Too often do we see professional athletes publicly humiliate themselves. Too often do we witness our heroes climb the ladder to superstardom, only to allow their status inflate their heads, and have it end up crashing down on them and too often do we shame disgraced athletes to the point that they become vilified in the eyes of the public.
Everybody makes mistakes and, it's actually a beautiful thing - barring it isn't some heinous crime. You see, many times our mistakes will lead us to self-acknowledgement and awareness. Isn't that how we grow as people? Nelson Mandela said it best back in 1998 when he dug out the old adage that says, "The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail." I mean, that kind of says it all right there.
Athletes are introduced to the public spotlight the moment they step on the big stage. Every move that they make is criticized to some extent. However, because they're in the limelight, they're far more prone to the scalding hatred of the fans. This doesn't mean that they can't look to redeem themselves though, as time can cure all ailments.
The athletes on this list were on the road to success. They had all the tools and skills that they needed to reach the next level, yet, they made questionable decisions that led to public backlash. Ultimately, as you read this, think about whether or not you can forgive them. Since forgiveness is the attribute of the strong, it may be worth giving it a second thought. I believe that these athletes, if given the right opportunity, could either revitalize their careers or just come to an impasse with sports fans. It may be farfetched and I might be reaching here, but it's definitely worth a mention.
15 Maria Sharapova
As you all may have heard by now, Russian tennis sensation Maria Sharapova was caught in a doping scandal when she admittedly failed a drug test earlier this year. The drug that was in her system, meldonium, has been known for its use in heart disease therapy. Beyond that, there isn't much published research about it. Besides, it's stayed idle for decades without garnering any interest from doctors or the like. Sharapova claimed to have used it for health benefit and reportedly failed to read the attachment stating its official ban from tennis on January 1, 2016. Although she openly admitted to its usage and avoided playing the blame game, the public still loathes her. As time takes its course, forgiveness could be sought in the future.
14 Manny Ramirez
The nine-time slugger Silver Slugger was one of the most dominant baseball players in his prime. Not only was Ramirez known for his fierce swing, but his fiery demeanor gave opposing pitchers nightmares. However, Ramirez was also famed for his multiple juicing stints as well. In 2003, Ramirez and numerous other major leaguers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. When he was with the Dodgers, Ramirez was again suspended for taking human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. Finally, in 2011, the 38-year-old again tested positive for yet another performance-enhancing drug during a spring training drug test. This caused him to abruptly retire, without even notifying his current team at the time.
13 Manti Te'o
The first word that may come to your mind when you hear the name Manti Te'o might be "hoax". Well, most of you have heard the whole story that broke beyond the world of sports news. It was a tragic, confusing, and embarrassing event that lit up every television station. Honestly, I think it might have had more publicity then the NFL draft that year. The unforgettable trials and tribulations that Te'o had to go through during that year over a non-existent girlfriend were absolutely brutal.
His name will forever go down in history as victim to one of the most extensive and vicious catfish schemes ever created. It's safe to say that Te'o won't be affiliating himself with blind dates anytime soon.
12 Robert Upshaw
Robert Upshaw was an intriguing prospect coming out of Washington. With a history of drug-related problems and character issues (that actually got him kicked out of one school), no team wanted to take their chances on the 7-foot big man. The Lakers decided to give him a shot at making the official roster by bringing him on board for the Summer League. After a subpar performance, he was then stashed on the D-League roster when the season opened.
Midway through March, Upshaw violated the NBA's anti-drug program which resulted in his contract being terminated. It doesn't look like Upshaw overcame the demons that haunted him back in Fresno State. If the 22-year-old hopes to redeem himself, it should start with seeking out treatment.
11 Aldon Smith
One of the most talented, and troubled linebackers in the league, Aldon Smith had gone through a series of unfortunate events that led him to a rehabilitation facility, a year out of football, and now a small window of opportunity given by good faith. Questionable decisions plagued him throughout the beginning of his career. He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana, suspended for violating the NFL's anti-drug policy, and figuratively slapped in the face by Roger Goodell.
Smith isn't just shaping up for contractual purposes anymore, he's also doing it for his own health. Fortunately for him, he's found a home in Oakland, as it was announced the Raiders re-signed him for another two years.
10 Greg Hardy
During his tenure with the Carolina Panthers, Hardy was a pivotal piece in a fierce defensive line. "The Kraken", as he liked to be called, was a quarterback's worst nightmare. He penetrated offensive lines like a knife through butter and hit with the force of a freight train. Unfortunately, he decided to let that instinct carry over to his personal life as he beat up his girlfriend and threw her on a bed full of automatic guns. That sounds like the Greg Hardy we all know. He's currently a free agent, waiting for another opportunity. At the age of 27, he's still young enough to make an impact on a weak defensive line. But, his attitude and questionable mental health are something that GMs are thinking twice about.
9 Tiger Woods
Illustrious golfer Tiger Woods single-handedly destroyed his reputation and image on Thanksgiving Day of 2009. That day seemingly marked the end of the road for Woods. He did in fact make a return to golf, but has failed to produce any headline wins. For the record, his last major win was back in '08. Couple that with three back surgeries in the last year-and-a-half, and you have a recipe for retirement. There is no timetable for Woods' return as he's still out of commission, but "if" he does come back, there could be one last hoo-rah left in him.
