Sports stars are not immune to criminal behavior. Though money can buy many things, immunity from crime isn’t one of them. Every once in a while, news breaks about these incidents. This news always captures the media’s attention, and sometimes even the world’s attention. Below are the 10 craziest off-the-field incidents by NFL players. Prepare yourself: some of these stories get pretty crazy. Let’s begin with the more recent case of Josh Gordon.
10. Josh Gordon — Violated Substance Abuse Policy
The first entrant on this list is a player who has pulled in massive numbers for the Cleveland Browns in his short stint with the team. He even became the first player to have back-to-back 200+ yard receiving games. That’s what made it all the worse for a team who greatly needed his talents. On August 26th, 2014, Gordon was suspended for one year for a failed drug test. Specifically, he failed the test due to marijuana showing up in his system. Gordon claimed he hadn’t smoked any illegal herbs, which is where it gets weird. It was “second-hand smoke”. Gordon claimed he didn’t smoke anything. As bizarre as this explanation was, it did nothing to help his case as Gordon was also suspended for 2 games last season for having marijuana in his system.
9. Plaxico Burress — Accidental Shooting of Self (2008)
This story is an odd one. Burress, a wide receiver for the New York Giants at the time, was having a great time at a New York City nightclub (the LQ). While relaxing, some sort of trouble broke out. Plaxico, in his infinite wisdom, attempts to pull out his hidden handgun. Problem: the gun slides down his leg and goes off. Striking his right thigh, only one shot rang out. Being rushed to the hospital, Burress gets his wound treated and is released from the hospital shortly thereafter. Nobody turned him in. It was Plaxico himself who did it two days later. Mayor Bloomberg became outraged that the hospital did not follow protocol and contacted the New York Giants. The Giants’ first whiff of this story came from television. Ultimately, Plaxico was sentenced to two years in prison for multiple charges (including stashing guns in his home). Today, Burress is a sports analyst for SportsNet.
8. Chris Henry — Various Offenses (Mid-2000s)
Chris Henry’s life is a sad one. A great talent at West Virginia University, Henry’s troubles began to surface during his college career. He was ejected from a game against Rutgers University due to multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. With a fresh start in 2005, Henry was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. This next step in his life, however, wouldn’t remodel Henry’s actions. Chris’s rap sheet includes speeding, marijuana possession and supplying underage girls (ages 18, 16, 15) alcohol. With a promise to turn his life around in 2008, hopes were high for Henry. Tragically, his turnaround was cut dramatically short when Chris was involved in an automobile accident. While involved in a domestic dispute on the road, Henry (who was sitting in the back of a truck), fell out and sustained blunt head force trauma. He died shortly thereafter.
7. Donte Stallworth — DUI Manslaughter — (2009)
What’s up with wide receivers appearing on this list? To keep the trend going, Stallworth appears at the number seven spot on this list. A new acquisition by the Cleveland Browns, Stallworth was looking forward to his future with the team. However, that would all come to a halt in the early hours of March 14th, 2009. In Florida, a man was hurrying home after working the graveyard shift. At around 7:15am, the man was struck by Donte’s car. The accident turned out to be fatal, and Stallworth was charged with DUI Manslaughter. After all of the court proceedings, Donte only served 24 days of a 30-day jail sentence (along with over 1,000 hours of community service). The NFL player is now a free agent.
6. Michael Vick — Dog Fighting Ring — (2007)
Easily one of the most bizarre sports stories you will ever see, the saga of the Michael Vick scandal began on April 25th, 2007, when authorities began to investigate Vick in connection with his cousin’s supposed drug operations. The police found evidence of a dog fighting ring in southeastern Virginia, including full-fledged facilities in which to hold these fights. Not only was Vick a financier of these activities, but he also participated in executing under-performing dogs. If that wasn’t enough, these dog fighting rings were also a bevy for drugs and gambling. A media circus ensued, pulling in everyone who had access to a television. In the end, Vick received a sentence of three years in prison (of which he served a little under two), and was released on July 20th, 2009.
5. Ray Lewis — Murder Indictment — (2000)
Possibly the most famous linebacker of all time, Ray Lewis will be considered a legend in the decades to come. With all legends comes controversy, and Lewis’s career is ripe with it. Most notably, Lewis was involved in the murder of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Late after a Super Bowl XXXIV party, Lewis’ entourage became engaged in a scuffle with another group of people. Baker and Lollar were the unlucky ones caught up in the fight. Ray was questioned by police, but eventually struck a plea agreement. In exchange for Ray testifying against his two cohorts, his sentence would be reduced to 12 months probation. Blood was found in Ray’s limousine and the white suit he was wearing that night was never found.
4. Ray Rice — Domestic Violence — (2014)
Sweeping the NFL in 2014 is an awful trend. In the eye of this storm is former Ravens running back Ray Rice. It all started on March 27th, 2014, when Rice engaged in a domestic dispute with his fiancé. He struck her in the head, knocking her unconscious. However, it didn’t turn into a media mega storm until the video of this incident was released in September 2014. Once the public actually witnessed the despicable actions taken by Rice, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely. The video is disturbing, seeing as how Rice not only knocks her out, but also drags her unconscious body out of the elevator where the dispute occurred. Ray’s number has been taken down by his high school and many have shunned the former star athlete.
3. Adrian Peterson — Child Abuse — (2014)
Trailing shortly behind the Ray Rice scandal, Adrian Peterson‘s own situation also became a major focus of sports media. Occurring within a month of Rice’s indictment, Adrian was indicted on September 11th, 2014 on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. The incident in question took place on May 18th, 2014. Peterson supposedly took a switch (a small tree branch) and whacked his child with it multiple times. Peterson has stated that this type of behavior is what he grew up with and that it’s the only way he knows to discipline his child. The odd manner in which he hit his son elevates this story from not only sad, to bizarre as well.
2. Aaron Hernandez — Murder Indictment — (2013)
A promising and gifted young athlete, the former New England Patriots tight end may have been leading a double life during his time in the NFL. Hernandez‘s home was searched on June 18th, 2013 in connection with a friend’s (Odin Lloyd) death. The weird part of the story comes when, after searching the home, it was found that Aaron intentionally destroyed his home security system. Eventually, pictures from the security system surfaced, and they only made the NFL player look worse. The pictures show Hernandez toting a gun both before and after the death of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez is currently sitting in jail, awaiting his trial.
1. O.J. Simpson — Murder Indictment — (1995)
It’s the biggest sports trial ever held. The story itself has it all: a dramatic car chase, engaging characters in the trial, and a verdict no one saw coming. Simpson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, became the center of national attention when he became engaged in a low speed pursuit while running from the cops. Five days earlier, Simpson’s ex-wife and friend were found dead in front of O.J.’s condo. O.J. was supposed to turn himself in. He didn’t, hence the chase to bring him in. After being indicted with two counts of murder, Simpson was involved in what was known as the “trial of the century.” After a closely watched trial, Simpson was found not guilty of both charges. However, in 2007, O.J. was charged and convicted of robbery in Las Vegas. He was initially sentenced to 33 years imprisonment.