In all walks of life you will find jerks. This could be someone you work with who won’t give you the time of day, it could be someone who cuts in line at the grocery store, someone who constantly cheats in a pick up game, or an obnoxious neighbour that will keep you up to the early hours of the morning each night. One place where you will find a huge amount of jerks is in professional sports. Professional athletes need to be full of self confidence; otherwise they would never have made it as far as they have. There is nothing wrong with being full of self confidence, but sometimes this will boil over into full blown arrogance and narcissism (two key ingredients for being a jerk).
This arrogance and narcissism will lead many professional athletes to act like jerks, and this is during games, in interviews, in their personal lives and with their interactions with fans. Even the fans of the team these jerks play on will find it difficult to get behind these players, and opposing fans will cheer any slip up or mistake they make in any game. Even though these athletes are aware of their reputation and what people think of them, it will not stop them from acting in this way and like true jerks they will carry on defiant and not change their ways.
When you combine arrogance, staggering wages and being a recognisable celebrity it will inevitably lead some professional athletes to become jerks. This is often not the case however and there are many humble, friendly and respectable professional athletes, which suggests that perhaps these jerks were born to annoy, upset and cause controversy. This list will primarily focus on players who are rude, arrogant and generally unpleasant to those around them, and not on athletes who have frequent run ins with the law (although inevitably these tend to go hand in hand).
While we published a piece last year on some heavier offenses, this list will be kept a little lighter. Criminal offenses are not taken into account for this list. They're just plain jerks, the kind of people you might interact with on a daily basis. Some of these athletes may be revered by many fans and the media, but we're here to burst your bubble. Others are clearly seen as jerks by everyone.
Here are 15 athletes who are actually jerks.
16 Diego Costa
If you were to ask any defender in the Premier League this season who the biggest jerk is in the league, my money would be on most of them saying Diego Costa. He has an ability to get under opponents' skin, and this is through bullying opponents and even physically abusing them (when the referee isn’t looking of course). A few notable incidents this season include stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can and Martin Skrtel in the same game, as well as pushing PSG’s Marquinhos to the floor when the official had turned his back. He also taunts his opponents and tries to provoke them, but will then claim that he is the one being taunted. Typical jerk like behaviour.
15 Kobe Bryant
When Kobe entered the league he was a fresh faced, fun loving kind of guy. Over the years he has developed an ice cold demeanour and there are now all kinds of stories of his jerk like behaviour. These mainly come down to his desire to win and hatred for losing, but this doesn’t excuse some of his antics.
The most notable incidents are not attending Shaq’s wedding, disrespecting his teammates (particularly Bynum and Howard), not engaging with his team off the court, and for signing a gigantic 2 year, $48.5 million contract extension which eats up an enormous amount of cap space for the Lakers (many players in his position would take a pay cut to help the team improve). His very public sexual assault case seemed to unravel his public persona, and although the charges were dropped, he admitted to cheating on his wife which lost him a lot of respect.
14 Michael Jordan
MJ is unquestionably one of the greatest athletes of all time, but it seems in order to reach these lofty heights you also have to be a bit of a jerk. There are dozens of stories of Jordan’s ultra competitiveness causing him to bully and intimidate those around him. He has punched teammates in the face, refused to pass to certain players, brought Kwame Brown to tears, shook Muggsy Bogues confidence to its very core and even cheated in a game of cards with an old lady.
Despite all these stories, it is still difficult to not be a fan of “His Airness” and this is a testament to his greatness.
13 A.J Pierzynski
When your own teammates don’t like you it is a clear sign that you are a jerk. A.J Pierzynski has clashed with just about everyone at each team he has been with, and he has been at the centre of a few bench clearing brawls during his time too. He has been labelled a “clubhouse cancer” by many around the league, including one of his teammates at the Giants in 2004. He has developed this reputation through his big mouth and some rather unsavoury language which he is not shy about directing towards anyone. He is also known for a few dirty plays, as well as indifference to the team and his teammates. As Ozzie Guillen put it – “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”
12 Claude Lemieux
Claude Lemieux may have won the Stanley Cup with three different teams and have a fantastic postseason record, but he is also widely known as one of the most hated players to have ever played in the NHL. This is largely down to a number of dirty plays over his career, including biting Jim Peplinski on the finger, checking Kris Draper into the boards from behind (causing him to suffer concussion, require reconstructive surgery and have his jaw wired shut), and clashing with Darren McCarty as a result of the rivalry that had developed between the Red Wings and Avalanche after the incident with Draper. This sinister play and intention on harming opponents ensure that he is an NHL villain, albeit one which enjoyed a huge amount of success over his career.
Lemieux has even admitted to being a diver in his career. Well, at least he's an honest jerk.
11 Terrell Owens
Like a high percentage of the entries on this list, Terrell Owens excelled at what he did and is one of the greats. He is also one of the more irritating and controversial athletes in recent times, and a class A jerk. His narcissistic touchdown celebrations are just the tip of the iceberg, and he has caused controversy with the majority of teams he played for (his journey around the league is largely due to his controversial actions.)
Over the course of his career, Owens clashed with team management, trashed the organisation and teammate Donovan McNabb when he was with the Eagles in an interview, thrown tantrums after not receiving the ball enough, and he despicably spit in the face of DeAngelo Hall and generally annoyed everyone around him due to his arrogance and immaturity.
