As many parents realize, professional athletes are often not the best role models for their kids. The headlines clearly demonstrate that there are sports stars in every category behind bars, and many for lamentable crimes. Not the behavior children should emulate.
When passionate fans observe their favorite athlete being sentenced to jail time, it can be heartbreaking. Watching these larger than life athletes being led off to serve time is more than disappointing. And it seems like the list of those marching off to prison gets longer every day.
People wonder why these exceptionally wealthy members of our society choose to drive drunk, engage in violence due to intoxication and even commit murder. Of course, everyone has their own demons and this list of sports greats that ended up on the wrong side of the law shows that no one is immune from behaving badly.
15 Ray Rice
We're all familiar with the recent public shaming of Ray Rice. The one-time college footballer went pro in 2008, and became the Baltimore Ravens' star player.
Of course, in 2014 it all went wrong for Rice. In February, the 27 year old was arrested after physically assaulting his soon-to-be wife at a casino in Atlantic city. The case came before the court in March 2014, and the footballer was indicted on third-degree aggravated assault. His charges were subsequently dropped on the condition that he attend counselling.
Despite the assault and his arrest, Rice continued to play for the Ravens, receiving nothing more than a two game suspension. It was in September, when TMZ released horrifying video footage of Rice knocking his fiance unconscious and dragging her body from an elevator, that the controversy really kicked off. The public were outraged, and Baltimore Ravens rushed to redeem themselves, terminating Rice's contract.
He was suspended from the NFL, but this suspension was overturned on appeal due to a double-jeopardy loophole.
14 Maurice Clarett
Maurice Clarett had all the makings of becoming a great athlete and a huge success in the National Football League after an amazing career at Ohio State University where he lead his team to a championship in 2002.
Instead, Maurice Clarett ended up in prison.
After robbing two people outside of a Columbus, Ohio nightclub, Clarett turned himself into police the next day to face two counts of armed robbery.
Then to make things worse, while he was out on bond, Clarett was arrested again for fleeing police in a car and then resisting arrest at the end of the chase.
Clarett plead guilty to all charges and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
In April of 2010, Clarett was granted early release, and he began to try to reclaim his life at a halfway house.
This waste of talent is simply depressing.
13 Jayson Williams
Jayson Williams used to play in the NBA for the Nets. After his early retirement due to injury, he became one of the most popular basketball studio announcers.
All that changed on Valentine’s Day in 2002 when Jayson Williams shot and killed his limo driver. After deliberating, a jury convicted him and Jayson was sentenced to five years in prison.
All these years later, Jayson Williams says he still thinks about the shooting every day. His reckless actions changed the lives of many people in an instant. Jayson’s marriage did not survive the incident and he rarely saw his two daughters while he was incarcerated.
12 Chad Johnson “Ochocinco”
Former NFL player Chad Johnson, (aka Ochocinco for his uniform #85), was arrested in 2013 on charges from a domestic violence arrest involving his ex-wife.
During a court hearing, Johnson angered the judge with his casual attitude, which included "playfully slapping" his male attorney's butt during the proceedings.
Chad Johnson was quickly reprimanded by the judge in the case, who threw out the deal Johnson struck to keep him out of the slammer.
The magistrate then immediately had Chad arrested and order him to serve 30 days behind bars. Johnson was booked into jail in Broward County, Florida, the next day.
Chad fought the law, but the law won.
11 Adam Jones
NFL player Adam "Pac-Man" Jones has a long and serious history with the law and the football league.
In February 2007, Jones was allegedly involved in an altercation with an exotic dancer at a local club in Las Vegas. Witnesses stated that Pac-Man grabbed a female performer and threatened a security guard's life.
The club owner claimed that after Jones left, a person in Jones' entourage returned with a gun and fired into a crowd, hitting three people, including the security guard involved in the earlier scuffle.
One of the people hit was former professional wrestler Tommy Urbansk. As a result of the bullet, Tommy became paralyzed from the waist down.
A jury ordered Jones to pay $11.6 million to Urbanski and Aaron Cudworth, the club bouncer who was wounded.
Jones would face two felony charges stemming from this February strip club melee, but accepted a sweet plea deal that decreased the severity of the charge. He was given a suspended prison sentence of one year probation, and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.
Then, on April 10, 2007, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pronounced a one-year suspension for Jones for violation of various components of the NFL player conduct policy. This was the first time in 44 years that a player was suspended for an offense other than substance abuse.
Eventually, Pac-Man Jones was reinstated into the NFL for part of the 2008 season.
10 Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom, NBA player and reality star husband of Khloe Kardashian, was reportedly arrested on suspicion of DUI in the summer of 2013.
Officers took Odom into custody after pulling over his Mercedes SUV around 4:00 am on a busy stretch of highway in California's San Fernando Valley. He was reportedly driving erratically and too slowly. After he was stopped, Odom failed a field sobriety test.
Lamar was taken to jail and bail was set at $15,000.
All of this came after reports said Odom was using and abusing drugs. Some reports claimed that Odom was hooked on crack cocaine and that Khloe Kardashian Odom had kicked him out of the house…something Odom's agent said was never true.
9 Plaxico Burress
No one said that you have to be smart to be arrested. Case in point is former football Giants star Plaxico Burress. Plaxico had just made the Super Bowl winning touchdown catch when everything took a turn for the worse.
Before going “clubbing” in New York City, Plaxico Burress decided that he needed to be packing a fire arm. So he put a Glock pistol in his waistband before leaving his home.
Like a bad cartoon, once at the bar, the gun began sliding down his pants. When Plaxico reached for it, he accidentally pulled the trigger and shot himself in the leg.
Burress pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison for criminal weapons charges. He served his time in the harsh environment of Rikers Island.
