Many children look up to athletes and want to grow up to be like them. Many of those children’s parents approve of their admiration of athletes. This is completely understandable because athletes are good role models that deserve to be loved by the general public. However, not all athletes are great people.
Just like in any other profession, there are always going to be a few bad apples. Athletes can face challenges and obstacles along the way. Some athletes pick themselves up off the ground and brush the dirt and grime off of them. Some athletes fall into a downward spiral and never recover. Whatever their reasons for plummeting may be, it’s safe to say that nobody is perfect and we all need help at some point in our lives.
It’s not just professional football players either. There have been many athletes in all sports who used poor judgement in their professional and personal lives. Some athletes have committed crimes that cost them their jobs. The wealth doesn’t make things easier as the spotlight shines bright on athletes. So whenever they make a mistake, the entire world is watching. Sometimes, the constant buzz is too much, which adds more fuel to the fire. Nevertheless, fame has its pros and cons, but it’s about how an athlete can stay humble and not give in so easily.
Let’s take a look at 15 athletes who ruined their careers with bad decisions. Some remembering is required, but most of these athletes are obvious and over-hyped.
15. Colin Kaepernick – Knelt During The National Anthem
Colin Kaepernick drew attention to himself because he isn’t a star anymore. He lost and won back his starting quarterback job for three seasons following the San Francisco 49ers’ 23-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. As you may already know, he knelt during the national anthem in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium last August. He was alone in his early protests, but other athletes joined him in protesting the racial inequality and police brutality.
Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers on March 3, 2017. He became a free agent, but remains without a job. Many NFL teams view him as an unworthy distraction even though he carried the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens and recorded 16 touchdowns and four interceptions during the 2016 season. It’s been crickets, and he might never see a quarterback job again.
14. Michael Vick – Connection In A Dog-Fighting Ring
Michael Vick‘s NFL career halted in 2007 after he pleaded guilty in connection of a dog-fighting ring involving drugs and alcohol. He tested positive for marijuana in an unexpected drug test while on bail. He then turned himself in to start accumulating time-served credit against his probable sentence. He was assigned to the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth, in Leavenworth, Kansas to serve his sentence.
In 2008, Vick traveled to Virginia to face state charges. He submitted a guilty plea for one court for dog fighting and received a three-year sentence that was suspended on condition of great behavior and a $2,500 fine. He was released on July 20, 2009.
While in jail, Vick tried to obtain Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after failing to work out consensual resolutions with each and every one of his creditors. After finishing his sentence, Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, but left after five seasons due to his lack of success. He played as a backup quarterback for the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers in his final two seasons. He officially retired as an Atlanta Falcon on June 12, 2017.
13. Barry Bonds – Lying To A Jury During The BALCO Scandal
Barry Bonds is an extraordinary hitter. He led the MLB in on-base plus slugging six times and ranked within the top five hitters in 12 of his 17 seasons. He holds hitting records in most career home runs, most home runs in a single season, and most career walks. He also received eight Gold Glove Awards for his defense in the outfield.
Bonds also used steroids with the earliest incident dating back to the 1998 season. He’s not the only baseball player who has used steroids, but his career winded down to an end. He was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to a jury during the BALCO scandal. The charges dropped, but they were overturned in 2015.
Bonds landed a job as the Miami Marlins’ hitting coach in 2016. The team let him go after just one season. He hasn’t been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first four years of eligibility. He’s a great hitter, but likely won’t get inducted to the Hall of Fame anytime soon.
12. Pete Rose – Gambling
Pete Rose is another bad example of a well-known hitter who deserves a shot at the Hall of Fame, but his gambling got him into trouble. He played in the MLB from 1963 to 1986 and served as a manager from 1984 to 1989. He was a switch-hitter who led the league in hits, games played, at-bats, singles, and outs. He also won two Gold Glove Awards in 1969 and 1970.
Just three years after retiring as a player, Rose was banned from the MLB following accusations of betting on baseball games while playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds. In 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame committee voted to ban people who were on the permanent ineligibility list from induction. In 2004, Rose admitted to betting on baseball games, including the Reds.
Rose’s possible reinstatement and election to the Hall of Fame remains a controversial issue up to this day. Despite setbacks, some progress has been made, and Rose was inducted to the Reds’ Hall of Fame and Museum in 2016.
11. Slava Voynov – Arrested For Domestic Violence
Domestic violence isn’t specific to a particular sport. NHL defenseman Slava Voynov lived the good life. He was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round with the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Six years later, he married his wife Marta Varlamova. It appeared that Voynov was fine. But then, things took a turn for the worse when he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. He allegedly choked, kicked, and punched Varlamova.
Voynov pleaded no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge in July 2015. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He also received three years of probation along with mandatory counseling. He was released from the Seal Beach Police Detention Center in September 2015. He was taken into custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement upon his release. He took the matter in his own hands and headed back to Russia.
