Top 20 Worst Leaders in Sports History

You often hear stories of clubhouse cancers that exist in any sport, those whose selfish, destructive and often ego-driven outsized personalities make them a challenge to handle in the close confines of a team's locker room setting. Typically, however, the team has the good sense to limit this person's influence to the best of their abilities, offering limited locker room sway and trying to control the extent to which that player rubs off on his or her teammates. There's an axiom that suggests that having one headcase isn't a problem in the locker room so long you don't have two.

This only applies, though, if the player in question does, in fact, carry a limited role within the club's hierarchy. When the source of the problem also happens to be one of the most prominent voices on the team - or, even worse, one of the coaches - things can get particularly messy. An athlete who has been placed in a position of authority within their team dynamic has earned that role, ostensibly, because they have garnered respect among their peers for the professional manner in which they carry themselves. This can also tend to leave them subject to higher expectations than those that their teammates face, leaving the whole group vulnerable to a lack of direction if those expectations aren't met.

Every sport has its own version of a leadership role for those both on and off the field of play, whether it is clearly defined (the "C" on a hockey captain's jersey, for instance) or more tacitly understood (in the NBA, a club's identity often comes from its best player). On this list, you will see leaders across all sports and eras who have failed due to inaction, erroneous and often arrogant leadership and even some blatant abuses of power.

Here are the 20 worst leaders in sports history:

21 Tony Romo

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

20 DeMarcus Cousins

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

19 Shayne Corson


Shayne Corson had already put together a litany of transgressions during his NHL career, including dirty on-ice hits and bar fights off the ice, when he was named captain of the Edmonton Oilers before the 1995-96 season. As captain, Corson still put himself first, lobbying officials for an extra assist that he felt he was due and experiencing on-ice meltdowns after losses. After nearly coming to blows with rising star and would-be protege Jason Arnott, head coach George Burnett undid his earlier mistake by stripping Corson of the captaincy after just 34 games.


17 Carmelo Anthony

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

16 Ben Roethlisberger

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

15 Norv Turner

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

14 Luis Suarez


13 Kobe Bryant

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

12 John Tomic


11 Dion Phaneuf

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

10 Richie Incognito

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

9 Reggie Jackson

Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

8 Allen Iverson

7 Joe Paterno

6 Ryan Leaf


5 Roger Goodell

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

4 Ben Chapman


3 Bobby Petrino


2 Greg Winslow


1 Cap Anson


Cap Anson was part of baseball's inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1939 as the greatest player and manager of the 19th century. His other legacy, however, is one of a blatant pattern of racist behavior that may well have set the civil rights movement in baseball back by years. In 1887, Anson rallied his team to refuse to play an exhibition game against a Newark club that featured black pitcher George Stovey. In response, owners voted 6-4 the following day to enact a "Gentleman's Agreement" that disallowed black players from all major baseball leagues. It would be 60 years before Jackie Robinson would break the color barrier.

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Top 20 Worst Leaders in Sports History