Suing is almost as much a part of American culture as baseball, apple pie, and Uncle Sam. People sue because their fast food coffee is too hot, haunted houses are too scary, and their neighbors knocking on doors too loudly. Best of all, two of those three lawsuits resulted in the plaintiff winning. Every so often, a reasonable and lawful lawsuit will be filed, and with the lack of pain inducing comedy, the judges will take it upon themselves to issue a ridiculous verdict.
It should come as no surprise when people decide to sue, or rather “seek justice,” against multi-million dollar athletes. A man once sued Michael Jordan because he was tired of people saying he looked like MJ, an offense that he valued at $416 million.
Every so often, an athlete will find time in their busy schedule of making money to try and make more by suing their team or even their league. Seeking damages for whatever perceived offense, or trying to sue their way off the bench and into the game, athletes are just as capable of issuing frivolous lawsuits as any of us. And yeah, sometimes there are a few well-warranted lawsuits.
To tell the truth, a lot of these lawsuits are actually valid. Athletes don’t need to take such actions to make a quick buck and suing your own place of work isn’t always a great idea if you want to keep that job. It’s amazing how some organizations treat even their all-star players and it’s equally amazing what some washed up players are willing to do for money. Not that any of us here at TheSportster are judging, we don’t want to be sued either.
Here’s our list of the Top 15 Athletes who’ve sued their own team or league.
15 Mozzi Gyorio
Soccer is a massively underrated sport in America, but too many fake injuries have deemed it a “baby’s” sport. That kind of thing is hard to argue against when you see a player fall down to the ground grabbing his leg in agony after a fly brushed against his shoulder, even more so when a player sues his team for being benched.
Mozzi Gyorio, a 26 year old Canadian, was a minor leaguer in England when he was given the chance to play for Minnesota United FC, a North American Soccer League team. He was promised to be a key player, receiving big minutes each game. But after he got there, he quickly found himself spending most of his time on the bench.
After five months, Gyorio stopped showing up to games and practices, and refused to be traded, so the team cut him. He filed a lawsuit against the team, alleging that the team breached the terms of his contract by not playing him enough and against the NASL for allowing the team to cut him.
The lawsuit is still ongoing, but Minnesota United FC recently accepted an invitation to the MLS. Gyorio now plays for the Austin Aztex, a United Soccer League team, a minor league team that apparently can’t even afford a dictionary.
14 Lawrence Tynes
Okay, this one is definitely not frivolous. You might remember back in 2013 that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a massive MSRA outbreak, thanks in large part due to the team’s awful sanitation standards.
Tynes and rookie Jonathan Banks were infected, and Carl Hicks was actually infected twice. The outbreak was so bad that a game between the Bucs and the Eagles was almost postponed, though it never happened.
Tynes missed the season and he never played in an NFL game again. As a result, he sued the team in April 2015, for the Bucs poor sanitation and alleging that the organization covered up the severity of the outbreak. Tynes is seeking “compensatory damages” for his lost salary and for “substantial pain and suffering." He also alleges that the team failed to properly treat player who were infected and did not do a well enough job cleaning the facility after the outbreak occurred.
The lawsuit is still ongoing, and the Bucs have yet to address it.
13 Dave Hill
Okay, now that the serious stuff is out of the way, back to silly lawsuits!
Dave Hill was a PGA golfer who won 13 Events and the Vardon Trophy in 1969, given to the year’s leader in scoring average. He was always a character, complaining about bad golf courses, riding to award events in tractors, and once confronted Jack Nicklaus during the Rider Cup.
In May 1971, Hill hit his ball into a bunker and then threw it out. He was penalized of course, but would later sign off on a bad score card that didn’t count it. The PGA was fed up with his behavior and not only fined him $500 (about $3,000 in today’s money) but disqualified him from the event.
Hill fired back with an anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA for $1 million, and in retaliation, the PGA put him on probation for a full year. Hill again countered, raising the lawsuit to $3 million. Hill settled out of court, and the probation and fines were dropped.
12 Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez has been in a lot of hot water lately. Over the last three years, he’s bulked up on lawyers, and has really injected a lot of money into the legal system, artificially strengthening… something. He took steroids.
Anyway, when the fallout was first coming down and he was banned a record 211 games by Major League Baseball, he sued the organization for its unfair treatment. He claimed the MLB was pursuing a witch hunt against him and that he was fighting for his life.
He also sued the Yankee’s team doctor, alleging that he mistreated and misdiagnosed a hip injury. The Yankees were also desperate to get rid of A-Rod, but couldn’t because his contract was too large, bulked up if you will.
