Many famous, powerful and wealthy sportsmen carry firearms for protection.
“Just us having and being able to get the money that we get,” said free agent cornerback Leodis McKelvin, 32, a nine-year NFL veteran who played for the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles.
“You know what I'm saying? On a week-to-week basis, and when somebody Googles your name, they see how much you're worth. Of course, when people don't have that much, people may see you as a target and may want to come after you, or whatnot. That's why some guys have guns.
"Some guys have families. Some guys have kids. They have wives and stuff that you have to protect. What more, besides having some protection in the house or whatnot. Sometimes the police may not arrive on time or things like that. I guess that's why guys carry guns."
Predictably, illegally possessing a gun is one way that players frequently find trouble with the law. Data collected by the USA Today shows that 321 of the league’s players were arrested between the end of the 2009 season through September 2016.
“The average time between arrests is just seven days, while the record without an arrest is slightly more than two months, at 65 days,” according to NFLarrest.com.
Moreover, Sports Illustrated reported that 78 percent of NFL players are penniless within three years of retirement. Considering that the league’s median annual salary is $2.1 million and the average length of a player’s career is 3.3 years, the aforementioned statistic is astounding. The combinations of competing in a violent sport, flashing riches, unwise financial choices and a false sense of invincibility can lead to criminal activities. Hence, many NFL players have been incarcerated for an array of wrongdoings. Let’s review eight long prison sentences that NFL players received and seven gridiron degenerates who essentially got a pass.
15 LONG SENTENCE: O.J. SIMPSON
The case we're referring to here is not in the murder trial of 1994, as basically the entire world knows O.J. got off easy on that one.
O.J. Simpson is a serial domestic abuser who likely stabbed Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown to death in June 1994. Although found not guilty in a criminal trial, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Simpson was found liable for the murders of Goldman and Brown in a February 1997 civil lawsuit.
“The jury decision of last Tuesday was the only decision important to us, to find the killer of my son and Nicole responsible,”' said Goldman's father, Fred. ''The money is not an issue. It never has been. It's holding the man who killed my son and Nicole responsible.''
The reason O.J. lands on this side of the list is for a separate crime.
Roughly a decade after the civil lawsuit, Simpson was found guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery in Las Vegas. Following nine years of imprisonment, a Nevada parole board decided to release the “Juice” on July 20.
"I've basically spent a conflict-free life," Simpson said during his parole hearing. "I'm not a guy who lived a criminal life. I'm a straight shooter." Simpson was officially released on Monday, October 2.
14 GOT OFF EASY: JOHNNY MANZIEL
Following two brilliant seasons in College Station, the Cleveland Browns selected Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in 2014. Mainly due to substance abuse and a comical sense of privilege, the 24-year-old Manziel was an unmitigated disaster in Cleveland before he was released by the inept organization in March 2016. Before getting fired by the Browns, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Manziel battered, threatened and kidnapped his 5-foot-6, 108-pound ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley.
“He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car and got back in himself,” Crowley said in her affidavit.
“He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car. I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I still cannot today, two days later. Fearful for my life, I hit Respondent several times, hoping I could back out of the car. Respondent threw me off of him and I hit my head on the car window and I fell into the passenger floorboard. Still fearful for my life, I stayed in the floorboard motionless until Respondent pulled me back onto the seat.”
“Johnny Football” was indicted by a Dallas grand jury on misdemeanor assault charges for his cowardice a month later in April 2016. On December 2, 2016, Manziel and prosecutors finalized a pathetically lenient plea deal. Despite bursting a woman’s eardrum, Manziel only received counseling and probation.
