.
Danton, who changed his name from Jefferson in 2002, was arrested for hiring a hitman to kill Frost just days after playing in the 2004 NHL playoffs.
Danton claimed he actually hired the hitman to kill his father, served five years in prison, then returned to pro hockey in Sweden in 2011.
3. Damir Dokic (Jelena Dokic)
There are a lot of out-of-control sports parents, but few can top the sheer audacity of Damir Dokic, father to the former No. 2 player in the world, Jelena Dokic.
Damir physically and verbally abused his daughter and almost pulled a career Grand Slam of a different variety after he was thrown out of Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Australian Open. After he was tossed from the Australian Open, he threatened to bomb the Australian embassy in Belgrade, where he lived, with hand grenades.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and served 12 months.
In 2011, she said she had reconciled with him.
2. Rosalio Pacquiao (Manny Pacquiao)
Though the story has taken several different forms, legendary boxer Manny Pacquiao has confirmed the basics of what happened to him when he was 12 years old and growing up in the Philippines.
Living in abject poverty, Rosalio Pacquiao, his father, returned home drunk one night. Father and son began to argue over the money the father had just spent drinking. In response, Rosalio Pacquiao killed and cooked his son’s dog in front of the family and served it to them as a meal.
Manny Pacquiao ran away from home, choosing to live on the streets rather than spend another minute with his dad.
Rosalio Pacquiao has denied he ate the family dog, and the boxer reportedly is now on good terms with his father after a feud.
1. John O’Sullivan (Patrick O’Sullivan)
Former NHL player Patrick O'Sullivan detailed his harrowing childhood in a Players' Tribune article in 2015 titled "Black & Blue."
Former minor league hockey player "Crazy" John O’Sullivan beat his son mercilessly from the time he was a small child — fists, belts, leather whips and electrical cords were fair game as weapons, as were lit cigarettes put out on skin.
Before one game, Patrick O’Sullivan’s equally awful mother told him: "You better play well, or it’s going to be really bad tonight." John O’Sullivan was eventually arrested for the abuse and went to jail. Patrick O'Sullivan, who retired from the NHL in 2013, no longer has a relationship with his parents, and his healing continues.