The Kings no longer had to pay Voynov, but he missed out on an average cap hit of $4.16 million on the remaining four years of his six-year 25-million-dollar contract extension. Since then, he has been playing for SKA Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League. He didn’t fail completely, but his actions were wrong.
10. Ray Rice – Domestic Violence
Ray Rice hopes to restart an NFL career, but it’s likely going to be difficult after a media blizzard when celebrity gossip website TMZ leaked a video of his domestic violence incident. In 2014, he got in an early-morning fight with his then-fiancee (now wife) Janay Palmer in an elevator in a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was arrested and indicted for third-degree aggravated assault. Shortly after, the Ravens terminated his five-year 35-million-dollar contract. He appealed his suspension and was reinstated by the NFL. He also agreed to a settlement with the Baltimore Ravens for approximately $3.5 million in back pay.
Rice is still one of the faces of domestic violence in NFL. So, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever play in the NFL again. It seems like the only thing he can do is move forward and create a better life for himself. He was hired by his alma mater, New Rochelle High School, in New Rochelle, New York as a volunteer assistant coach. He’s fortunate to have an owner who decided to give him a second chance.
9. Jarret Stoll – Arrested For Possession Of Cocaine and Ecstasy
Former NHL center, Jarret Stoll, doesn’t have much to worry about because he’s engaged to FOX Sports sportscaster and Dancing With The Stars co-host Erin Andrews, who received $55 million on March 7, 2016 after testifying against the Nashville Marriott and stalker Michael David Barrett over nude videos that were leaked onto the Internet. However, Stoll’s downfall began after winning two Stanley Cups with the 2012 and 2014 Los Angeles Kings.
Stoll began his NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers as an alternate captain. He was traded to the Kings on June 28, 2009, and later signed a four-year 14.4-million-dollar contract. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime to eliminate the then-President’s Trophy winner, Vancouver Canucks, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on April 12, 2012. He re-signed with the Kings on June 25, 2012.
Stoll’s downfall began when he was arrested for possession of cocaine and ecstasy in Las Vegas, Nevada. He became a free agent and signed a one-year contract with the New York Rangers, but was released after 29 games. The Minnesota Wild claimed him off waivers, but was released after the end of the 2015-16 season. He signed a professional tryout contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the team relieved him of his duties on October 5, 2016. Although Stoll didn’t officially announce his retirement from the NHL, he accepted a job as a Kings talent scout on December 15, 2016.
8. Chris Washburn – Failed Drug Tests
Former NBA center, Chris Washburn, experienced one of the highest points in his life when he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the first round with the third overall pick of the 1986 NBA Draft. He also experienced highs from cocaine that eventually destroyed his basketball career. He failed three drug tests in three years and received a lifetime ban from the NBA in 1990. He tried to stage a comeback in the 1990’s by playing in the U.S. Basketball League along with the Continental Basketball League.
Washburn later moved to Houston, Texas, where he became a poverty-stricken man who ate from garbage cans and lived in abandoned buildings. Today, he resides in Conover, North Carolina with his girlfriend. They have two sons—Chris Jr. and Julio. Both sons have played college basketball. Chris Jr. began his college career at the University of Texas, El Paso, before transferring to Texas Christian University while Julian played all four years at UTEP.
7. Johnny Manziel – Wild Days and Rehab
Johnny Manziel, better known as Johnny Football, became one of the biggest busts in the NFL. He threw up his signature money sign after the Cleveland Browns selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He was also drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 23rd round with the 837th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft as a shortstop.
Manziel showed promise in his college career at Texas A&M. In 2012, he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, and Manning Award. He was also a First-Team All-American that year. In 2013, he threw for a school record of five touchdowns and 464 yards in the Aggies’ 49-42 loss to the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. He then tied his career-high single-game five touchdowns in the Aggies’ 51-41 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. He finished having a tenure with the Aggies with 63 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, and 7,820 yards.
However, Manziel drew national attention in college. He got arrested and charged with three disorderly conduct, failure to identify, and possession of a false driver’s license after a fight in College Station, Texas, before his first-ever college game in 2012. He received a parking ticket after a fraternity party in 2013. His wild ways led him to enter rehab in 2015. After he was discharged, he threw a water bottle at a heckler at the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament. Several months later, he was pulled over by a police officer after fighting in his car with his ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley.
6. Ryan Leaf – Partied Too Hard
In a success-driven society, former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was the epitome of goodness when he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the first round with the second overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft. The decision came shortly after the Indianapolis Colts selected Peyton Manning in the first round with the first overall pick.
Like most 21-year-olds, Leafs partied hard and dreamed big after accomplishing a major achievement. As a result, he wrecked his rookie season with poor behavior. He went on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, but found little success, which prompted him to retire from the NFL in 2001. He was arguably one of the biggest busts alongside JaMarcus Russell, Tony Mandarich, and David Carr.
After retiring, Leaf continued his college education at Washington State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in humanities in 2005. He has been sober since 2013. He appeared to find his calling as he’s going to provide analysis for ESPN this year.