13 LONG SENTENCE: RAE CARRUTH
Rae Carruth is a soulless individual who represents the worst of humanity. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Carruth, selected by the Carolina Panthers out of Colorado with the 27th pick in 1997, impregnated a woman named Cherica Adams. Carruth, who signed a four-year deal valued at $3.7 million plus bonuses, concluded that he couldn’t afford to support a child. Consequently, Carruth employed a hitman, Van Brett Watkins Sr., and ensured that the triggerman had an unobstructed view to shoot Adams four times. Prior to succumbing to her wounds, Adams called 911 and identified Carruth as one of the men involved in the ambush. When Adams fell into a coma, doctors successfully delivered her baby, Chancellor Lee Adams, via emergency Caesarean section.
Although Chancellor survived, he suffered permanent brain damage and battles cerebral palsy. Following nearly two decades behind bars, Carruth is scheduled to be freed from prison in 2018.
12 GOT OFF EASY: DONTE STALLWORTH
An intoxicated and high Donté Stallworth killed a 59-year-old man named Mario Reyes while operating his vehicle in Miami Beach on March 14, 2009. The 6-foot, 220-pound Stallworth, a journeyman who collected paychecks playing for six franchises, was charged with DUI manslaughter and faced 15 years in prison for taking the construction worker’s life. Stallworth, who according to all parties involved was inconsolable after the tragedy, accepted a plea agreement and spent 30 days in county jail.
"I accept full responsibility for this horrible tragedy," said Stallworth, 36. "I will bear this burden for the rest of my life."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Stallworth for the entire 2009 season without pay. Following his ban, Stallworth competed for the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins and New England Patriots before retiring after the 2012 campaign.
11 LONG SENTENCE: LAWRENCE PHILLIPS
Lawrence Phillips is one of the sadder, and more disturbing, figures in NFL history. The 6-foot, 225-pound Phillips was a dynamic physical specimen who overwhelmed defenders with his superior power and running skills. While Phillips astounded on the field as a Nebraska Cornhusker, the irreparably damaged man also frightened students across Lincoln’s campus. Most horrifyingly, Phillips dragged his ex-girlfriend, Nebraska basketball player Kate McEwen, down three flights of stairs before ramming her head into a mailbox. The St. Louis Rams overlooked Phillips’ bloodthirsty nature and took him with the sixth pick in the 1996 draft.
Phillips’ demons doomed him from the outset and NFL decision makers considered him unemployable following a stint with the San Francisco 49ers in 1999. After briefly resuscitating his career in the CFL, Phillips was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a series of crimes on December 18, 2009. While behind bars, Phillips continued to mentally unravel.
"I feel myself very close to snapping,'' wrote Phillips in a letter dated March 5, 2015. “My anger grows daily as I have become fed up with prison. I feel my anger is near bursting and that will result in my death or the death of someone else.''
Approximately five weeks later, Phillips strangled his cellmate, Damion Soward, to death. Phillips committed suicide in his Kern Valley State prison cell in January 2016 at the age of 40.
10 GOT OFF EASY: ADRIAN PETERSON
Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for the bulk of the 2014 season for savagely striking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Peterson pled no contest to a misdemeanor charge of recklessly assaulting his child in November 2014.
“While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse — to flee, to fight back or to seek help from law enforcement — none of those options are realistically available to a 4-year-old child,” Goodell told Peterson in his suspension letter.
“The well-being of your children is of paramount concern. We are unaware of any effort on your part to acknowledge the seriousness of your conduct and your responsibility to demonstrate a genuine commitment to change.”
The 32-year-old Peterson was reinstated by Goodell in April 2015. In an ideal world, the vile child abuser would have lost his freedom.
9 LONG SENTENCE: NATE NEWTON
Former guard Nate Newton moved the green stuff like Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs. A three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, the 6-foot-3, 335-pound Newton was arrested for possessing 213 pounds of it in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, on November 4, 2001. Roughly five weeks later, on December 12, 2001, Newton was pinched again for trafficking 175 pounds. Newton spent two and a half years in federal prison for a slew of similar infractions.
"I've always been competitive, I've always been in sports,” said Newton, 55, a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. "I couldn't see myself not being the biggest dope man."
Newton apparently altered his entire mindset behind bars and he is now a member of the North Dallas Community of God.
