The Worst Sports Role Models
Should athletes be considered role models? The answer is debatable, but what's a fact is that some sports figures are examples of how not to conduct yourself.
Spoiler alert: The worst sports role models begin and end with NFL owners. In between these egomaniacal blowhards, the lineup includes pro football players (including a lot of quarterbacks), a couple of boxers and several professional athletes who seemed to think they were boxers.
The anti-heroes include liars, thieves and murderers — even though some turned in iconic careers and were revered for certain periods of time.
Here are the bad apples. On and off the field.
#25: Robert Kraft, NFL Owner
He has long been considered the crème de la crème of NFL owners. Since Robert Kraft bought the New England Patriots in 1994, the team has won a record six Super Bowls.
But in early 2019, Kraft was charged with a pair of misdemeanors in Florida for soliciting acts of prostitution. He was caught in a sting during which police were investigating a day spa for both prostitution and human trafficking.
#24: Grayson Allen, NBA Guard
Before the Utah Jazz drafted Grayson Allen in 2018, he had a bout with infamy playing for Duke University. In 2016, he intentionally tripped a Louisville player. In the team’s next game with Louisville, Allen got a technical foul and was ejected for yelling at a referee.
Within weeks, Allen tripped yet another opponent. It happened again in 2017, and Allen got a one-game suspension. Later that season in the ACC tournament, he registered yet another trip and a flagrant foul.
His tripping problem seems to be cured, but he still gets booed as an NBA player.
#23: Tiger Woods, PGA Golfer
Tiger Woods rose to be one of the most popular athletes in the world and was the No. 1-ranked golfer before his personal life unraveled in 2009.
He stepped away from the PGA Tour when the media reported on a series of extramarital affairs, including one with a porn star, that led to a messy public divorce.
Injuries have hampered Woods’ career since, and his public image took a hit in 2017 after a DUI arrest.
#22: Barry Bonds, MLB Outfielder
Barry Bonds played seven strong years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, then became a prolific slugger for the San Francisco Giants for 15 years. But his career and achievements were tarnished by steroid use.
In 2007, he was indicted on charges of lying and obstructing justice in a federal investigation into performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds is the biggest star to have his athletic endeavors tainted by steroids, including many other male and female athletes, such as Jose Canseco (MLB) and Marion Jones (women’s track and field).
#21: Tonya Harding, Olympic Figure Skater
The recent Oscar-winning bio-pic "I, Tonya" has softened Harding’s image, history still shows that she was involved in a messy scandal.
In 1994, her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, planned an attack on Harding’s main Olympic skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan.
How involved Harding was is not crystal clear, but the rough-edged, chain-smoking skater did plead guilty to hindering the prosecution and was banned from her sport for life.
#20: Johnny Manziel, Free-Agent Quarterback
College success and a Heisman Trophy didn’t translate to professional success in the NFL or the CFL. Even when "Johnny Football" was a star at Texas A&M, there were misdemeanor arrests, drug use and allegations of domestic violence.
After getting drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel was a bust on the field and a playboy rogue off it. The Browns dumped him. Now, the entire CFL has banned him.
He’s looking for a shot in the new AAF or XFL. The play-caller on a real-life version of the "Mean Machine" from "The Longest Yard" may be where he winds up.
#19: John Daly, PGA Golfer
Dean Wormer’s advice in "Animal House" — "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life" — would have fallen on deaf ears if it had been directed to John Daly.
His "grip-it-and-rip-it" approach to driving often caused golf balls to soar off the tee. But his battle with the bottle caused him to withdraw from a pair of majors, and he was once scooped up by the police after being found drunk outside a Hooters.
In his autobiography, Daly claims to have lost upward of $60 million by gambling the money away.
#18: Lamar Odom, NBA Forward
He won a pair of NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in a town known for being home to the Kardashian clan.
Lamar Odom married Khloe Kardashian and became a regular on the bubble gum reality show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."
