Bizarrely, it seems to come as a surprise to some that athletes don't always support the team the play for. In fact, more often than not, athletes are traded/drafted/transferred to teams they previously had no affinity for or connection with. Of course, this is no real problem. Professional athletes are carrying out a job like anyone else, and provided they are professional and committed, even supporting a rival team is very rarely an issue.
Most athletes, like most people, support the team closest to them during their formative years, often where they were born or where they attended high school. Others may support a team due to a family connection, having a sort of inherited support for a team. Both are common and understandable. Other reasons can seem a little more tenuous and questionable, while others appear to be downright bandwagon jumpers.
Given that the vast majority of athletes support teams other than the one's they play for, whilst individual athletes don't necessarily represent any specific team, there are literally thousands of athletes who support teams they don't play for. This list then is a selection of 15 athletes whose support is either particularly fervent, unusual, or caused some kind of uproar when revealed. Here are 15 athletes who are huge fans of other teams:
15 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Washington Redskins
Two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s first love may be stock car racing, but his second is certainly football, and more specifically, the Washington Redskins. The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr., 'Junior' as he is sometimes more affectionately known first began his love affair with the Redskins at the age of 9. A 12-time Most Popular Driver Award winner, Earnhardt Jr. asked for a Redskins helmet for his 9th birthday, but instead his mother bought him the full uniform, pads and all. Earnhardt has been a Redskins fan ever since, and has even been known to have the Redskins scores relayed to him during a race. He once said, "If the Redskins lose, it ruins my week."
14 Thierry Henry - San Antonio Spurs
The French national team and Arsenal's all time top scorer, Thierry Henry was one of the finest players of his generation, and arguably the greatest of the Premier League era. When news broke that Henry was a 'Spurs fan' the English press lapped it up, in an attempt to wind up Arsenal fans. It was not the Spurs of Tottenham that Henry was nailing his mast to though, but rather the San Antonio Spurs. Henry said he idolized Michael Jordan from a young age, hence his interest in basketball, and became a Spurs fan due to his fellow countryman and friend Tony Parker. The Arsenal legend also claimed Parker played a pivotal role in convincing Henry to make a move to the MLS.
13 Justin Tuck - New York Rangers
Now retired NFL star Justin Tuck spent 10 years in the NFL, nine with the New York Giants who drafted him in 2005, and one with the Oakland Raiders, where he ended his career. A two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowl pick, Tuck began attending Rangers games in 2005 when he was first drafted by the Giants, but his support of the NHL didn't become publicly known until 2012, when he was pictured celebrating wildly as Brad Richards scored just 7.6 seconds from time. Tuck revealed, "It’s funny because I’ve been to a lot of Ranger games," adding "And until I banged on the home bench, no one ever noticed me. Now I’m like the greatest Ranger fan ever."
12 Rafael Nadal - Real Madrid
Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal has always had a passion for soccer. At 12, he had the choice of pursuing a career in either tennis or soccer, such was his ability in both, but he opted for the former, where he has gone on to win 14 Grand Slams and Olympic Gold. Nadal's uncle was a professional soccer player who played for Mallorca, Barcelona and the Spanish national team, but whilst Nadal had a natural affection for Mallorca, it was Barcelona's great rivals Real Madrid who became his club of choice. Nadal is a huge Los Blancos fan, he attends games regularly and is often asked his views on matters relating the team by the Spanish press, such as his recent vocal support for new manager Zinedine Zidane.
11 Jamie Carragher - Everton
A one-club man, Jamie Carragher spent his entire 17 year career at Anfield, playing 737 games, and was the clubs vice-captain for more than 10 years. He currently stands as the second longest serving player in Liverpool history and their record appearance holder in European competitions. Despite all this, Carragher was a big Everton fan whilst growing up. His father was an Evertonian, and Carragher's middle names 'Lee' and 'Duncan' are references to former Toffees Gordon Lee and Duncan McKenzie. Carragher even used to arrive at Liverpool's academy sporting an Everton shirt.
10 Larry Fitzgerald - Minnesota Vikings
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald caused something of a stir at the back end of last year, with some Cardinals fans not taking too kindly to Fitzgerald's comments that he supported the Vikings except for when the two sides faced each other. Had Fitzgerald's performances shown a lack of application or desire, the criticisms may have been understandable, but nine Pro Bowl selections and being the youngest NFL receiver to ever reach 11,000 career receiving yards probably suggests that is not so. Fitzgerald spent time as a ball boy with the Vikings, before being drafted by the Cardinals in 2004.
9 Matt Kemp - San Francisco 49ers
San Diego Padres outfielder Matt Kemp was another whose revelations that he supported an NFL team caused much ado about nothing. The former L.A. Dodgers man was pictured wearing a San Francisco 49ers hat in early 2012, and the reaction from so was a little over the top to say the least. Kemp is known to have been a long-time 49ers fan, but that didn't stop some, particularly a number of San Francisco Giants fans, from giving the MLB star some flack. Kemp is a two-time All-Star, two-time Golden Glove winner, two-time Silver Slugger winner and in 2011 he became the first player since Hank Aaron in 1963 to finish in the league's top two for both home runs and steals.
