The Bart Starr Award is given to “the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community” and is often given to players of high moral character. Also, there are moral clauses in the contracts of professional athletes that prohibit specific behavior. Violation of these moral clauses can cause everything from game suspensions and fines to being blacklisted in the world of sports, not to mention losing lucrative endorsement deals.
Outsiders have to wonder why a professional athlete would jeopardize their livelihood and ability to play the sport they love. However, when faced with instant fame, millions of dollars, and gold diggers at every turn, it’s a little more understandable how some sports celebrities have faltered. While there have been some minor snafus through the years that can quickly be forgotten, there are some professional athletes whose accomplishments have been overshadowed by their sexual exploits. Check out our list for the 15 sport celebrities with a shocking sexual past, and see how athletes might have more in common with rock stars than you might think.
15 Alex Rodriguez - Promiscuous Affair
Long before Alex Rodriguez started tacking on Hollywood’s “It” girls to the long list of notches on his bedpost, he was a family man that was mostly just known for his stellar hitting skills on the field. That quickly changed when paparazzi snapped photos of him coming out of a hotel with a stripper during his time as a “happily married” man. Later it was revealed that it wasn’t just a one-time slip-up, and he was allegedly carrying on a torrid affair. While his marriage came to its inevitable demise, it was the start of his infamous reputation for one-night stands.
14 Ben Roethlisberger - Night-Time Deviant (Allegedly)
Drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, there were high hopes for Ben Roethlisberger’s football career. Receiving numerous accolades throughout this professional career, including a win in Super Bowl XL, it seemed that Roethlisberger was on the top of his game. However, his personal life was filled with strife that started to not only negatively affect his professional career, but also public perception. He was accused of sexual assault on two different occasions, and he was forced to undergo a “behavior evaluation.” He was also suspended for numerous games, even though he was never formally charged with any criminal sexual charges.
13 Jason Collins - Came Out Of The Closet, Reception Mixed
While the entertainment and music industry have definitely evolved to be more open to homosexual artists, the world of sports seems to be the last to be accepting of homosexual players. Michael Sam made headlines when he became the first openly gay player to make it to the NFL when he was first drafted by the Rams in 2015, but it was Jason Collins that made headlines when he made the shocking revelation about his sexual orientation back in 2013. Unlike Michael Sam, who made his sexual orientation known from the get-go, Jason Collins had already played as a professional basketball player on numerous teams before he revealed his longtime secret.
12 Fred Smoot - Remember The Yacht Incident?
When the HBO series, Ballers, wrapped up their first season, some fans viewed the yacht episode with a familiar smirk. Since the episode depicted a story ripped from a 2005 headline, it was ironic that it included the same debaucheries of the Fred Smoot/Vikings incident. There were a few slight differences, since Ballers only had one yacht filled with prostitutes and Fred Smoot sprung for two rented boats. However, they were the same in that the photos of lewd acts and remnants of the over-the-top party made its way into public knowledge. While everyone has their own way to celebrate during a week off of work, hiring a multitude of prostitutes and taking photos of you and all your friends in various positions may not be the right way to party when you’ve signed a contract with a morals clause.
11 Dennis Rodman - Past Time Revealed
Although Dennis Rodman played for a number of different NBA teams, the public tends to remember him more for his eccentric personality and outrageous sexual exploits rather than his skills on the basketball court. While the whirlwind marriage to Carmen Electra was shocking in and of itself, it was a certain incident during a 2010 hotel party that puts him on the list for a shocking sexual past. It isn’t out of the question for celebrities of all kinds to host large hotel parties and even have episodes of group sex. However, it is a little strange that he allegedly took six different women upstairs to have a raucous orgy, and left his microphone turned on so that the entire downstairs party was privy to all the sounds of the upstairs encounter.
10 Chipper Jones - Fathered A Love Child
Since athletes typically bounce around between different teams, it’s always pretty astounding when a player is able to stick with one organization throughout their career. Chipper Jones was able to spend his entire career as an Atlanta Brave, but it seems his loyalty gene didn’t quite transfer over to his marriage. When a waitress at the local Hooters restaurant close to the Braves' spring training home came out claiming he had fathered her child, he started off denying the claims. However, he ultimately admitted that he was indeed the father, which led to his divorce and some pretty snarky comments about his taste in women.
9 Eugene Robinson - Solicited A Lady Of The...It Was A Cop
Eugene Robinson created quite a name for himself throughout his 16 years in the NFL, playing with a number of successful teams. However, he’s also made a name for himself on various lists online, including "Biggest Super Bowl Blunders" and "Sex Scandals In Sports." When playing with the Atlanta Falcons, Robinson chose to spend the night before Super Bowl XXXIII soliciting oral sex from a police officer working undercover as a prostitute. As if it couldn’t get any worse than him being arrested the night before playing in the Super Bowl, he had to return his 1998 Bart Starr Award. Awarded this honor due to his “high moral character,” Robinson had to shamefully return it, and with it his dignity.