Bad enough — but in 2015, following DUIs and divorce proceedings, Odom was found unconscious at a Nevada brothel after overdosing on cocaine. He recovered and is working on staying sober.
#17: Pete Rose, MLB Player/Manager
What a crying shame that "Charlie Hustle" belongs on a list of bad sports role models.
He’s the all-time Major League Baseball leader in hits (4,256) and games played (3,562), and he only played the game at one speed — full.
But when you’re playing and managing in pro sports, you can’t bet on your own games, as Rose has admitted to doing, which has kept him out of the Hall of Fame.
#16: Rosie Ruiz, Marathoner
In 1980, Rosie Ruiz was declared the women's winner of the Boston Marathon, with a time of 2:31:56, a record at the time.
The oddity was Ruiz had beaten a previous best time by nearly a half hour — and was the first signal that she’d cheated. Eyewitnesses placed Ruiz coming out of the subway near the race finish line. She was stripped of the title a week later.
News reports indicate Ruiz was arrested for embezzlement in 1982 and was arrested for being involved in a cocaine deal the following year.
#15: Lenny Dykstra, MLB Outfielder
The three-time All-Star who played in the major leagues from 1985 to 1996 with the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies was a hard-nosed player who earned the nickname "Nails."
But after his playing days, Lenny Dykstra faced hard time in jail after a long string of bad financial choices.
Among the two dozen legal actions against him: credit card fraud, lying under oath during a bankruptcy hearing, grand theft auto and money laundering.
In March 2019, he pled guilty to disorderly conduct stemming from an altercation with an Uber driver.
#14: Ben Roethlisberger, NFL Quarterback
The Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers is a fan favorite for his on-field actions — but he’s not going to win any Man of the Year Awards during the #MeToo movement.
Infamous porn star Stormy Daniels wrote that Roethlisberger "terrified" her at a hotel in 2006.
"Big Ben" was suspended without pay by the NFL for part of the 2010 season following allegations of sexual assault on a Georgia college student. And that was after similar charges from a casino hostess in 2009.
#13: Lance Armstrong, Professional Cyclist
The world’s most famous bike rider won seven Tour de France titles and a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics. But the whispers were true: Armstrong was found guilty of being a leader of the most sophisticated doping program in cycling history.
Consequently, he was stripped of all his accolades and barred from competition.
Asked in 2015 if he’d do it all over again, Armstrong replied, "Probably."
#12: Ryan Leaf, NFL Quarterback
In 1998, the San Diego Chargers traded up in the draft to get the rights to pick Ryan Leaf. The boorish, out-of-shape, overpaid Leaf became an immediate bust. His poor play went hand-in-hand with alienating teammates, fans and the media.
After a string of injuries and interceptions — and just four wins in three seasons — the Chargers released him.
By 2009, Leaf was indicted on burglary and drug charges, and then again in 2012 in Montana, where he saw prison time.
#11: Floyd Mayweather, Professional Boxer
He held world titles in five weight classes and is considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in recent history. But it would be better if Mayweather limited his fisticuffs to the boxing ring.
Domestic violence and battery convictions in 2002 were followed by two more counts filed by two different women in 2004.
In 2005, the object of Mayweather’s ire was a bouncer.
In 2010, he faced felony battery charges from his former girlfriend, and after a plea bargain, served 90 days in jail.
#10: Ron Artest, NBA Forward
He legally changed his name to Metta World Peace, but when Ron Artest was in the NBA, his style of play was hardly peaceful.
He was suspended by the Indiana Pacers for two games for asking for a month off from the season, three games for destroying a TV camera, and four games for a confrontation with Miami coach Pat Riley.
His "greatest hit" was the 2004 Pacers-Detroit Pistons brawl. Artest went into the stands and involved fans in the fight, which earned him an 86-game suspension.
On a happier note, Artest and the fan who ignited at "Malice at the Palace" reportedly became friends.