Plaxico was released early for good behavior and signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers who still believed Burress had some football left in him.
8 Marion Jones
Olympic champion Marion Jones no longer has her medals to display. She was forced to give them all up in 2007 when she fully admitted that she took performance-enhancing drugs as far back as the 2000 Summer Olympics.
She also confessed that she lied to a grand jury.
Even though this was her first offense, Marion Jones was made to be an example to other competitors involved in unlawful behavior. She was sent to prison for six months on charges of using an illegal substance while in competition. Some believe her actions discredited the United States on a global stage.
7 Lawrence Taylor
NFL Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor was always comfortable being in the spotlight. That was until he was arrested, thrown in jail and charged with the rape of a 16 year old girl in 2011.
A jury trial resulted in a decision in LT’s favor, but he had to plead guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges of sexual misconduct and patronizing an underage prostitute. As a result, Taylor is serving six years of probation.
But perhaps the most humiliating result of these charges for Lawrence Taylor is that he was required to register as a sex offender.
And the story becomes even more depressing from there.
Lawrence Taylor Jr., the son of this NFL legend, was arrested for statutory rape and child molestation in 2013.
6 Don King
Boxing promoter Don King may be best known for his wild hairstyle, but his past is scattered with a variety of drug and violence charges.
In the early 1960’s, Don King was considered to be a gangster running a numbers game in his neighborhood.
In 1966, one of his “employees” named Sam Garrett stole from him. King chased him down, dragged him out of a bar and was accused of killing him in the street.
Don King was convicted of first degree manslaughter and was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years.
He became extremely lucky when he was released after serving only five years and was even give a pardon in 1982 by Ohio Parole Board. No one else seems to have experienced such world-wide success after killing someone.
Three years after his release, King promoted one of the most famous boxing matches, The Rumble in the Jungle between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali.
After that success, his career in boxing promotion was sealed. Don King has gone on to foster some of the most prominent names in boxing, including Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson and more.
Don King’s fame and fortune continue today.
5 Rae Carruth
In 2001,Carolina Panthers’ football player, Rae Carruth, was found guilty of conspiring to murder a woman who was pregnant with his child. Prosecutors argued that Carruth masterminded the shooting because his girlfriend wouldn't have an abortion.
Miraculously, doctors were able to save the baby. Unfortunately, the infant’s brain was deprived of oxygen due to the shooting, resulting in cerebral palsy.
After the death of his female love partner, Carruth fled to Tennessee where FBI agents found him hiding in the trunk of a friend's car at a motel. He was immediately arrested and returned to face a jury.
His three month trial was followed by thousands of people as it was broadcasted on Court TV.
Carruth’s sentence was swift; 18 years, 11 months in state prison without the possibility of early parole.
4 Aaron Hernandez
More murder charges from the National Football League were recently in the headlines.
Former football tight end Aaron Hernandez was publicly arrested at his sprawling home in mid-2013 in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd. Lloyd’s body was found near the former New England Patriots home in Massachusetts.
Even more shocking to his fans and sports writers, Hernandez was also indicted for two other murders.
Hernandez pleaded not guilty.
The New England Patriots immediately fired Hernandez, nullifying his $40 million player deal. In addition, the Patriots ProShop gave those fans who purchased Hernandez football jerseys the ability to return them to the team store.
Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of first degree murder in the case of Odin Lloyd and was sentenced to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Hernandez plans to appeal.
3 Michael Vick
In a criminal case that captured the entire nation’s attention, NFL quarterback Michael Vick spent 21 months in jail for dog fighting. He was also suspended from the National Football League, but was later reinstated.
Vick was accused of financing the dog fighting operation, handling the significant amount of gambling money involved and directly participating in the fights.
At the time of his arrest on federal charges, Vick was one of the most popular athletes in the sport, especially among Atlanta Falcons enthusiasts. He was a spokesman for some of America’s largest brands including Nike, EA Sports, Coca-Cola and Kraft.
After his release from jail, many in the league supported his return saying he paid his dues for his criminal acts.
In 2009 Vick got another opportunity to play quarterback when he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Vick is now on the roster of the New York Jets as his career winds down. He also speaks to children and adults on animal cruelty, using himself as an example on making the wrong choices.
2 O.J. Simpson
Some believe former football star O.J. Simpson got away with murder. These individuals felt some sort of redemption when in 2007, O.J. was convicted of robbery. Simpson is currently serving his 33-year sentence in a Nevada correctional center.
In September of 2007, O.J. Simpson and a group of men stormed a Las Vegas hotel room and robbed a man at gunpoint of sports memorabilia. Simpson was arrested a few days after the robbery.
Several of Simpson’s co-defendants made plea bargains to testify against the football star which helped convict the athlete of kidnapping, assault, robbery, and criminal conspiracy.
Used to a life of freedom and luxury, the former Heisman Trophy winner at least has access to a television in his cell, but he has complained about not having HBO.
1 Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson’s chaotic life took a nasty turn when he was convicted of raping Miss Black Rhode Island. It all took place just as Iron Mike turned 25 years old in 1991.
Tyson vigorously disputed the charges, but due to his violent reputation along with the testimony of his victim, Mike was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years “under state supervision” (six behind bars and four on probation.)
Lucky for Mike, he only served 36 months in the penitentiary due to “good behavior.” Once he was freed, he returned to the boxing ring to reclaim his titles.
Tyson would eventually become the heavyweight champion of the world one more time, although most critics believe his skills and demeanor had greatly deteriorated. There is clear evidence of this from his ear-biting meltdown against Evander Holyfield.
Yet, Mike Tyson will forever be immortalized as boxing royalty.
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