Top 20 Conspiracy Theories in the World of Sport

Whenever something influential and controversial happens in the world of politics and current events, there is always some shifty eyed gent in the corner of any run-down bar ranting about how the gove

Whenever something influential and controversial happens in the world of politics and current events, there is always some shifty eyed gent in the corner of any run-down bar ranting about how the government had some heinous goal behind the event. While no matter where you live, your government probably has you indoctrinated with its own propaganda and wastes unforgivable amounts of you and your family's money, saying the CIA was behind the murder of John Lennon and Bob Marley may be going a few steps too far.

Yes, those are conspiracy theories in which some believe. John F. Kennedy is another, as is Princess Diana (for those looking for an interesting list, check out our celebrity conspiracy theories article on The Richest, written by a supremely intelligent author) . Conspiracy theories may be interesting and some may be highly plausible, but there are plenty that make no sense.

No matter which category a theory falls under, they all involve money, power and influence. These important elements also exist heavily in the world of sports. Accordingly, there are a slew of conspiracy theories that involve athletes and sports leagues. A couple of months ago, the sporting world got its newest theory, that the Seattle Seahawks had thrown the 2015 Super Bowl. Second and goal on the one and Marshawn Lynch doesn't get the ball. It seems like a simple coaching decision that would have earned kudos for the Seahawks's staff had the high percentage pass play worked. Plenty of people have argued that a conspiracy is afoot, given the "blunder."

From athletes framed for infractions to coaches and players conspiring to lose games on purpose, and even some alleged rigging conspiracies involving league and team executives, the complex world of sports has its share of theories. Much like political conspiracy theories, those in sports vary from the probable to the ludicrous. Here is our list of the most notorious and interesting of such controversies. There are more so if we forgot your favorite, do us a favor and educate our writer by throwing it in the comments section.

20 Was Super Bowl III Thrown by the Colts?


Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Bubba Smith was the most high-profile advocate of this theory. He argued that the Baltimore Colts' (for whom he played) were beaten by the New York Jets and that the game was thrown by his own team. Smith, who died back in 2011, argued that quarterback Earl Morall and coach Don Shula were at the center of the fix and that Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom had placed a wager of a couple million dollars against the Colts, according to This has never ben proven, nor did Smith ever offer any serious evidence.

19 Michael Jordan: Gambling Suspension


During that year when His Airness tried his hand at baseball, back in 1994, some questioned his motives for retirement. It had become known that MJ was a gambler by this point in his career and theory buffs have suggested that he was suspended for the 1994 season and that his baseball career was just a cover up. He had his own reasons for retiring however, and they included his not enjoying the game anymore and the murder of his father, who always saw his son becoming a baseball star. These are plausible but still many remain convinced that he had been suspended and used these other motivations as excuses.

18 1998 World Cup Final: Ronaldo Sickness


On July 12th, 1998, France took on and beat Brazil to win their first World Cup championship. They were both talented teams but France was considered the underdog. The night before the big game, the Brazilian superstar was hospitalized after suffering convulsions. Some said it was a personal breakdown, while others said poison, according to BBC, and to this day, the events of those two days are not fully understood. He was ultimately cleared to play in the game but looked sluggish and was significantly outplayed by the French midfielder Zinedine Zidane.

17 1919 World Series Black Sox Scandal

This one goes way back to just after World War One, when eight baseball players conspired with high profile gamblers to lose games during the World Series. The Cincinnati Reds were the opponent and after an investigation, judge and first commissioner of baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned eight White Sox players from the game permanently including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, whose involvement was never truly determined, in spite of evidence in favor of both both guilty and innocent. While this is one event, there are two conspiracy theories. The first has to do with whether "Shoeless" Joe was actually involved, while the second claims that even though players would later admit to their involvement, the fix never actually took place. These theories are very unlikely to ever be proven, because the players involved are long since deceased.

16 Rick Tocchet's Gambling Ring


When he was an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes back in the mid-2000s, Rick Tocchet was found to have been the ring leader in a large illegal gambling ring. Wayne Gretzky was the head coach of the team and his wife, Janet Jones, was revealed to have been one of the largest bettors in Tocchet's operation, which was discovered through Operation Slap Shot, a police initiative to catch those involved with the gambling ring. Many argue that it was the great one himself, rather than his wife, who was making bets and that she took the fall to protect his public image. This one is plausible, but only if you think of Wayne Gretzky as a morally imperfect human, rather than a God-king. Most Canadians are unwilling to do so.