8 Isaiah Thomas - Fired Employee Who Claim He Harassed Her
As a Hall of Fame NBA Player, Isaiah Thomas had a number of different doors of opportunity open to him once he stepped off the court. While other professional athletes go into sports broadcasting as announcers or commentators, Isaiah Thomas landed the job of a lifetime as the president of the Knicks. However, in 2007 he was accused of sexual harassment in the workplace by Anucha Browne-Sanders, the team's Marketing Executive. After her allegations, Thomas fired her from her position, and a lawsuit ensued. Details about the sexual harassment emerged, and she ultimately won the case. So, not only was he seen in a bad light for the sexual harassment of a team employee, but it really tarnished his reputation that he would fire her for speaking up for herself.
7 Tiger Woods - A Plethora Of Mistresses
Single-handedly responsible for sparking new interest into the sport of golf, Tiger Woods became a world famous sensation because of his youth and incredible skill. The sports world became fascinated over this golf prodigy, and videos of Tiger Woods golfing as a toddler with his father further endeared him in the eyes of the public. When he married Elin Nordegren, it seemed his life was complete. That is, until the allegations of infidelity started to surface. The public sat back as more and more women started coming out of the woodwork, and the marriage ultimately came to an end after his embarrassing public admission of the affairs.
6 Brett Favre - The Phone Scandal
Known as the beloved quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre had already solidified his legacy in NFL history before he became part of the Jets organization. Married and thought of as a wholesome character, he was even featured in the film, There’s Something About Mary, where he played up the “good guy” persona he was known for. So, when X-rated pictures surfaced of a cell phone exchange between him and in-house sideline reporter, Jenn Sterger, people were shocked that he would make such a mockery of his longtime marriage and carefully cultivated reputation. While Sterger maintained she spurned his advances, the public still looked at her with a side-eye since she had previously done some provocative shoots for Maxim and Playboy. So, kudos to Brett Favre for not only tarnishing his own reputation, but also that of Jenn Sterger with his embarrassing photos of his "Johnson."
5 Patrick Kane - Alleged Assault
With Chicago hard up for a win in regard to the Bears and the Cubs, the Blackhawks have been a beacon of shining light for sports fans in Illinois. Winning multiple Stanley Cups, the Blackhawks and their players reached superhero status for those looking to root for a winning team in Chicago. However, a black cloud descended on the team once allegations of sexual assault were alleged against the team’s winger, Patrick Kane. Even before all the details emerged in the case, Kane was dropped from EA Sports NHL 16 video game cover and was tried and convicted in the eyes of the public. While the case was ultimately dropped by prosecutors, the damage to Kane’s reputation took a hit that is still in the recovery phase.
4 Michael Vick - Transmitted STD
Michael Vick’s history in the NFL has been filled with a number of controversial headline making news stories, which has often overshadowed his achievements on the field. While most know him for the dog-fighting activities that resulted in a huge media storm with animal rights activists urging his removal from the NFL, it wasn’t just dogs that were getting maltreated by Michael Vick. In 2005, a lawsuit was filed against him by a woman named, Sonya Elliott, who alleged he was responsible for transmitting genital herpes without informing her of his disease. Details emerged, revealing he had previously known about his condition since he allegedly checked into a clinic under the alias, “Ron Mexico.”
3 Kobe Bryant - The 19-Year-Old Hotel Employee
When Kobe Bryant signed with the Los Angeles Lakers straight out of high school, many people started comparing him to such basketball giants as Michael Jordan. He seemed to have the charisma, skill, and long list of accolades that would create a legacy anyone in the sports world would be proud of. However, all of that changed after a 19-year-old hotel employee claimed she was sexually assaulted by Kobe in 2003. While the charges were ultimately dropped and settled for an undisclosed sum, the damage to his public perception never recovered. Not only did he lose lucrative endorsement deals, but many companies distanced themselves from the NBA star.
2 Hank Baskett - The Transgender Mistress
When Hank Baskett married Playboy model, Kendra Wilkinson, the world thought it would be her sexual past that would be the catalyst to ending their marriage. From being just one of the ex-girlfriends of the elderly Hugh Hefner to having two separate sex tapes leaked, Kendra didn’t exactly make it easy for Hank during the early stages of their marriage. Just when the public thought it couldn’t get any more dysfunctional, a transgender model named Ava Masaniai (born Paul) came forward revealing intimate details about an affair with Hank. Whether or not you believe the fondling stories or the supposed drug purchase excuse given by Hank (which was his response as to why he paid Ava thousands of dollars on two separate occasions), the result is a tarnished reputation that might not ever be fixed. While Kendra used to be the black sheep in this relationship, Hank’s bizarre sexual encounter with Ava has quickly changed public perception so that she is now the victim we all feel sorry for.
1 Jerry Sandusky - The Sandusky Scandal
Starting his career in sports when he played at Penn State himself, his true role began when he served under Joe Paterno. Not only did he win several accolades over the years as assistant coach, but he wrote several commercially successful books on his experience as an assistant coach. Portraying himself as a pillar of the community, he was commended for his community efforts with the foundation of his non-profit organization called The Second Mile. While the program was supposed to inspire and lift up underprivileged kids, Sandusky was actually using the organization to rack up quite a list of victims that he was alleged to have sexually abused. The trial sparked a media storm, and the details that surfaced involving the case became increasingly shocking. Sandusky’s own adopted son stepped forward during the trial to reveal that he too had been sexually abused in his youth, and Jerry Sandusky was ultimately sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.