Much like other professions, sports rely on an ethical code. It’s the responsibility of all athletes to act accordingly in regards to these values. However, there will always be those who fail to meet those expectations, whether they break the rules or break the law. Of course depending on the offense the athlete is usually given a second chance, though the fallout tends to follow them for the entirety of their professional careers as well as personal lives.
Athletes are used to being in the spotlight – especially the successful ones – but sometimes they’re being talked about for the wrong reasons. Though they might sometimes seem larger than life, they’re as human as anyone else. They can be as bad, dishonest and flawed as anyone of us. But because they live their lives in the spotlight, their mistakes become spectacles for the whole world to view and judge. It is because of this extra attention that an emphasis is put on their behavior. Their actions should be justified because – though they all represent different kinds of sports – each strives to achieve a commitment to excellence (not to echo the old Raiders mantra). So when an athlete is involved in a scandal or breaks the law, it’s only normal that they become subject to controversy.
While they are often the first to condemn such actions, the public feeds off of controversy. Scandals, violence and the damage done to someone’s public image are all winning ingredients for these sorts of situations. As much as those at the heart of the issue are to blame, it’s the public’s interest that keeps the flame alive. Yes the fact that it’s a celebrity does tend to draw more interest than a typical case of domestic abuse, but something can only be controversial so long as people talk about it.
11 Oscar Pistorius
10 Dennis Rodman
9 Barry Bonds
8 Mike Tyson
7 Michael Vick
6 Tonya Harding
5 Floyd Mayweather
4 Tiger Woods
3 Lance Armstrong
The story of Lance Armstrong is one that goes from heartwarming to gut-wrenching really fast. A seven time Tour de France winner, Armstrong touched millions with his battle against Testicular Cancer. His efforts to raise awareness, as well as his “Livestrong” campaign only boosted his image in the public eye. But a doping scandal quickly turned him from hero to pariah. Armstrong – often adamant in denying his use of any sort of performance enhancing drug – was finally found out. He’d used steroids. The backlash was harsh. He was stripped of his Tour de France titles, replaced as the head of the Livestrong foundation lost multiple endorsements and was banned from the sport of Cycling by the International Cycling Union.
2 O.J. Simpson
In his prime, OJ Simpson was one of the NFL's best running backs, but people don't remember him for his Hall of Fame career. What they do remember is the trial that captivated millions in which Simpson was charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The trial itself became something of a spectacle that is still a part of pop-culture today. Most notably lawyer Johnnie Cochran's "It doesn't fit, you must acquit" mantra, and Simpson's hands not fitting a pair of gloves said to be similar to those used by the murderer. Simpson evaded prison and was found not guilty, and while he was acquitted by a jury of his peers the memory and doubt towers taller than any of his professional accolades. Over time the question is still the same. Did he do it?
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