A-Rod won the lawsuits and his suspension was shorted to 162 games. Now back from his suspension, 2015 is proving to be one of the best years of his career, the Yankees are making the playoffs, and the rich get richer.
11 Jeremy Mayfield
In May 2009, Jeremy Mayfield was suspended from NASCAR indefinitely, and it’s looking more and more like a permanent ban from the sport with each passing year. He was originally suspended for several failed drug tests, but over the years he’s been involved in several controversies. He was evicted from his $1.8 million mansion for not making payments, his dogs attacked a mailman in 2011 and he lost $1 million dollars in the case, and he was arrested in 2011 under investigation of several burglarys.
Mayfield is adamant he doesn’t take drugs, saying the failed test is due to his allergy medicine. So in 2009, he sued NASCAR for defamation, unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, and negligence.
A judge ruled in favor of NASCAR in 2010, saying the waivers he signed when he joined NASCAR meant he agreed to the drug testing policy in place. Mayfield could come back to NASCAR, but he refuses to submit to drug tests with NASCAR’s drug testing lab or admit he took drugs.
10 Casey Martin
Casey Martin sued the PGA in 2001 for refusing him to use a golf cart between holes. Martin wasn’t lazy, or maybe he is, but he at least has a pretty good excuse. Martin was born with Klippel–Trénaunay syndrome in his right leg, meaning he’s very susceptible to getting blood clots, infections, and internal bleeding.
The case went all the way up to the US Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 in Martin’s favor. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Supreme Court stated that the PGA was a commercial enterprise rather than a private company.
The real question is, why did this have to go all the way up to the Supreme Court? Would letting Martin ride a golf cart really give him any kind of advantage? Really, PGA?
Martin would go on to get a coaching job at the University of Oregon in 2006 and play in several PGA Tour events, including the 2012 US Open.
9 Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson, a forward for the Portland Timbers of the MLS, sued the team in 2014 for $9.9 million, allegedly being told to practice despite showing signs of concussion. He sustained a concussion in a game back in August 2011, and another less than two weeks later. He was ruled out for the rest of the 2011 season, but when he came back in 2012, he says he was still feeling the symptoms, but was told to play on anyway.
“Johnson has and will continue to suffer loss of function and ability, pain, discomfort, mental suffering, anxiety, and inconvenience and interference with his normal and usual activities,” his lawyers stated in the lawsuit.
Johnson formally played for Manchester United before coming to the US to play in the MLS. He retired after the 2012 season, presumably because of concussion related injuries. The lawsuit is still pending and the Timbers insist they followed the MLS’s proper protocol.
8 Northwestern University Football Team
In 2014, players at Northwestern University voted to become a union, stating that they wanted to be paid for playing college sports. This notably started with the football team. Technically speaking, nobody sued either the university or the NCAA here, however, legal action was taken with the National Labor Relations Board.
It was a landmark case for both the players and the NCAA as a whole, with the NCAA of course vehemently against the idea of paying its players. Initially, the players were allowed to form a union and voted on doing so.
However, on August 17th, 2015, the NLRB overturned the initial decision and would not allow the players to form a union after all, and the decision cannot be appealed. This is a massive win for the NCAA, in the short term, and a stunning surprise for both Northwestern players, and student-athletes across the country.
7 Oscar Robertson
Legendary NBA star Oscar Robertson sued the NBA in 1970 in an anti-trust lawsuit, stating that the NBA’s refusal to let players leave via free agency was a violation of anti-trust laws. Robertson also sought damages for other players, the blocking of the NBA-ABA merger, and an end to the NBA draft.
A judge did temporarily halt the NBA and ABA merger, but it would take six years before any settlement was reached. Although he wasn’t playing anymore in 1976, the two sides settled out of court. The NBA agreed to enact free agency, although teams reserved the right to match any offer given by another team to a player. This settlement also allowed the NBA-ABA merger to finally go through.
This decision to allow free agency and merge with the ABA would of course change the NBA forever, and many would argue it’s a better league because of it. It’s hard to argue against that, given where the league is today.
6 Nick Diaz
Just a few weeks ago, Nick Diaz was banned for five years by the Nevada State Athletic Commission from boxing on charges of marijuana. Frankly, it’s completely ridiculous he would be banned for five times as long for something that’s now legal in several places across the country then a boxer taking steroids, but that’s not what this article is about.