#9: Plaxico Burress, NFL Wide Receiver
Plaxico Burress was an exceptional wide receiver in the NFL, but made all kinds of poor choices off the field. His biggest blunder occurred while he was playing with the New York Giants in 2008.
Burress carried an unlicensed pistol in his jeans into a New York City nightclub. He accidentally pulled the trigger of the gun and shot himself.
The wound was slight, but the penalty was a suspension without pay and two years in prison.
#8: Michael Vick, NFL Quarterback
As the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick was fleet afoot and became the first NFL quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season in 2006.
But Vick couldn’t outrun felony charges of participating in an interstate dog fighting venture. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to financing the operation, as well as being involved in killing a number of dogs who didn’t perform well.
He was suspended by the NFL and served 21 months in a federal prison.
Vick turned the negative into a positive and became an advocate for ending dogfighting.
#7: Ray Rice, NFL Running Back
Ray Rice was a major reason the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season. But two years later, he was arrested and indicted for assaulting his fiancé in a casino elevator, knocking her unconscious.
The security video footage of that event went viral after it was released by TMZ.
Rice’s contract was terminated by Baltimore, and he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in 2014. He was reinstated but has not played professional football since 2013.
#6: Mike Tyson, Professional Boxer
If you loved "Iron Mike" playing himself in the "Hangover" movies, hold off on the accolades for the convicted rapist.
Mike Tyson is an iconic former boxer who stormed onto the scene in 1985 as a ferocious 20-year-old and became the first and only heavyweight to simultaneously hold and defend the WBA, WBC and IBF titles.
Then, some personal demons surfaced. Along with serving three years in jail for raping Miss Black Rhode Island in 1991, Tyson has been arrested for DUI and felony drug possession, crashed into a police car, and still has one of the most bizarre facial tattoos of all time.
#5: Rae Carruth, NFL Wide Receiver
The first-round 1997 draft pick of the Carolina Panthers played one season in the NFL before breaking his foot. A year later, Rae Carruth went to jail for participating in a plot to kill a woman who was pregnant with his child.
The court determined Carruth stopped his car in front of the vehicle driven by Cherica Adams so that an associate could pull up and shoot her.
She died. The child was born with permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy.
He was found guilty of conspiring to murder, served 18 years of a 24-year prison sentence in North Carolina and was released in 2018.
#4: Oscar Pistorius, South African Paralympic Runner
He was an inspiration to many as a double amputee who competed in both the Paralympic and the Olympic games.
But on Valentine’s Day 2014, Oscar Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend inside his Pretoria, South Africa, home.
He claimed that he feared an intruder was in his house, but after a series of trials and appeals, Pistorius was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.
#3: Aaron Hernandez, NFL Tight End
From 2010 to 2012, Aaron Hernandez was a major contributor to the offense of the powerful New England Patriots.
During the 2013 offseason, he was charged with the murder of a man who was dating his fiancée’s sister.
Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to life behind bars. In 2017, he was found dead in his cell in what was declared a suicide.
#2: O.J. Simpson, NFL Running Back
It’s hard to find a worse role model than "The Juice.”" His stellar career in the NFL was followed by a broadcasting and acting career.
Then in 1994, as the world watched, O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and Ron Goldman.
Simpson was acquitted by a jury, then lost in a civil suit that awarded the victims' families $33.5 million in a wrongful death suit.
He subsequently served nine years in jail for participating in an armed robbery attempt.
#1: Dean Spanos, NFL Owner
Dean Spanos' name goes on the nameplate, but he’s also a stand-in for other NFL owners (Stan Kroenke, Al and Mark Davis, Robert Irsay, Art Model, etc.) who shamelessly yank community institutions from one city to another to double the billions in their bank accounts.
Spanos and company aren’t doing anything illegal, but moving the Chargers from San Diego to Los Angeles was morally bankrupt and felony stupid.
It’s fair to say that murderers, rapists and thugs are worse role models — but of the ones on this list, nine were employed by the oft-soulless, deep-pocketed scoundrels who own NFL football teams.