15 Cal Ripken's Prolonged Streak

Cal Ripken Jr. holds the MLB record for most consecutive starts with 2,632 games played. There was one infamous evening back in 1997 when it was rumored that Ripken had caught his wife in bed with actor Kevin Costner. He had then (supposedly) beaten Costner and been arrested. He would not have made the game and would have had his streak ended, were it not for a staff member of the Baltimore Orioles causing a power outage that saw the game postponed. Ripken himself has stated that all aspects of this story are false, but conspiracy lovers just answer "well of course he'd say that."

14 Jimmy Hoffa is Buried Under Giants Stadium


For those of you not versed in American labor history, Jimmy Hoffa was the vice president, and later president, of the Teamsters back in the 1960s and 70s. He vanished in 1976, which was around the same time as the building of Giants Stadium. His body has never been found and one of the popular theories is that he was buried under one of the end zones, according to the NY Daily News. Mythbusters was unable to find his body, but that hasn't stopped some conspiracy buffs from believing the legend.

13 New England Patriots: Cheating

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

For years, people have believed that Roger Goodell covered up the "Spygate" controversy that arose out of the New England Patriots videotaping the New York Jets' coaching staff on their sidelines. More recently, when the league failed to come down on the team for "deflategate," more people hopped on the bandwagon and plenty are now convinced that Goodell and the league are essentially dedicated to the ongoing success of the team.

12 Michael Phelps Lost A Race at the 2008 Games


The story here is that Michael Phelps actually did not win the gold medal in the 100 meter butterfly at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The official outcome of the race is that Phelps beat Milorad Cavic by a one hundredth of a second. However, looking closely, many people think that Cavic finished first and that Phelps in fact just triggered the touch pad before his opponent. Some have suggested that the sensors may have malfunctioned and that Cavic did not apply enough pressure at first, to trigger the clock to stop. Actually looking at close up pictures of the end of the race disproved this theory in the eyes of many people, but there are still skeptics who think that the organizers of the games gave the win to Phelps in spite of Cavic actually finishing first.

11 Curt Schilling and the Bloody Sock


Curt Schilling's bloody sock was a story that rocked the sports world back in 2004. During the sixth game of the American League Championship he played with a sock that appeared to be stained with blood. His story was that he was suffering from an injury that bled during the game. Some believe that Schilling put paint, or in some cases ketchup on his ankle. He said that it was the result of a minor surgical procedure performed by the team physician at the time.

10 2002 Lakers-Kings Conference Final: Game Six


Moving back to the world of basketball, many fans and insiders in the NBA still agree that something was afoot during the 2002 Western Conference final between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Game six was a particular case, during which almost everyone saw calls going the Lakers' way, for example: 27 free throws for the Lakers compared to 9 for the Kings in the fourth quarter. What would be the reason for fixing an NBA game? Supporters of this theory argue that a seventh game would bring in more money for the owners and that the Lakers' success was important for the league's television ratings. This one seems unlikely to be proven, but many consider it highly probable.

9 Gretzky's Trade to Los Angeles


This one is plain and simple, Wayne Gretzky was, and still is, the greatest hockey player of all time. Back in 1988, he was the best player in the league and after the Oilers' Stanley Cup win, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Some considered this deal to be fishy and have argued that Gretzky's trade was influenced by commissioner Gary Bettman, who wanted to popularize the sport in a large, American market. What better way to do that than sending the greatest ever to California. It has not been proven but it is somewhat possible.

8 1995 Rugby World Cup Final - All Blacks Food Poisoning


Ever see the movie Invictus? It is based around the inspirational story of the South African National Rugby team, who won the World Cup back in 1995. It is mostly about the ability of sport to unify a nation (let's not talk about what that nation looks like now), but what they don't address is the fact that three quarters of the New Zealand All Blacks came down with food poisoning the day before the big game, according to There have been numerous theories for their collective sickness and one of the most popular is that "Suzie the waitress" poisoned their water in the week leading up to the final game. Others say it was milk. "Suzie" is now widely considered to be fictional but the story of food poisoning is true and any consider it to be conspiratorial in nature.

7 The "Hand of God" Goal

Diego Maradona, widely considered to be the greatest Argentine footballer of all time, scored two goals against England during their quarter final game at the 1986 World Cup. One became known as one of the nicest goals ever, after a great run by Maradona, while the other came to be known as the Hand of God goal, given his use of his hand to score. Watch the video, he quite clearly used his fist to redirect the ball into the goal, but it was not called.