In fact, that’s not what his lawsuit was about, he filed it many years earlier in 2012. Back then, he also failed a drug test, again for marijuana, and was briefly suspended by the NSAC. A few months later, Diaz filed a lawsuit against the NSAC, claiming the commission violated his due rights for suspending him immediately and not giving him the chance to defend himself.
Not long after that, Nevada’s Attorney General said that Diaz had no case and that his lawyers didn’t know what they were talking about. Later that year, the state of Nevada tossed the suit out without a hearing and Diaz was forced to serve his suspension.
It remains to be seen if he’ll try again, but even though the new suspension is over the top, it doesn’t seem like he has much of a legal case.
5 Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, once sued the WCW in 2001 for failing to pay him his wages and alleged age discrimination.
Piper, 49 years old at the time, suffered a torn bicep in 1999 but was now fully recovered. However, the WCW refused to use him in his final 40 matches and wouldn’t pay him the $1.4 million his contract stipulated.
"I was told that the organization said they've got to cut salary back. They didn't mind when I was filling all the arenas. Then when they took me off the roster, things started going down,” Piper said of the lawsuit.
The WCW was already falling apart. It was purchased not long after the lawsuit by the WWE, as they were losing money at a rapid rate as fans turned away.
4 Jim McMahon
Jim McMahon, the man who stabbed himself with a fork when he was kid, hasn’t been doing too hot since he retired. He had several concussions and other major injuries during his time in the NFL, and as a result he’s suffering memory loss these days.
But in 2014 it was painkillers that resulted in his lawsuit against the NFL. He alleges that team doctors only gave him painkillers after suffering a broken neck and a broken ankle while playing for the Bears, without any other treatment, so he could get back on the field. He also says the league acquired these painkillers through illegal means and that they NFL did not warn players of their side effects.
As a result, McMahon says he became addicted to painkillers, much like Brett Favre, for years, taking as many as 100 pills a month. The NFL obviously denied this and the lawsuit is still ongoing.
3 Abby Wambach
In 2014, a group of women’s soccer players from around the world sued FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association for installing artificial turf in the Canadian Women’s World Cup in 2015. American Abby Wambach led that charge, stating that the fake turf is a harder surface and is much more likely to cause injury. It’s something athletes from around the world in several different sports have said, but this is the first time there’s been a lawsuit over it.
The players dropped the case earlier this year, because the CSA said they wouldn’t comply and change the field even if the women won the case, and that FIFA and the CSA wouldn’t negotiate in good faith. Call me crazy, but dropping a lawsuit because the people you’re suing are being mean isn’t a great reason to drop it, but I’m not a lawyer.
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup was played on artificial turf and the United States beat Japan soundly. It’s likely Wambach’s last World Cup before she retires.
However, questions are being raised about artificial turf’s safety. Some are questioning if it gives athlete’s cancer, because the black pellets used in the turf are made of shredded tires, that were made with carcinogens. Maybe women’s soccer players were on to something.
2 Curt Flood
Flood sued the MLB and commissioner Bowie Kuhn personally after he was traded away from the Cardinals in 1970. Flood, a seven time Golden-Glove winner with the Cardinals, was unceremoniously traded to the Phillies, prompting Flood to file the lawsuit, alleging violation of anti-trust laws. Much like Oscar Robertson suing the NBA, flood was seeking to change the rules in the MLB.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and although former players testified in his favor, current players kept their mouths shut. The Supreme Court voted 5-3 in favor of the MLB in 1972, but it wasn’t all lost for Flood.
The MLB established the “Curt Flood Rule,” otherwise known as the 10-5 rule. The rule states that if a player has at least ten year’s experience in the MLB, and spends five of those years with one team, he’s allowed to deny or accept any trade involving himself. It was too late for Flood, but the case is considered historic for giving the players more rights when it comes to their contract.
1 Tom Brady
Tom Brady sued the NFL during the 2015 offseason for his four game suspension from deflating footballs. Chance are you’ve heard of this, because it’s all ESPN was reporting on for about a year.
The Judge tried for weeks to get the NFL and Brady to settle, but it never happened, so he ruled in favor of Brady. The suspension was eliminated entirely and the two employees who allegedly helped Brady deflate the balls were allowed back on the team as well.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Brady did deflate the footballs, such as the destruction of his phone, his refusal to cooperate with the investigation, and the texts sent by an employee calling himself “The Deflator,” Brady didn’t get in trouble at all, because the NFL didn't properly go about their investigation.
The case became another black eye for the NFL, which has had to grow several pairs of eyes just so they could be blackened.