The sports world is full of type "A" personalities as well as money, sex, drugs, and corruption. So, naturally, there are scandals abound in the wide world of sports. There are many controversial moments to consider when ranking the most heinous such as this one; things like fixed games, illegal strategy tactics, violence, and many other shady actions all come to mind.
Many times these controversies come from athletes trying to gain an advantage over other athletes, but it is not always the players who are causing the controversies. On occasion there have been team owners who generate massive negative attention to a sport with their behavior, and other times we have seen controversy come from a fan base that causes a major uproar. There is even a commissioner who made this list with a controversial decision that caused many fans to question the fairness of his league.
When there is so much money to be made by athletes, owners and front office members, they will stop at nothing to get a leg up or an advantage to obtain such lucrative opportunities. Along with money, there are temptations from the opposite sex that can cause a person to do something ill-advised or irresponsible, which in turn causes major controversy. As we get into this list we will see example after example of people compromising their integrity to gain more power, more money, and more attention.
In the world we live in today everything seems to become headline news, so it is important to remember that some of the things on this list happened long before the days of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I promise you, if the social media of today had been around during previous generations, the things on this list would have sent the internet into a frenzy.
Well without further ado lets get into the juicy details of the 20 most controversial moments in sports history!
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20 George Brett's Pine Tar Incident
In 1983 during a game against the New York Yankees, George Brett came to bat with his team down a run in the top of the 9th inning. Brett hit a two run homer and the Royals took a 4-3 lead. Yankee manager Billy Martin noticed a large amount of pine tar on Brett's bat and pointed it out to the umpires.
The umpires deemed the pine tar to be above the legal limit, deeming Brett's home run illegal and called him out. Brett rushed the field in anger in what has gone down as one of the greatest rants in sports history.
As we all remember, the New England Patriots were found guilty of deflating game balls during the 2014 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. As a result the Patriots were stripped of a draft pick, fined one million dollars, and Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the following season. Brady, however, appealed the suspension and took it all the way to federal court, where he had the suspension lifted.
18 The Tuck Rule Game
Tom Brady makes his second appearance on the list with the "tuck rule" game. In the 2001-02 playoffs, the Patriots were playing the Raiders in a divisional playoff game. Brady appeared to be pulling the ball into his body as Charles Woodson tackled him and knocked the ball loose. The referees looked at the play and decided to call it an incomplete pass, instead of a sack. Due to the controversy the rule was abolished in 2013 with a 29-1 vote. Can you guess who the one vote against the rule change was cast by?
17 The LSD No-Hitter
In 1970 Doc Ellis threw a complete game no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This usually would be a cause for celebration, but Ellis also claimed to be high on LSD during the game. Ellis said he was "zoned in" to the point where he could only see the catcher's glove, no batter, no umpire, no catcher, just the glove. Obviously the use of drugs in a professional sport is frowned upon, even if it provides extraordinary results.
16 Steve Bartman
In 2003 the Chicago Cubs were five outs away from making an appearance in the World Series when it happened. A ball was popped up into foul ground and Cubs left fielder Moises Alou was running towards the wall, tracking the ball and about to make the out. That is when fan, Steve Bartman reached over the railing and grabbed the ball right in front of Alou.
The Cubs went on to lose the game and ultimately lose the series to the Marlins, and the Cubs have not been that close to the World Series since. Bartman received death threats following the incident, and was even afraid to leave his house for some time after.
Again we see the Patriots making an appearance on the list. It seems Bill Belichick will stop at nothing to give his team an advantage. In 2007 the Patriots were caught filming the New York Jets' practice sessions, and stealing the coaches hand signals. Belichick was personally fined $500,000 and the Patriots were fined $250,000, along with losing their 2008 first round draft pick in the process.
Some people claim that the Patriots should have been stripped of their prior Super Bowl victories, as they most likely filmed their competitors' practices as well.
14 Armando Galarraga's Perfect Game
In 2010, Detroit starting pitcher Armando Galarraga retired the first 26 batters he faced, and was one out away from becoming the 21st pitcher to ever throw a perfect game. The 27th batter he faced hit a ground ball to the first baseman and Galarraga ran over to cover first base. The runner arrived at the base at almost the same time as the ball landed in Galarraga's glove. Unfortunately for Galarraga, umpire Jim Joyce thought the runner beat the ball, but video evidence shows that the runner should have been called out, and Galarraga should have indeed gotten his perfect game.
After the game, Joyce apologized for the blunder and even broke down into tears, being overwhelmed with guilt. Galarraga, like a true gentleman accepted the apology and took everything in stride, despite being denied his historic moment.
As violent as the game of football is, there are still rules and respect to be had when it comes to player safety. Apparently the 2009 New Orleans Saints didn't play by those rules. The Saints were caught offering bounties to players for knocking opponents out of games. The NFL fined the Saints $500,000 and suspended coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, and many players were also suspended. Many former players thought the punishment was excessive, as bounties have been used for decades in football to motivate players.
12 Knicks Get Ewing
In 1985 the NBA held its first draft lottery. The draft lottery is basically a drawing among the teams that did not make the playoffs the season prior, with the worst team having the best chances of getting the number one pick, the second worst team having the second best chances and so on. In 1985 the clear number one college player was Patrick Ewing, and the New York Knicks were a huge market with no superstar.
