Athletes hold a special place in the world. When we’re sick of our politicians (which is all the time) we can turn to our nations athletes to represent us on the global stage. American greats such as Michael Phelps might not be the best representatives, but they win when it counts. Perhaps some don’t see the winning as important as beating other countries.
The sports world is full of people like Luis Suarez and Tom Brady. The rest of the planet hates them for their actions or their winning ability, but no matter how horrible a person they may be, they’re beloved in their home country or state. That’s just how we’re programmed, always routing for the locals to show that we’re better than everyone else.
There are, however, a select few special athletes who have broken from the norm. They’ve done things so terrible even their own country can no longer look them in the eye and say they’re happy to have them.
Considering so many sports fans will overlook some pretty heinous crimes, such as the Ray Rice abuse scandal or the nation being divided on the O.J. Simpson murder trial, these athletes must have done some horrible things to earn the ire of their home nation. That, or they don’t win enough, or they’re too flamboyant, or maybe they just don’t “look” right.
No matter the reason, here are the top ten athletes hated by their own country.
9 Alex Rodriguez
For decades, the MLB has been dealing with prevalent use of steroids in its sport by largely ignoring it. This abandonment of a major issue allowed guys like Alex Rodriguez to cheat the system, and do so on a professional level.
He denied using steroids for years, then admitted to taking them only to heal an injury, denied ever taking them any other time, and finally admitted again to taking them for years. What boils everyone’s blood is how unrepentant Rodriguez is about the whole situation, saying that he never lied at all and challenging the Yankees to give him money many feel he doesn’t deserve.
The steroids are a continuation of the bad attitude Rodriguez has been carrying around since he entered the league. Cheating on his wife, dating celebrities, lying to fans and the media, and not paying child support have made Rodriguez a pariah in Major League Baseball.
8 Mario Balotelli
The Italian soccer star has a long history of doing stupid things. He set off fireworks in his own home in 2011, threw darts at rookie players, went to a women’s prison to “have a look around,” took an Instagram photo with a rifle, and crashed his car carrying over $7,500 in cash. When asked why he had so much money in the car, he said “because I’m rich.”
Naturally his borderline crazy and reckless antics have angered many in Italy. Many newspapers are quick to blame him for any misfortunes his old Italian club endured, and fans berated him at every turn.
Unfortunately, we can’t ignore race here either. In 2009 while playing for Inter Milan, Balotelli scored a goal and the opposing team assaulted him with racist chants. A referee decided to temporarily suspend a match in 2013 in Roma due to racist chants. As if it weren’t bad enough, it happened again in 2014 during a practice in Italy.
7 The 2012 Kazakhstan Women’s Weightlifting Team
A strange choice for this list, you say? Well, the 2012 Kazakhstan team is composed entirely of Chinese nationals and are hated by two countries.
The government of Kazakhstan believed their own weightlifting team wasn’t good enough to compete in the Olympics. Meanwhile, the Chinese weightlifting team left out several athletes not because they weren’t any good, but because there were better athletes ahead of them. Or at least so China thought.
Kazakhstan brought four women in to make up their official weightlifting team, giving them Kazakhstan names to try (and fail) to fool people. There’s no rule against athletes playing for foreign countries as long as they hold dual citizenship there. However, Kazakhstan wanted the world to believe it was their own athletes that were winning. And win they did, the team ended up bringing home two gold medals.
China hated this group of women because they believe their people shouldn’t play for foreign nations, let alone actually beat them in competition. Kazakhstan hated them because they took the place of their own athletes, and the people didn’t appreciate their government trying to hide the truth either.
6 Jay Cutler
Some people have facial features that make them appear sad or uncaring all the time. Such is the case for Jay Cutler. It’s not his fault he looks like Droopy. It is his fault however for occasionally playing like Droopy would.
He started his career by sending beloved starter Jake “the Snake” Plummer to the bench in 2006. The following year, Cutler started a fight with San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers. Cutler later went on air saying Rivers always starts fights with others and even goes after fans.
Cutler forced his way out of Denver by flipping off fans, insulting his own supporters, and finally demanded a trade. He ended up in Chicago, where his mediocre play might have him on the trade block for entirely different reasons.
In a 2011 playoff game against the Bears heated rival the Packers, Cutler removed himself from the game late in the third quarter due to a knee injury. However, he seemed to walk off the field under his own power, giving the impression he must not have been too injured. He was even seen on the sideline warming up, before taking off his gear and laughing on the sideline despite his team losing. In the playoffs. To a hated rival.
6. Lionel Messi
One of the best soccer players in the world in a country that loves soccer surely couldn't be on this list. Well, he is.
