Being a sports stars isn’t all glitz and glamor and isn’t always sunshine and roses. Sure, living the life of a top athlete has its perks, plenty of them too, but it doesn’t mean you’re always going to be the most popular person around.
In sports, especially at an elite level, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win, or at least plenty of people see it that way. Winning by hook or by crook is still winning, and that’s how many of these athletes have lived out their careers. A lot of the names on this list are ruthless figures, really competitive people, but that hasn’t always made them the most popular people in sports.
Whatever type of professional sportsperson you are, whatever sport you’re involved in, the ultimate goal – which when you achieve it is how you know you’ve made it – is to represent your country. There’s no better feeling than wearing your country’s colors, the national flag proudly over your chest as you hear the national anthem blaring out. But then you’ve got to achieve success on a whole different level, reach a whole new fanbase, and that’s often easier said than done, especially when you’ve got up to some of the antics these guys have over their respected careers.
These 15 individuals have all pissed off teammates, fans of their sports, and their country as a whole, either because of something specific they did, or because of their general personas, their behavior, and how it perhaps reflects badly on the countries they represent. Here are 15 sports stars who are seriously hated by their own countries:
15 Justin Gatlin
Justin Gatlin is the kind of villainous figure everyone loves to hate, but he has given them a reason to.
Over recent years, there’s been plenty of stuff going on regarding drug use in the world of athletics, with one athlete or another being banned every other week, or some prominent figure of yesteryear being stripped of his/her titles because subsequent drug tests have revealed the use of performance enhancers. Well, Justin knows what all of that’s like, he’s been in the thick of it, not once, but twice after being banned from competitive athletics for drug use. He’s come back and is one of the fastest men in the world over the 100 metre dash, but his cheating ways and his former steroid use takes the gloss off all of that. He’s a poster boy for steroids, and fans, wherever he may be racing around the world, don’t let him forget it.
Many Americans find it embarrassing and just disgraceful that he’s still allowed to wear the American colors. He’s been found out, not once, but twice! Just listen to the chorus of boos and jeers Justin gets when he takes to the track and that’s enough to tell you that he’s one of the most hated men in athletics.
14 Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen is a cricket player, someone who’s still active and is one of the best most destructive batsman in the world. For those of you who don’t know a whole lot about cricket, let me put it like this: he’s the Cristiano Ronaldo of cricket – a superstar who, at times, can be quite difficult, and is perceived to be arrogant because of his desire to do so well. Would Real Madrid ever drop Ronaldo because he might throw a temper tantrum now and again? Would Portugal not play him because of attitude problems? No, they wouldn’t, that would be ludicrous, he’s their best player. In sport you have to find a way to work with difficult personalities – that’s what management is and does. But Pietersen, because of his outspoken nature and apparent dressing room disharmony, fell afoul of the England selectors, and was discarded. He was told by the head of the England Cricket Board and his captain that he’d never play for England again, despite being one of the greatest batsman to have ever played the game. Consequently, the enigmatic figure of Pietersen ended up being hated by plenty of cricket fans in England, who believed the allegations and turned their backs on him.
Although he played for England, he was born and bred in South Africa, and there’s recently been talk about him trying to earn selection for his country of birth. That’d certainly be a kick in the teeth for England and would no doubt anger English cricket fans further.
13 LeBron James
LeBron James is one of the greatest players to have ever stepped foot on the basketball court, but despite this and all of his achievements in the NBA, he’s labelled as the “villain” of basketball. A lot of people have pure hated for LeBron, due to his outspoken nature, views on a lot of controversial matters that plenty of people don’t agree with, and some of his decisions in basketball. For example, when he made the move to the Miami Heat, LeBron felt the wrath of the fans and lots of people within the game who said he was selfish, called him arrogant, a traitor, and a number of other colorful terms that are far too explicit to reveal on here.
If you’re a fan of basketball and the NBA, you’re going to be a fan of LeBron, there’s no question about that as he’s one of the best players in the world. But if you’re someone who takes heed of all of the politics surrounding the game, all that itty bitty nonsense, then it’s likely you’re going to side with the millions across America who hate his guts.
12 Mario Balotelli
This guy’s just a nutcase, there’s no two ways about it. He’s young, brash, enigmatic, immature, stupid, whatever term you want to label him with, and some of his antics have led people to believe that he really is cuckoo. I’m talking about Mario Balotelli, Super Mario is an Italian soccer player who was once tipped to be one of the greatest strikers in world football, but he’s fallen out of favor with the Italian national side, and plenty of his club sides too over recent years, and is currently in the process of trying to revive his career.
People deem him to be too flashy – which is saying something for a professional soccer player playing in the biggest league in the world – or arrogant, selfish, and not caring about the teams he plays for. He’s also just too temperamental, gets into fights with teammates and coaches, and is just a nightmare to try to manage, to have around at a club.