5. Tiger Woods – Multiple Affairs/Driving Under The Influence
Tiger Woods grew up as a child prodigy who became a professional golfer at the age of 20. He’s one of the most successful golfers of all time. He ranks second in golfers with the most PGA Tour wins (79) from 1996 to 2013. He was the only golfer besides Rory McIlroy to win both a gold medal and a silver medal at The Open Championship.
Woods took a hiatus from golf after he admitted to having affairs with multiple women in 2009. He and his wife, Elin Nordegren, officially divorced in 2010. Nordegren received $100 million from Woods. The couple share joint custody of their children.
Woods made his ways back into the headlines following an arrest for driving under the influence in Jupiter, Florida. The police reportedly said that he struggled to keep his eyes open, walk, and speak at the time. He recently checked into rehab for addiction to prescription painkillers as an attempt to avoid losing custody of his two children. His life hasn’t been the same ever since his cheating scandal.
4. Lamar Odom – Drug Addiction
The issues around retired NBA center Lamar Odom date back to his childhood. He was born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York to a troubled family. His father, Joe Odom, was a heroin addict. His mother, Cathy Mercer, died of colon cancer when he was just 12 years old. Lamar eventually reconnected with Joe when his ex-wife, Khloe Kardashian, urged him to do so.
Lamar was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round with the fourth overall pick during the 1999 NBA Draft. He played for four seasons with the Clippers from 1999 to 2003, before spending one season with the Miami Heat. He joined the rival, Los Angeles Lakers, for seven seasons from 2004 to 2011. From there, he had brief stints with the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, and Saski Baskonia of the Liga LCB and EuroLeague, and even returned to the Clippers as a part of a four-term deal.
Lamar had difficulty adjusting to his newfound fame after marrying Khloe. He was found unconscious at the Love Ranch in Crystal, Nevada and was hospitalized. He suffered kidney failure and many strokes, but managed to regain consciousness. It was definitely a miracle when he began the recovery progress, but he ended up losing his wife and his ability to function effectively.
3. Jovan Belcher – Murder
Jovan Belcher’s cause of death was a murder-suicide involving his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. Although he wasn’t selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs took a chance on him and signed him as a free agent linebacker. He became an inside linebacker in 2010. However, 2011 was his most productive season as he had 61 tackles and 26 assists.
Prior to his death, Belcher re-signed with the Chiefs and accepted a one-year 1.9-million-dollar contract. He played in 11 games, starting 10, and finished with 33 tackles and five assists. One night changed two lives when he shot Kasandra nine times in front of her mother and their three-month-old daughter, Zoey. He then drove his car to a parking lot at the Chiefs’ practice facility near Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. He had a gun to his head when he approached Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, told him that he killed Kasandra, and thanked him before asking him and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt to take care of Zoey.
Reports have confirmed that Belcher had 170 mg/dL of alcohol in his system at the time, and that he suffered from chronic trauma encephalopathy. He not only lost his up-and-coming career, but he also ended the lives of two people (including himself) and left behind a daughter who will grow up without her parents.
2. O.J. Simpson – Murder Case
The O.J. Simpson murder case was often dubbed as the “Trial of the Century.” Simpson allegedly killed his wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman, outside of a condominium in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. He was acquitted on two counts of murder. He also was questioned for an armed robbery where he stole sports memorabilia at the Palace Station in Las Vegas. The Nevada Parole Board granted him parole on the charges in July 2013, but decided to hold him until October 2017.
Simpson played in the NFL for 11 seasons as a running back. He was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the first overall pick in the 1969 NFL/AFL Draft and signed a five-year 650,000-dollar contract. After the 1997 season, the Bills traded him to the San Francisco 49ers for several draft picks. He played in Candlestick Park for two seasons before he announced his retirement.
1. Aaron Hernandez – Murder Charges
Unlike the O.J. Simpson trial, the Aaron Hernandez trial generated even more buzz. Hernandez’s alleged suicide by hanging came just a week after he was acquitted of a double homicide in Boston in 2012. He was also planning to appeal his conviction in the murder of Boston Bandits linebacker Odin Lloyd at the time. Under Massachusetts law, a conviction is thrown out if a criminal dies before their appeals are heard. So Hernandez technically died as an innocent man.
Hernandez played for the Bristol Central High School Rams as a tight end for the most part. He had 67 receptions for 1,807 yards, 24 offensive touchdowns, 72 tackles, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and four blocked kicks. He was later named Connecticut’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year. He also graduated from high school a year early.
Hernandez committed to the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. He won the John Mackey Award in his junior year of college after leading the Gators with 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns. He was also a First-Team All-Southeastern Conference and a First-Team All-American. He finished his college career with 111 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Hernandez once had a promising NFL career after being selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round with the 112nd overall pick in the 2010 draft. However, he was tried for two separate murder charges and received lifetime imprisonment without parole for Lloyd’s death. He was cut from the Patriots and forfeited his upcoming salaries amounting to $19.3 million. His concealed demons led him to drugs, a murder, and his own death.
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