8 Steve Nash - Tottenham Hotspur
One of the most efficient offensive players in the history of the NBA, Steve Nash's time with the L.A. Lakers may have been troubled by injuries, but his eight years with the Phoenix Suns was nothing short of fantastic, and saw him named the NBA's MVP in both 2005 and 2006. Nash has long been a soccer fan, and a huge Tottenham Hotspur supporter. He even chose the number 10 shirt with the Lakers in homage to former Spurs playmaker Glenn Hoddle. Nash isn't just content with being a fan of the North Londoners though, and has often expressed a desire to take the club over along with a consortium, and said in 2008 that he had regular contact with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
7 LeBron James - Dallas Cowboys & New York Yankees
Four-time NBA MVP and now a bona fide NBA legend, LeBron James has made 12 NBA All Star teams and is still only 31 years of age. The two-time Olympic Gold medalist who has played as both a small forward and power forward over the course of his career has been criticised by some for being something of a 'bandwagon' jumper. Despite having been born in Ohio, and seemingly having no natural links to either the Cowboys or the Yankees, James just happens to support the most successful NFL and MLB teams in history.
6 Usain Bolt - Manchester United
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of his generation. Bolt is the fastest man ever timed, having run the 100 metres in 9.58 seconds. Furthermore, Bolt is the first man to win Gold in the 100 and metres at consecutive Olympic's (2008 and 2012). The greatest sprinter of all time, Bolt is also a huge Manchester United fan. He idolised Ruud van Nistelrooy whilst growing up and was a special guest of the club at the 2011 Champions League final. Like Nash, Bolt would like to extend his connection beyond that of a mere fan, and has regularly repeated an interest to play for the club once he retires from athletics.
5 David Beckham - L.A. Lakers
The most marketable soccer player in history, David Beckham had a glittering 21 year long career with Manchester United, Real Madrid, L.A. Galaxy, AC Milan and PSG. Beckham won 115 caps for England, the most of any outfield player, and captained his country for six years. After joining LA Galaxy in 2007, Becks began regularly attending Lakers games, and in 2014 he revealed, "I’ve been a fan of Magic for many many years. ... Moving to L.A., I became a huge Laker fan." The first English player in history to win league titles in four different countries, Beckham is a six time Premier League winner, one-time La Liga winner and one-time Champions League winner.
4 Kobe Bryant - Philadelphia Eagles & 76ers
L.A. Lakers and NBA legend Kobe Bryant has had a quite incredible career. He holds the record for the longest time spent with a single NBA team and ranks third in both the all time regular season scoring charts and the all time postseason scoring charts. An 18 time All Star, five time NBA champion and the Lakers all time leading scorer, Bryant's father, Joe Bryant, played for the 76ers, and having been born in Philadelphia, he supports both the Philadelphia Eagles and the 76ers.
3 John Terry - Manchester United
'Captain, Leader, Legend' is how John Terry is described by a banner that can always be found proudly presented at Stamford Bridge. Some would have less complimentary words to say for the man who has captained Chelsea for four years but also been involved in a number of controversial incidents including sleeping with a teammates former girlfriend and racism.
Despite being a Chelsea legend and the most successful captain in the club's history, with a trophy haul which includes 4 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups and one Champions League, among others, Terry was a Manchester United fan throughout his childhood despite being born in London.
2 Cam Newton - Atlanta Falcons
"I've always been a Falcons fan, and I'm still a Falcons fan except for those two times a year," those were the words of Cam Newton back in 2013 when asked whether he was still a Falcons fan. Born in Atlanta, Newton attended Westlake High School in Atlanta, making his affinity with the Falcons understandable.
This didn't stop some Panthers fans from taking issue with their quarterback repeating his support for their NFC South rivals, despite Newton having actually put in some of his most impressive performances against the Falcons, most notably in 2012 when he became the first player in NFL history to have over 250 passing yards and over 100 rushing yards with a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown in a game.
1 Manny Pacquiao - Boston Celtics
Filipino national hero and one of the finest boxers of his generation, Manny Pacquiao has enjoyed a magnificent boxing career and won a remarkable 10 world titles since making his pro debut in 1995. With a record of 57 wins, 6 losses and 2 draws, Pacquiao is the first eight division world champion in history. The second highest paid athlete in the world in 2015, 'Pac Man', as he is often known, is the longest reigning boxer on the Ring's top 10 pound-for-pound list.
A keen basketball fan and player, Pacquiao has long supported the Boston Celtics, and became an honorary member of the Celtics in 2010, which he repaid by giving a signed boxing glove to each of the teams players. Pacquiao has since become heavily involved in basketball in the Philippines, even stating that it would become more of a focus than boxing following his defeat to Floyd Mayweather. His support of the Celtics has not diminished though, and Pacquaio famously delayed a fight in 2012 until the Celtics had finished their game.