11 Chael Sonnen
American mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen has a nickname, “The American Gangster,” and that certainly fits when you learn about what he’s gotten up to over the years. These are things that have made his country turn their back on him, and jeer him as he enters the octagon, rather than cheer him as they did back in the day, before everything came to light.
Chael was a champion in university, so the natural progression was to try and make a go of things in the pro ranks, but his time fighting with the best in the business has been marred by plenty of controversy. In 2010, Chael was banned from competing for a year due to him failing a drug test. Americans don’t like a cheat, especially with everything that’s happening in terms of drug cheats being exposed in the world of sport at the moment. Then in 2011, he pleaded guilty to his involvement in a money laundering scheme, where he was using his side-job to launder huge sums of cash. And most recently he even got in some beef with LeBron James – the guy needs to simmer down a bit.
10 Raffi Torres
Raffi Torres has only just called it quits on his time in the NHL, but the Canadian hockey star earned a bit of a reputation during his playing days, not a particularly nice one, and one that will take a lot of effort to shake off, even now that he’s hung up his boots so to speak.
Pretty soon after he started out in the NHL, Raffi earned himself a bit of a reputation as a dirty player. He quickly earned the label of being the “NHL’s dirtiest player.” A lot of his moves were illegal, and put those on the receiving end in serious danger. NHL fans love violence, but Raffi took it too far, to the point where even those cheering for blood and fights were wincing in discomfort.
But pretty much everyone turned against Raffi when, one Halloween, he thought it’d be a good idea to don blackface, and dress up as world-famous and much-loved rapper Jay Z, with his wife who dressed up as Beyoncé. Not a smart move, and Canada, America, NHL, and fans of the superstar couple shunned him after that.
9 Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds is one such figure who’s either loved or hated, there’s no in-between. No one can argue with what Barry did for the game of baseball, but how he did it, that’s what angered his country and the teams he played for. One of the greatest baseball players of all time he certainly is, but because of his role in the famous steroid scandal, everyone quickly forgot about all of his achievements and turned their backs on him. The charges were recently dropped, but he was found guilty and charged with the obstruction of justice, however that was also overturned.
It’s not this alone that has made Barry a hated figure. It’s just his overall public persona; he was standoffish, arrogant, ungrateful, and just a difficult person to play with and deal with – just a few of the rather unflattering adjectives used to describe Barry. This meant plenty of people didn’t really like Barry, as they wanted a more enigmatic fellow to be their country’s, and the world’s, baseball superstar, and instead they got the dour-faced Barry Bonds.
8 Ryan Lochte
Until recently, Ryan Lochte was one of Team America’s greatest ever Olympians in the pool, second only to Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, who incidentally has also had his fair share of controversies.
Plenty of people disliked Ryan prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics. He’d become a bit of a TV personality, and quite a few people disliked the entire package he brought on screen. But his country ended up turning against him, quite literally, at the most recent Olympic Games. “Lochtegate,” a term coined by the press, seriously damaged Ryan’s career and popularity, and he was banned from doing what he does best, swimming, and suspended for swimming in national events.
Ryan and some teammates came out and said they were robbed while in Rio de Janeiro, at gunpoint. But the facts later emerged, and they proved to be damaging for Ryan, who it turned out had fabricated the entire story, and it was actually he and his friends who had gotten up to no good. He ended up falling foul of the law and angering people in two countries and swimming fans across the world after that incident.
7 Lionel Messi
Soccer player Lionel Messi is in a constant tussle with Cristiano Ronaldo for being the best player in the world. His skills mesmerize the opposition, his goalscoring ability is second to none, and he dribbles as is he’s got the ball glued to his foot – the guy’s just on another planet. But amazingly, plenty of people in his home country of Argentina don’t particularly like the guy. Despite his humility, down-to-earth persona, and his stunning skills with the football at his feet, and the fact that he represents Argentina as opposed to Spain – a country he could have easily have chosen to play for - he’s still hated by a ton of Argentinians.
That’s because over the years, when he dons the Argentina shirt, it has all been about Messi. He’s fallen out with players, coaches, and doesn’t really thrive when it comes to fan interaction. He’s also nowhere near as good as he is when he plays for his club side, Barcelona, which is definitely because he doesn’t have the same kind of support in the team, the same kind of players, but Argentinian fans don’t see it this way.
He also recently gave up and retired from international football because he basically thought – although he didn’t come outright and say it – that Argentina was a rubbish team and he was never going to win anything in an Argentinian shirt. Understandably this got plenty of fans fuming, although he soon reversed his decision after some influential figures had some words.
6 Nick Kyrgios
Here’s a guy that some people love, but most people hate. The Aussie tennis star’s known around the world, more for his on-court antics, his temper tantrums, and his temperamental attitude, than his actual skills with a racket in his hand, which is a shame because he’s a pretty decent tennis player.