The conspiracy theory is that the NBA rigged the lottery so that the Knicks would be in position to draft Patrick Ewing and become relevant again. Ewing went to the Knicks and became a Hall of Fame player and took the Knicks back to the playoffs year after year, so if the theory is true, then the plan worked out.
11 The Phantom Punch
In 1965 Muhammad Ali took on Sonny Liston for a second time. Ali dominated the first fight but the fans wanted more. The second fight is thought by many to have been fixed by Liston, with even Ali having his doubts about the validity of his victory.
When Liston missed with a left hook, Ali threw a short jab that appeared to just graze Liston. After Ali connected, Liston dropped to the mat, attempted to get up but fell back to the ground. Ali was famously photographed standing over Liston telling him to get up and fight like a man. After the fight Ali was quoted as saying " I don't know, did I hit him?"
10 Hand Of God
In the 1986 World Cup Argentina played against England in a quarterfinal match. Diego Maradona was arguably the greatest soccer player in the world at the time, and he carried Argentina to a win in this game. Maradona scored both of Argentina's goals, one of which is now referred to as the "hand of god" goal.
Maradona scored the goal with his left hand in the most obvious handball you would ever see. After the goal was scored the Argentina team didn't even think it would count so they just walked around waiting for the referee to make the call. Maradona later said, "I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came... I told them, 'Come hug me, or the referee isn't going to allow it."
9 Tiger Gets Busted
In 2009 Tiger Woods ran out of his house, chased by his wife, as she was swinging a golf club at him. He drove his Escalade into a fire hydrant, a tree, and some bushes when he eventually returned home. This incident marked the end of Woods' dominance over the golf world, as personal demons would take center stage. Woods later admitted to a series of infidelities and checked himself into a sex rehab clinic. His career has never been the same and he has yet to win a Major since the tragic events.
8 Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan
In 1994 Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were both on Team USA's figure skating team. Kerrigan was deemed as the superior figure skater, and Harding was allegedly the jealous type. Harding and her husband hired Shane Stant to break Kerrigan's leg prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics in hopes of Harding winning the gold in her place.
Kerrigan was attacked after practice, and it was later found out that the attack was orchestrated by Harding. Though Harding has denied any involvement in the attack, evidence has been presented by many others involved that state the contrary.
7 Lance Armstrong Admits To Doping
After beating testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong went on to win six straight Tour De France titles. He was regularly accused of doping, but the testing of the time was never able to find him guilty of the wide spread suspicion. Armstrong was steadfast in his denial of doping as he won race after race.
In 2013, Armstrong finally admitted to his use of PEDs in an exclusive interview with Oprah. Armstrong has been sued by many of his ex-teammates and friends, in addition he lost many of his sponsorship deals and endorsements, and has been blackballed by the cycling community.
6 Tim Donaghy Fixes NBA games
Tim Donaghy was an NBA official for 13 years before being caught up in a firestorm of controversy. In 2007 it was revealed that Donaghy had a serious gambling problem, and the he had been working with the mob on fixing games for a four year period. Yes, the mob hired a referee to help them gain an advantage in betting; almost like something out of a gangster movie. In 2008 Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his participation in the gambling scandal.
5 Pete Rose Gambles On Baseball
The all time hits leader in baseball history was found guilty of gambling on baseball games while he played in and coached. He fully denied the accusations up until 2004, when he publicly admitted to betting on games, but Rose claims he only bet on his team to win, and that he would never bet on his team to lose. Rose has been banned from baseball since 1989, and it appears he will never be reinstated as he was denied again in 2015.
4 O.J. Murder Charge
We all remember the low-speed chase in the white bronco, after O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995. The trial was national news, and the case became a polarizing topic all across America. O.J. was ultimately found not guilty on all of the charges despite the mountains of physical evidence against him. Simpson went on to commit many other crimes and is currently serving time for theft and assault.
3 Donald Sterling's Comments
The former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was recorded making racially insensitive comments about African Americans, women, and other minorities to his mistress. The media got a hold of the recordings, and the world was exposed to what was already widely suspected, Donald Sterling was a racist bigot. The NBA was forced to strip Sterling of his team, and his wife was set to divorce him (on account of the mistress). When the comments were revealed to the public, many players including LeBron James threatened to sit out until Sterling was stripped of ownership.
2 Black Sox Scandal
During the 1919 World Series, the Chicago White Sox threw games in exchange for money from gamblers. As a result all of the players on the team were banned from baseball, and the team will forever be remembered for their shameful acts. The most famous player from the team was "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who reportedly refused to participate in the throwing of games.
Many believe the "Black Sox" name is referring to the dirty acts of the team, but rather it precedes the 1919 scandal, the name actually refers to the owner being too cheap to wash the team socks, hence them being referred to as the "Black Sox".
1 Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal
Jerry Sandusky was the assistant coach of the Penn State football team for 30 years. In 2012 Sandusky was accused of child molestation, and in all Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of child molestation. All of the acts took place under the umbrella of Penn State University's football camps, and other youth programs run by the university.
Penn State ultimately fired the entire coaching staff, including legendary coach Joe Paterno. Sandusky will be spending the rest of his life behind bars for his hideous actions. Paterno was facing criminal charges as well for his negligence in reporting the offenses, but Paterno died before he could be put to trial.
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