8 GOT OFF EASY: RAY LEWIS
Badass Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was basically shown mercy for snitching on two of his cohorts, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. Lewis, Oakley and Sweeting were indicted on charges of double murder and aggravated assault following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Lewis initially refused to cooperate with authorities and the pimpish, white outfit that he wore on the night that Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar were gutted to death has never been recovered. Lewis testified against Oakley and Sweating and pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. Lewis, who earned more than $95 million over 17 seasons as a Raven, said he wasn’t dressed appropriately for a bloodbath.
“Remember, I was dressed out, had my jewelry on, my fine mink coat,” said Lewis, 42.
“I wasn’t about to start mixing it up looking like that. That’s the general rule of thumb when you’re doing the town and looking good. The nicer you’re dressed, the less inclined you are to get in a fight.”
Baker's uncle, Greg Wilson, disagreed with the verdict and is disgusted that the slayings will remain unsolved.
"My nephew was brutally beaten and murdered and nobody is paying for it," Wilson told USA TODAY Sports. "Everything is so fresh in our mind, it's just like it happened yesterday. We'll never forget this."
7 LONG SENTENCE: DARREN SHARPER
Darren Sharper is a sexual predator. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Sharper, a member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team, drugged and violated at least nine women in four states. For his "horrible conduct'' and "disgraceful abuse of trust,'' Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor sentenced Sharper to a 20-year prison term in November 2016.
"I started vomiting, my head was pounding and I had trouble seeing clearly,'' said one victim.
“It was the worst night of my life. The only good thing about this situation is that this disgusting low-life human will be sent to prison for many years and is likely he will never be able to do to this to another woman again. I hope this scumbag will now feel as worthless as he has made me feel.''
In a useless apology, Sharper said he wanted to "apologize a thousand times.'' Sharper is slated to be eligible for parole in 2034.
6 GOT OFF EASY: MICHAEL IRVIN
Athletes in the four major North American professional sports leagues have a longstanding history of governing serious matters by themselves. Regardless, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin tried to end a man’s life and he should have been charged with attempted murder. Instead, thanks to the NFL’s absurd closed-door policy, Irvin never faced charges.
While waiting to get a haircut at the Cowboys’ training camp in July 1998, offensive guard Everett McIver heard the team’s barber call his name for a trim. At this moment, Irvin entered the room and screamed “seniority!”
McIver ignored Irvin’s obnoxiousness and sat in the barber’s chair. Irvin continued to rant and yelled, “Seniority! Seniority! Punk, get the f*** out of my chair! Either I get cut right now, or nobody does.” Infuriated, the 6-foot-5, 325-pound McIver got out of the chair and struck the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Irvin in the face. Irvin regained his footing and then sliced McIver across the neck with a pair of shears.
“Blood immediately shoots all over the room,” said veteran cornerback Kevin Smith. “And we’re all thinking the same thing – ‘Oh, s***.'”
Medical practitioners who treated McIver claim that Irvin barely missed fatally severing his carotid artery.
5 LONG SENTENCE: IRVING FRYAR
Irving Fryar was a talented NFL wide receiver for 17 seasons. Fryar, a Nebraska icon who the New England Patriots took first overall in 1984, was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All-Pro. Irving recorded 851 catches for 84 touchdowns and 12,785 yards as a member of the Patriots, Dolphins, Eagles and Redskins before retiring in February 2001. Sadly, but somewhat inevitably, the lifelong troublemaker returned to lawbreaking shortly after shelving his cleats. Fryar was convicted of conspiring to defraud banks out of more than $690,000 and he received a five-year prison sentence for his misdeeds.
“This is not a case in which Mr. Fryar and his mother simply omitted or misstated information on loan applications,” acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said. “This indictment alleges that they engaged in an elaborate criminal scheme that was designed to defraud these banks of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
A 53-year-old Fryar was released from the pen in June 2016.