A lot of people get on the backs of tennis players, saying that they’re all really boring people – all robots, the same with absolutely no personality. Nick Kyrgios is certainly different in that respect, but pretty much everyone would agree that he takes things way too far. There’s showing passion on court and having a bit of banter, but there’s a line that must not be crossed, and Nick seems to cross it every other time he steps onto court. Even Aussies, who aren’t shy and love that kind of attitude, are getting incredibly sick of Kyrgios; it reflects badly on Australia when he behaves the way he does, and he’s not realizing his full potential, all of which combine to make Nick a pretty hated man down under.
5 John Terry
Here’s another soccer player on this list; it just shows that having all the riches in the world can’t make you a decent person. It’s not just the fans and various players who hate John Terry, the Football Association and various boards and bodies involved in the beautiful game have seen it fit to punish Terry in the past, for what he probably still deems to be minor misdemeanors. He’s been stripped of the England captaincy, and has been banned from even being selected in the past, and you don’t get those sanctions imposed upon you unless you’ve done something really abhorrent, which Terry did.
He’s had numerous legal issues, had an affair with his England and Chelsea teammate’s girlfriend, and has been charged for racially abusing another fellow England player, the brother of one of his best mates at the time. Needless to say, that friendship was over, and so was the love that many England and Chelsea fans reserved for Terry.
4 Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez played 22 seasons in MLB, and in his prime, was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. But plenty has come to light about why A-Rod was so good, and why he was able to hit the ball out of the park on so many occasions with ease – he had a bit of help. Yes, he’s one guy who’s the poster boy for steroids in baseball, and tons of people hate him because of it. All those runs he scored over the years suddenly become irrelevant, because baseball had a cheat on its hands, and fans weren’t going to let him forget it. He tried to cheat the system, and was successful too, that is until he was found out.
Alex isn’t a smart cookie; for years, he denied ever taking any form of performance enhancers, then admitted to taking steroids for a health problem. Eventually the truth came out and he admitted he’d been popping pills and injecting himself for years. Combine this steroid scandal with his bad attitude, lying to fans – and everyone for that matter – cheating on his spouse, and getting into hot water for not making child support payments despite him being one of the richest guys in MLB made A-Rod hated by pretty much everyone.
3 Luis Suárez
If there was a list for the nuttiest sportsman out there, anyone from any sport around the world, a guy would have to have done some seriously bad stuff to beat Luis Suárez to the number one position on the list.
The guy shouldn’t just be banned from football, he should in prison, but because he’s a sports star and everything he’s done has happened on the pitch, he’s gotten away with it.
There’s no doubting his talent with the ball at his feet. He’s recently blossomed into one of the best strikers in world football, but despite all of his achievement with Liverpool and now Barcelona, his career has been marred by a ton of controversial moments. He’s been caught sinking his teeth into opponents and biting players on three separate occasions – yes, three times! He has also been accused of showing unsportsmanlike behavior, and has been found guilty of racially abusing players. Safe to say he's not a very nice fella.
2 Floyd Mayweather
Despite all the money Floyd Mayweather has accumulated over the years, he’s still – or was, as he’s now retired – one of the most hated men in boxing, in sports, period.
First of all, a lot of people don’t rate his style in the ring. Sure, it’s effective, you don’t go through a career with a perfect record of winning 49 times from 49 fights and never tasting defeat without having an effective style, but many boxing fans agree that he’s not the best guy to watch in the ring if you’re after knockouts and exciting fights. Money Mayweather’s style enables him to get the job done and pocket a ton of cash in the process, another thing that gets on a lot of people’s nerves. He loved to flaunt the cash, showing off his flashy lifestyle on social media, and that’s made him the target of plenty of haters. What’s more, he’s beaten wives and girlfriends in the past, in front of his son, and gags the media from bringing up anything about those incidences. When he was still active, you just had to listen to the chorus of boos that accompanied Money Mayweather to the ring to know he was hated by pretty much everybody.
1 Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong, the now disgraced former professional road racing cyclist, at one point embodied the American spirit, that you can keep fighting and come back from anything. He won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times, has battled and beaten cancer, and did it all in a legit manner, just using his passion and willingness to get through everything and succeed…or did he? The answer to that is nope, he didn’t. He had some help in the form of performance enhancers, those nasty little drugs have marred professional sport and athlete’s accomplishments over the years.
The fallout from the doping scandal in 2012 were massive. Lance was found to have used performance enhancers, pretty much throughout his career, was stripped from everything he’d won, and fell from grace in spectacular fashion. He cheated a lot of people over the years, including his country, and is certainly today one of the most hated men in sport, hated by his country and millions around the world.