8 Ryan Braun
The Hebrew Hammer known as Ryan Braun once dominated the Major League with his massive swing and his charming, innocent looks. However, after playing victim and lying to ever doing PEDs, his reputation was permanently tarnished. Even after supposedly beating a technicality, nobody in their right mind believed him. Then, the avalanche of evidence came to light and Braun was forced to do the “right thing” and admit to those mistakes. The MLB “hammered” him right back with a 100-game suspension (which was later reduced after waiving his right to appeal). The headlines are all done and over with, but it still doesn’t sit well for the fans that defended him up to his admission.
7 Michael Vick
In his prime, Vick was one of the most versatile quarterbacks the NFL had ever seen. His elite athleticism forced opposing defenses to adjust to his style of offensive play. However, gone are the days of the dreadlock Vick. Now, we’re forced to watch him play a few snaps, if even, in a backup role. Nonetheless, this isn’t about his decline in play, but more of the negative reputation and connotation that people associate his name with. Most of us now know him for his controversial dog fighting ring that he established a decade ago.
Fans in favor of Vick have said that he’s paid his debt to society. Others, not so much. Animal lovers all around the world will have a hard time forgiving and forgetting, especially when he went on to say, “Yeah, fine, I killed the dogs. I hung them. I slammed them. I killed all of them.” Does that sound like the face of a franchise to you?
6 Hulk Hogan
When The Hulkster made headlines after his racist tirade last year, the world was pretty much in shock. And, to be more specific, he didn’t just drop a simple “N-word” bomb; there were plenty of morally-questionable things said. Following this, the WWE then went on to terminate its contract with Terry Bollea (or Hulk Hogan). Since the incident, Hulk Hogan has remained relatively under the radar, except for the occasional LoanMart radio ads popping up here and there. But, the embarrassing racist comments might have been enough to bury any attempt on resurrecting his career. There are even people that are treating this incident as a rival to the Mel Gibson scandal years back. Ouch.
5 Johnny Manziel
The former Aggie stud was a wildcard at best when he entered the draft years ago. Although his flashy playmaking abilities were highlight-worthy, many GMs just didn't know whether he could translate that to the NFL. Ultimately, the Cleveland Browns took a chance on him and decided that they could place their faith in him as their franchise savior. Unfortunately, the Browns got the short end of the stick as Manziel did everything but save the franchise. He showed up to meetings hungover, partied every chance that he got, and even got caught in an abuse scandal that involved his girlfriend. Some people haven't given up on him though, except for his agent of course. If he manages to get his act together and mature to the point where he could be trusted again, he could potentially be the comeback story of the century. Or, a huge bust.
4 Lance Armstrong
The cancer survivor and former cyclist was on the pedestal of greatness during his prime. That is, until he admitted to doping. After vehemently denying ever using illegal drugs, he was caught in a whirlwind of a scandal which ended up with a permanent ban from cycling along with being stripped of his seven Tour de France wins. This lie not only spat in the face of millions that loved and adored him, but it also erased decades of history. It's a shame. In 2013, during a live interview, Armstrong admitted to using the hormones cortisone, EPO, and testosterone as well as using blood transfusions to drastically increase the levels of oxygen in his bloodstream.
I understand the inner will to win, but nobody should ever stoop to that level, especially with so much on the line. Not much has come out of Armstrong in recent years. He could potentially redeem himself in the future, but for now, he should continue being a hermit.
3 Alex Rodriguez
The story of A-Rod is a bitter one. One of the all-time highest paid athletes in the world was in the spotlight after the whole Biogenesis baseball scandal broke out in 2013. What made it worse was that Rodriguez vehemently denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs during his tenure with the Texas Rangers. He lied, and the people hate him for it. I think it's even fair to say that many people look at him as the villain of the major leagues. Regardless, Rodriguez is still playing today and is nearing the end of his up-and-down career. And with such little time left, he may have a chance to redeem himself, although it would probably have to come in the form of the Yankees taking the World Series by a game-winning out-of-the-park grand slam. But, even that might not do it either.
2 Ray Rice
Three-time Pro Bowler Ray Rice has been out of football since the 2013 season. After being suspended, the Ravens ultimately turned him loose after discovering the video of him punching his spouse Janay Palmer in the face, knocking her unconscious, in an elevator. The viral video publicly shamed the 29-year-old and he was suspended indefinitely because of it. In December 2014, Rice won an appeal of his suspension, making him eligible to play for another team. But, nobody bit. Rice is still a free agent, and according to sources, wants to play for a team pretty badly. Given that his age is somewhat on the higher end for running backs, his window is relatively small. But, you never know what team will make a pass at him.
1 Josh Gordon
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon once showed promise when he was picked up back in 2012 in the NFL Supplemental Draft. His immediate impact gave Browns fans hope that they had a valuable gem in their hands (NFL's receiving yards leader in 2013). That so-called "hope" was short-lived though, as Gordon fell into problems with substance abuse which led to multiple bans. Gordon was looking to be reinstated for the 2016 season but after failing yet another drug test, things aren't looking too bright for the young man.
At the age of 24, Gordon is still young and can provide the Browns with a much-needed offensive weapon, considering he ever does get reinstated. If he proves not to be a head-case and a distraction for the team, there's a possibility that he can come back stronger than ever.