While this itself does not amount to a conspiracy, but merely a bad call, many have suggested that officials were on the side of the Argentinians due to the Falklands War four years prior.

6 Rigged 1985 NBA Draft


This theory states that in essence, David Stern had the 1985 NBA draft rigged so that the first envelope picked in the draft lottery would be the New York Knicks. According to proponents of the theory, the Knicks, who were doing terribly at the time, were a big enough market that the league was willing to "help them out" so that they would be more successful. Success on the court means money in the bank. The theory held that one envelope was frozen so that Stern would know the Knicks' envelope by touch, thereby making it's selection easier. This one is a bit far fetched but that never stops conspiracy buffs.

There are a few other NBA draft conspiracies, but this is the most notorious.

5 Super Bowl XLVII: The Blackout


This was the Super Bowl in 2013 between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. At half time, it looked as if the Ravens were on the verge of running away with the game, 28-6, and after the half hour power outage that occurred, plenty of people, among them Ravens legend Ray Lewis, believed there was some kind of foul play at work.

Some argued that the league pulled the plug, allowing the 49ers to regroup and plan, which is supposedly supported by their 17 unanswered points following the outage. This was so that the second half would not be boring.

Others said Beyonce's half time show was to blame, but that doesn't amount to a conspiracy. Officially, the idea that the league had caused the blackout has been disproven, as the problem with the electric system was identified, but that has not dissuaded some conspiracy buffs. Apparently Roger Goodell just wanted a closer game.

4 Bobby Riggs: Battle of the Sexes II


The Battle of the Sexes was a series of three tennis matches between male and female competitors. Two took place in 1973 and the third was in 1992. Bobby Riggs, who was in his fifties at the time, participated in the first two matches, beating Margaret Court in early 1973 but losing to Billie Jean King later that year. King beat him in straight sets. Some considered this to be an example of age against youth, as King was in her late 20s. However, there are still many who think that Riggs threw the match in order to settle gambling debts or because he had simply bet against himself, according to Fox Sports. These people attribute the significant speed difference between Riggs in the first battle compared to the second, claiming that nobody could go from fairly quick to pathetically sluggish in under six months. Bobby "Riggs his matches" indeed.

3 Manny Pacquiao VS Timothy Bradley


Back in 2012, Manny Pacquiao fought and dominated Timothy Bradley, only for Bradley to be declared the winner. Virtually everyone who saw the fight thought that Pacquiao had won and many fans were beyond outraged by his loss. Business Insider offered a great rundown of the conspiracy just a few days after the fight. They argued that the fix was organized by the company that promoted Pacquiao; Top Rank. They alleged that Timothy Bradley was the last Top Rank promoted fighter and wanted a reason for a rematch. This was an attractive prospect for the company because when two fighters promoted by the same company got into the ring, that company made double the money off the fight. It makes sense. Has it been proven? In the eyes of many, it has.

2 Bobby Thomson: The Shot Heard 'Round the World


This one goes back to 1951 when the New York Giants' Bobby Thomson smacked a three run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure the National League Pennant. It is one of the most renowned moments in baseball history, but is also tarnished due to the fact that some consider the Giants to have been cheating all year. The rumors held that the Giants' coaching staff had a system involving a telescope through which they had stolen signs all year and tipped off batters to pitches, according to The Wall Street Journal. While Thomson himself never confirmed such allegations, other members of the team and coaching staff did admit to having spied on other teams throughout the season. In the eyes of many people, the "shot heard 'round the world" is a tainted moment in baseball history.

1 Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston: Phantom Punch


Just over a month ago, the boxing gloves worn by Ali during his 1965 rematch with Sonny Liston were sold for just under one million dollars. The first round knockout is our number one on this list of conspiracy theories and according to many, the theory is absolute fact.

Just a couple of minutes into the fight, Ali caught Liston with a quick right that floored him. The fight wasn't stopped immediately, but Liston appeared to be in no condition to fight. Some claim that Ali (admittedly, one of the best boxers of all time) legitimately caught him with a quick punch to the button. Others, however, claim various theories, ranging from Liston having thrown the fight due to gambling debts, having bet against himself and even a theory that his life and those of his family were threatened by the Nation of Islam.

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Top 20 Conspiracy Theories in the World of Sport