Everything from poor performance when playing for Argentina on the national stage , his thorny relationship with coaches, and a lack of fan interaction have rubbed people the wrong way. But what angers people the most was how he went to play overseas at a young age.
One newspaper report conducted a study on Argentine soccer fans. "All the players have fans in Argentina except Messi, who left when he was 13 to pursue the footballing dream which he could not fulfill in his country."
Many in Argentina consider him an outsider now and not a true Argentine, and his lack of bringing a World Cup trophy home has only made things worse, as Argentina haven't won a World Cup since 1986. Losing in the championship game in 2014 was the best Messi ever achieved, but even more is expected from the best player in the world.
5 Brett Hull
Brett Hull was a Canadian hockey player playing for the United States. This discussion can stop there, as it’s easy to see why Team Canada would hate a defector. Why would a great and popular hockey player from Canada play for a country that barely registers hockey at all?
Hull played for the US Men’s Team at the 1986 World Ice Hockey Championship, when he didn't receive an invitation from the Canadian team. He did so again for the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics. In 2002, the US played Canada in the Gold Medal Game, but helost to his birth country.
The land of maple syrup never forgave Hull and to this day he’s still hated in the Great White North, and lives in St. Louis.
4 Cuban Baseball Players
To Cuba, baseball is like a religion. Many are applauding the recent thaw in US and Cuba relations. The sports world is abuzz with the hope that Cuban baseball players will be able to play in the MLB without having to go through real life horror stories like Yasiel Puig or Aroldis Chapman.
No one is more excited about this than Cubans, however they aren't excited about everything. Namely, they don't want to see their players hop across the pond and play in the MLB. For many Cubans, leaving the country to play baseball in America is enough to garner hate.
Those that left, especially those that defected or snuck out of the country to play, can expect to face the cold shoulder back home. Especially someone like Chapman, who, when left while the Cuban national team was playing in the Netherlands, left behind his father, mother, two sisters, girlfriend, and newborn child, according to ESPN. For many Cubans, it goes beyond baseball and enters the realm of "how far are you willing to go to escape?"
3 John Terry
Another athlete hated for his actions off the playing field, though this time much more justifiably.
Terry drunkenly made fun of an American tourist at an airport bar about 9/11, shortly after the September 11th attacks. At another bar in 2008, Terry was caught urinating in a glass and dropping it on the floor. Even after all this, he was still named team captain of England’s national team.
His armband was taken away from him, but only after an affair with the girlfriend of Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge in 2010. That affair led to the girlfriend getting pregnant, while Terry was also married at the time, and had two kids.
He’s also been accused on multiple occasions of using racial slurs against players, referees, and fans. In fact, there’s video evidence of Terry using a racial slur against a teammate in 2011. Makes for the kind of guy that no one really likes, except for staunch Chelsea supporters.
2 Lance Armstrong
Armstrong is the man who showed the world what the American spirit was all about. Battling cancer and coming back to win multiple Tour-de-France’s. Best of all, he did it without taking steroids.
After years of successfully suing and defaming anyone who even suggested Armstrong might have taken steroids, he finally admitted it to Oprah in 2013. Not only did he take steroids, but he forced his teammates to do it as well and worked with top ranking officials in the sport to get away with it, force other athletes to do it, and threaten anyone who might come out with the truth.
Armstrong went beyond taking steroids, he bullied his way to the top, and destroyed the lives of everyone who tried to blow the whistle. In the process, he made the US appear as a bully and a joke.
1 Floyd Mayweather
Coming off a win against Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather once again found himself in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Mayweather has beaten wives and girlfriends in the past, even having to go to jail for 90 days because of one incident, according to Deadspin. The most chilling account comes from his 10 year old son, who watched Mayweather beat his mother in 2010, and wrote a note for the police, which you can see here.
Money talks though and Mayweather’s prison term was delayed several months so he could be in a Cinco de Mayo fight against Miguel Cotto, earning $32 million in the process.
In his latest fight against Pacquiao, several American celebrities including Justin Beiber, Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, and fittingly Chris Brown came out to support him. Mayweather won the pathetic fight between two over-the-hill boxers, yet despite how bad the fight was, he’s laughing his way to the bank with a $100 million+ paycheck.
Perhaps worst of all is Mayweather’s continued insistence that the incidents never happened. He even went so far as to ban two female reports from the fight because they dared speak out against his domestic violence. He laughs in the media’s face and says he’s done nothing wrong, while the facts are there in the open. The fact is, for him, it doesn’t matter.
If you wanted an indication of how America feels about him, just listen to the chorus of boos he received during the fight, while the fans chanted for Pacquiao, a humble fighter from the Philippines.