One of the biggest news-making stories from the NFL this year was a bullying scandal. The conflict involved Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Dolphins and revolved around text and voice mail messages that were aggressive, racially charged, and threatening to Martin and members of his family. The official story was that Martin had missed several practices and team workouts and Incognito had been instructed to get him in line and toughen him up by coaches.
The actions taken and words chosen by Incognito obviously went too far, as Jonathan Martin left the team in late October, due to emotional issues. He did not play for the rest of the season. In February, after a lengthy investigation; attorney Ted Wells issued a report which stated that there had been ongoing harassment between Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey and Jonathan Martin, another lineman and a team assistant trainer. Throughout the season and especially in the wake of the publication of this report, there was discussion in the NFL over where the line stands between locker room banter and harassment. Some obviously joined Martin’s side, while many flocked to the defense of Incognito, arguing that Martin could dish out foul and aggressive language as well as anyone else. Whatever the truth of the matter, both men missed most of the season as Martin sat it out and Incognito was suspended indefinitely. The suspension was lifted in early February 2014. Due in part to missing two of his starting linemen, Ryan Tannehill was sacked more times than any other quarterback last year.
While this bullying scandal did cause some controversy, and led to some discourse regarding issues of locker room atmosphere and harassment in professional sports, it was by no means among the most severe or shocking events in sports history. Here is a list of scandals more serious than Incognito and Martin. For these, we have tried to focus on scandals involving hazing, multiple teammates, coaches and the team apparatus, along with serious laws being broken and scandals that involved a conspiracy or cover up. For these reasons, Ray Lewis and the murder investigation will not be listed, nor will Michael Vick and the dog fighting charge and conviction. There are obviously many more, and any additional scandals you think should be here can be deposited into the vault known as the comments section. This is just a list of 10 scandals that could be seen as more severe and controversial than the Miami Dolphins’ case of 2013. No, PED’s in baseball or sports in general will not be in this article, as that issue is so overdone that it’s barely even newsworthy anymore.
10. The 2005 Minnesota Vikings Love Boat
The “’05 Love Boat” is by far my favorite name for this scandal. If you don’t remember, members of the Vikings rented some boats back during the 2005 off-season and had a party with some ladies of the night. If boat workers hadn’t run their mouths about it, then it may have just ended up being a great few days, quietly spoke about among members of the group and a big pile of money in the pockets of the “workers” involved. If it involves two consenting adults, I usually argue to keep the law and all thoughts of punishment out of it, but the NFL doesn’t feel the same way. Much of this scandal only amounted to allegations and not much really happened to the players involved.
9. The Horse Murders Scandal
Essentially, this series of events took place between the 70’s and 90’s and was a massive conspiratorial case of insurance fraud on the part of several horse owners in the United States. Large insurance policies were taken out on horses and then the horses were killed in order to collect on those policies. In some cases, the horses were overvalued and underperforming purchases and investors/owners did not want to risk a lack of profit. On more than one occasion, several conspirators tricked older investors, usually widows, into purchasing lousy show horses and then had the animals killed so that the investors would never find out that they were cheated.
In the end, thirty-six people were tried for this type of crime with charges ranging from fraud and racketeering to animal cruelty. In total, thirty-five were convicted.
8. Pay for Play in Colleges
Three NCAA programs have been in hot water for paying their athletes, with the first being the Michigan Wolverines where Ed Martin, a booster of the basketball team, paid players and provided various favors to these players, among them Chris Webber, not to mention involving them in his gambling affairs.
Nevin Shapiro, affiliated with the Univeristy of Miami (Florida, the good one, not the Ohio one) had a similar set up with members of both the basketball and football teams which exploded back in 2010 and 2011. Finally, possibly the most infamous of these was the South Methodist Football team who were given the NCAA “death penalty” in the late 80’s for a pay for play scandal organised by school officials.
I’m not going to get into the issue of whether NCAA athletes should get paid, because if I did, and considered all of the arguments, for and against, moral, ethical and economic, it would turn into a book.
7. 2000 Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team
This type of scandal has been parodied so brilliantly by Family Guy and South Park that I am holding back guilty laughter as I write this. Yes, in 2000, the Spanish team participating in basketball for people with intellectual disabilities was determined to have not carried out the proper tests to determine the actual intelligence of its members. Ten of twelve were eventually shown to not have any disability whatsoever and the team was disqualified after having won the gold. It’s taking all of my self-control to keep from making jokes, so let’s move on to something else.