10 Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona may have been beloved in Argentina, but many who followed his career and caught wind of his personality off the pitch probably weren't endeared to him. No one will forget his 'Hand of God' goal which was outright cheating, then he had the nerve to dub it as he did.
He also made headlines in 2010 when he ran over a cameraman with his car prior to the World Cup tournament. Maradona has long seemed to have the attitude that rules and ethics don't apply to him.
8 Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez has proven himself to be one of the more despicable characters in football in recent years. Biting his opponents is the most obvious jerk like behaviour, but he also dives on a regular basis and will do everything he can to get an opposing player booked. He has also clashed with teammates, sworn at fans in the stands, taunted managers and purposefully handled the ball.
It is not just these actions that make him a much hated character however; he also racially abused Patrice Evra in 2011 which exceeds jerk like behaviour. He then refused to shake Evra’s hand when the clubs met again. To top it all off, the Liverpool management and fans stood by Suarez throughout all of this (for some reason), and he then forced a move away from the club for Barcelona.
7 Barry Bonds
Bonds’s ex-girlfriend hit the nail on the head when she labelled the former slugger as a “major league jerk”. He was of course the key figure in the steroid scandal and therefore damaged the integrity of the sport, and tarnished all of the remarkable records that he (still) holds. He was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying to the grand jury, but his jerk like behaviour extends past the steroids scandal.
His ex-girlfriend testified that he made violent threats and was emotionally abusive towards her (evidence of steroid use), and Bonds also has a history of being mean and intimidating to reporters, and even his own fans. Statistically he is one of the greatest of all time, but how he got there and his actions make Bonds a “major league jerk”.
6 Floyd Mayweather Jr.
He may be one of the greatest boxers of all time, but Floyd Mayweather Jr is also a class-A jerk. He is one of the most arrogant athletes ever, and his self given nickname “Money” sums up the type of character he is. He even posted a video of himself counting $1 million dollars; not the classiest move. In addition to his loud mouthed, unrelenting arrogance and questionable language directed at his opponents, Mayweather has had numerous run ins with the law relating to domestic violence.
His arrogance and lack of class or respect make him a huge jerk, and run ins with the law exceed this label. Do us all a favour Manny…
5 Tiger Woods
There was a time, what seems like an eternity ago, where Tiger Woods was one of the nicest guys in sports and one of the most marketable athletes. He has since had a very public fall from grace, and now is one of the biggest jerks in sports. His infidelity was revealed, and soon dozens of women were coming forwards and admitting to have slept with Woods. Many of his sponsors no longer wanted to be associated with an athlete who cheated on his wife and acted in such a way, causing Tiger to lose a fortune in endorsements.
It is not just his sleeping around and “sex addiction” that makes him a jerk however, Tiger is also rude in interviews, smug, and there are dozens of stories of him refusing to sign autographs. He was once a fine role model, but his very public fall from grace has revealed him to be a true jerk.
4 Lance Armstrong
Sure, everything Lance Armstrong has done for Cancer Research is fantastic and the world is a better place because of it, but he is not a nice person. His use of performance enhancing drugs only scratches the surface of what makes the former road cyclist a huge jerk. It has emerged that Armstrong was also a bully and he would intimidate and even threaten people into ensuring that his secret was kept safe, and being such a powerful figure it made it easy for him to do so. The revelation of the doping scandal, and Armstrong’s fall from grace, shook the entire cycling world to its core and it has never fully recovered. Armstrong was manipulative, devious and a bully, but hid behind his reputation as a good guy, this makes him one of the biggest jerks of all-time.
3 Joey Barton
Joey Barton may amuse people with his thoughts and reflections on Twitter, but it is important to remember what a jerk this guy is. He clearly likes to make the headlines, but the only way to do this is through controversy. Over his career he has put a cigarette out on a youth player's eye, assaulted a fan, hospitalized his teammate after a training ground fight, attacked a man and a teenager at a bus stop, started a 10 man brawl in a friendly, openly criticized his manager and his fans, made homophobic remarks, elbowed, kicked and head butted three different players in one game and most recently punched an opposing player in the privates. In addition to this there are dozens of late, career threatening challenges, scraps and red cards to his name too.
2 Sean Avery
There is no denying that Sean Avery is a huge jerk. During his career he caused all kinds of controversy both on and off the ice, ensuring that there are not too many that would consider themselves a fan of his. Avery allegedly made remarks about Jason Blake’s leukaemia during a pre game warm up, resulting in a scrap between Avery and Blake’s teammate Darcy Tucker. His unsportsmanlike play led to the introduction of “The Avery Rule” after he screened the goalkeeper by waving his gloves and stick in front of the keeper (this now results in a 2 minute penalty).
Avery has also made a rather obscene “sloppy seconds” comment to the press in relation to Phaneuf dating his ex (Elisha Cuthbert), plus there are allegations that he used racial remarks to agitate opponents.
1 Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod's own team doesn't even want him, but through their own fault, are stuck with him. It's the equivalent of George Costanza staying at Play Now, even after he was told they didn't want him there.
Where do we begin with Alex Rodriguez? He was unfaithful to his wife before the couple divorced back in 2008. He constantly walks around with a sense of entitlement, and is a pathological liar, refusing to admit to his use of PEDs.
Nobody likes A-Rod.