4 GOT OFF EASY: JOE MIXON
If Joe Mixon wasn’t an elite athlete, he’d be a jobless loser. Disgustingly, because the 6-foot-1, 228-pound Mixon is productive on the gridiron, he’s a millionaire. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Mixon, who finished the 40-yard-dash in 4.45 seconds at the draft combine, with the 48th choice in April. Shortly thereafter, on June 2, the Bengals signed Mixon to a four-year pact worth $5.45 million. According to distinguished scouts, the University of Oklahoma star would have been taken in the first round if he didn’t brutally punch a woman named Amelia Molitor in July 2014. Molitor claims that Mixon shattered her face because she refused to go home with him.
“So when I said, 'I'd never in a million years go home with you,' he said, 'So you'd rather go home with that f---ing fa----?'" said Molitor, who suffered four facial bone fractures.
“And I got really mad, so I faced Joe and I was like, 'Don't f with me. Do not mess with my friend. Don't mess with me. Just don't. Just stop, go away.' And he's like, 'Oh, you're a bad b----, what are you going to do about it?'"
Mixon then slugged Molitor and left her in agony on a floor. Molitor required an eight-hour surgery to have her jaw wired shut. Despite shattering Molitor’s face and showing little remorse for his deplorable actions, Mixon entered a plea deal and avoided jail time.
3 LONG SENTENCE: MARK INGRAM SR.
Former New York Giants wide receiver Mark Ingram made one of the most unforgettable plays in Super Bowl history in January 1991. With the Giants and Buffalo Bills engaged in a back and forth affair, Ingram received a pass from Jeff Hostetler and subsequently sidestepped five defenders to gain a critical first down. Ingram’s gritty effort helped Big Blue secure its 20-19 upset triumph over the Bills. Ingram served as a dependable option for the Giants, Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles until retiring after the 1996 season.
Upon leaving the game, Ingram’s life spiraled downward. With funds at a minimum, Ingram sought unlawful ploys to support himself. Ingram’s primary scheme was eventually uncovered and he was sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering and fraud offenses.
“It hurts me to my core,” said Ingram, 52. “I made mistakes. This is not who I am.”
2 GOT OFF EASY: RAY RICE
Blackballed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is the poster boy of the league’s domestic violence epidemic. The 5-foot-8, 205-pound Rice was captured on surveillance footage rendering his fiancée, Janay Palmer, unconscious with a single right hook in February 2014. A grand jury indicted Rice on third-degree aggravated assault and he was staring at three to five years behind bars. Rice was accepted into a pretrial intervention program as a first-time offender. Ultimately, all criminal charges against Rice were dropped in May 2015.
Rice is now seeking a second chance in the NFL, but being in his 30s and a running back, it's unlikely he'll get one, even if a team is willing to overlook the negative press his signing would cause:
"I'm not saying I willingly deserve a second chance," said Rice. "I'm not. But I will say that if there was one guy who took his situation and owned it from day one, doing everything he can to make his wrongs right, taking care of his family and trying to spread a message of how domestic violence cannot be tolerated."
1 LONG SENTENCE: AARON HERNANDEZ
According to Psychology Today, “A serial killer is defined as someone who commits more than three murders over a period that spans more than one month. For the most part, serial killers commit murder for some sort of psychological benefit.” Therefore, despite a legal loophole, Aaron Hernandez was in all likelihood a serial killer.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Hernandez, who the New England Patriots took out of the University of Florida with the 113th choice in 2010, was arrested and charged in June 2013 for murdering Odin Lloyd. While on trial for Lloyd's death, Hernandez was indicted for the July 2012 double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. For the Lloyd slaying, Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in April 2015 and sentenced to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Five days after he was suspiciously exonerated for killing de Abreu and Furtado, Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell on April 19 at the age of 27.
In a letter sent to his fiancée shortly before committing suicide, Hernandez wrote, "I told you what was coming indirectly! This was the Supremes, the Almightys plan, not mine!"