6. Windsor Spitfires/Steve Downie/Akim Aliu Hazing
For those of you unfamiliar: the London Knights are a hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) on which Akim Aliu, who has been between the NHL and AHL for a few years and NHL brutalizer Steve Downie played back in 2005-2006. Aliu, as a rookie, refused to participate in a hazing ritual in which rookies had to stand naked together in a bus bathroom. After his refusal, Downie, who the NHL now knows has issues, crosschecked three of his teeth out, prompting a fight between the two shortly thereafter. The press got a hold of it and their coach Moe Mantha received a lengthy suspension of 40 games. Hazing has had a bad rap in the past few years. When I played high school football, “initiation” was a mudslide on a cold day and funnelling a few beers at a “rookie party.” I guess I was one of the lucky ones. More on hazing a bit later.
5. New Orleans Saints Bounty Program
What happened in New Orleans was that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams set up a situation in which players were paid to deliver big, and sometimes injuring hits, on opponents. This system was allegedly active during the year in which the Saints most recently won the Super Bowl (2009), so we can’t really say it didn’t work. For their parts in the program, Williams was suspended indefinitely, Sean Payton, the Saints’ head coach, was suspended for a year and the other coaches were dealt lesser punishments. Players involved were originally going to be punished but these decisions were overturned in December of 2012.
4. McGill University Football
I can’t really include a single event here because there are two notorious ones. One is very recent and one goes back to 2005. In January of this year, the McGill University Redmen (in Montreal, Canada) football team had three of its players be accused of sexually assaulting a young woman who was a student at another University in the city. Allegedly, the school knew about it for some time but simply did not act.
The other incident was in relation to a hazing incident back in 2005, in which a freshman center; D’arcy McKeown, was allegedly given the ol’ broom stick as part of a long standing initiation ritual. Other players and former players on the team questioned the validity of the young man’s claim, arguing that it was a scare tactic, but either way, it was deemed to have been a step too far and the team’s last few games of the season were cancelled due to the media uproar.
2. Steubenville High School and Savannah Dietrich Sexual Assault Cases
There are two cases listed together because they are very similar in nature. These are tied at second place with the Penn State scandal (to be seen next) because I’m not going to try to say sexual assault on girls at parties are worse or better than assaulting young boys at Penn State. They are equally horrible.
In the case of Savannah Dietrich, she was sexually assaulted by football players at a party, while she was passed out drunk in August 2011. The details of the entire crime were essentially made viral after they were photographed and spread by the two young men to their friends. Both of the young men in this case were found guilty but were basically given a slap on the wrist.
The Steubenville case involved, yet again, high school football players fooling around with a girl so drunk she was unable to respond. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were both sent to juvenile institutions following their convictions, with Richmond serving just one year, having been released back in January. Mays is still in detention. Adults at their school, such as the principal and coaches, were also dealt misdemeanor charges for the alleged cover up in the wake of the incident.
2. The Penn State Sex Scandal
In this cringe-worthy example of shady behavior in relation to college sports, we return to the fifteen year-long abuse conducted by Jerry Sandusky while he was an assistant coach of the Nittany Lions football team. Between ‘94 and ’09, it was determined that Sandusky had sexually assaulted several young males close to or on the university property. In the wake of Sandusky’s behavior, he was sentenced to thirty years minimum in prison, while those accused of covering up his behavior, including Joe Paterno, the head coach, Tim Curley the athletic director and Graham Spanier, the Penn State President, all resigned.
1. 2003 Baylor University Basketball Scandal
In 2003, Patrick Dennehy and Carlton Dotson were members of the Baylor Bears men’s basketball team. After both receiving threats from other players on the team, they felt that they were in significant danger, and purchased weapons. They regularly practiced shooting on a large property north of Waco, Texas. One day during an argument, Dotson shot and killed Dennehy, leaving the body in a gravel pit near the property where they practiced shooting. The ensuing investigation revealed multiple NCAA violations, including misleading investigators regarding the murder, which implicated coaches and others tied to the Baylor team, resulting in extremely harsh fines levied against the school’s athletic program.
Dotson is currently serving a 35 year sentence for the murder.