Sports can bring out the best in a man. The ability to perform incredible athletic feats on the field of play has elevated these men to a status that few are able to enjoy during their lifetimes. However, the men included on this list have become known for their regrettable actions away from the sports that have made them successful. Sports can often provide an outlet for troubled teens looking to escape their situations. In these cases, sports has served as a backdrop to the crimes that these athletes have committed. The crimes on this list range from illegal substance trafficking to white collar crimes and for the most extreme cases, murder. The life of a professional athlete is often portrayed as glamorous and one that enjoys a privileged position in society, however many of these athletes now live their lives behind bars. The behavior of professional athletes is indicative of the rest of human society and for some the everyday struggle to remain on the right side of the law. This microcosm is intensely scrutinized by the media, making even the most minor offense for an athlete a national headline. Sports and crime are forever intertwined. Even today, governing bodies struggle to hold off the corrupting influence of gambling on the games that we love. While crimes on the field of play can harm a game, the crimes committed by these athletes have a greater impact on society as a whole. The pressure on superstars to live lavish lifestyles pushes many athletes to the brink of bankruptcy. Some turn to a life of crime in order to continue their high profile status. Others on this list have committed crimes of passion or premeditation, which has led them to be considered among the most infamous athletes of all time.
20 Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver – Mixed Martial Arts
War Machine broke onto the MMA scene by impressing fight fans during Season 6 of The Ultimate Fighter. After bouncing around promotions from the UFC, Bellator and other independent promotions, he settled on a career away from fighting in the adult film industry. Before joining the industry, he had been involved in several fights that resulted in assault charges. The third incident landed Koppenhaver in jail for one year, much of which he spend in administrative segregation. This summer, he landed himself in trouble again for one of the most brutal cases of domestic abuse in recent memory. War Machine has been accused of ruthlessly beating adult film star and ex-girlfriend Christy Mack to the point that Mack suffered 18 broken bones, a ruptured liver, and lost several teeth. War Machine has been extradited to Nevada, where he will face charges of battery, assault with a deadly weapon, and coercion of force among others.
19 Ray Rice – Football
Ray Rice is currently embroiled in the backlash from an incident in February 2014, where Rice was charged with assault for striking his then fiance Janay Palmer inside an elevator. Soon after the incident, video of Rice dragging his fiance through the lobby of the Revel Casino emerged. The couple married a little over a month later and the Baltimore Ravens went on a public relations campaign, where they defended Rice's character. The NFL suspended him for two games, which drew criticism from fans who compared it to Josh Gordon's season long suspension for smoking marijuana. After video from the elevator emerged of Rice striking Palmer, the Ravens released Rice with immediate effect and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. He is currently the most hated man in the NFL.
18 Nate Newton – Football
Nate Newton enjoyed a massively successful professional football career, where he was named to the Pro-Bowl six times and won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. Following his playing career, Newton was twice arrested for trafficking large amounts of an illegal substance. The first offense came in 2001 in Louisiana, where Netwon was stopped with 213 pounds of green in his white van. The second offense came just five weeks later in Texas, when he was stopped with another 175 lbs of the same stuff. Newton served 32 months in jail and was released. The offensive lineman that once weighed over 400 lbs, has lost 175 lbs, and now speaks to athletes about his past.
17 Marlon King – Soccer
Marlon King is a journeyman English striker that has made more headlines for his actions off the field, than his performances on the pitch. During one incident in 2008, he head-butted Hull City teammate Dean Windass at a casino in Scarborough. He has also racked up 14 other charges including driving without insurance, speeding, drunk driving, attempting to obtain property by deception, and two cases involving assault of women. In 2007, King was accused of physically harassing a 20-year-old university student and breaking her nose following unwanted advances. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. King is currently serving an 18-month sentence for dangerous driving after causing a pile-up that left a man seriously injured.
16 Lenny Dykstra – Baseball
Following a successful major league career, where he appeared in three All-Star games and won a World Series, Lenny Dykstra made a living selling the athlete lifestyle. He ran a magazine called “The Players Club” where he promoted the glamourous lifestyle of professional athletes. Later, a GQ profile accused Dykstra of credit card fraud and bouncing checks. Eventually, he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after claiming only $50,000 in assets and debts totaling in the range of $10 - $50 million. In 2011, Dykstra was charged with 25 felony and misdemeanor counts including identity theft, grand theft auto, possession of illegal substances, and falsifying financial documents. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
15 Michael Vick – Football
Michael Vick has been a model citizen since returning to the NFL following a term in federal prison on charges of conspiracy and dogfighting. “Ron Mexico’s” prior incidents included a lawsuit for transmitting a disease and an incident where two men were arrested for selling illegal substances from a vehicle owned by Vick. Vick’s legal troubles continued in 2007, when he was served with the warrant for his involvement in an illegal interstate dogfighting ring. He was eventually found guilty and served 23 months in federal prison. In 2008, he also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of outstanding debts totaling over $12 million.
14 Adam “Pacman” Jones – Football
Pacman Jones’ name has become synonymous with NFL criminal infractions over the course of his NFL career. Before that career even started, his reputation was damaged by with felony vandalism and fighting allegations at West Virginia University. Jones’ actions off the field earned him a season long suspension during the 2007 season. He also missed the 2009 NFL season as a result of further infractions. During the 2007 NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas, Jones was involved in a strip club incident where he allegedly attacked a dancer. A shooting at the club occurred later that night, which left club manager Tommy Urbanski paralyzed. Urbanski was later awarded $11 million in damages by a jury.
13 Lawrence Taylor – Football
Lawrence Taylor developed a reputation for being the worst behaved man in football during his career. He admitted to using illegal substances throughout his NFL career and was suspended on multiple occasions for failed illegal substance tests. He also pled guilty to filing a false tax return in 1997. In 1998, LT filed for bankruptcy. In April 2000, he once again pled guilty to tax evasion charges and was sentenced to five years of probation and 500 hours of community service. He found himself in trouble in 2010 for sexually assaulting with an underage prostitute. He was found not guilty, but pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misconduct and was forced to register as a level-one offender.
12 Mike Tyson – Boxing
Mike Tyson is one of the most infamous names in sports. His career in the ring was terrifying enough, after winning the World Heavyweight Title at the age of 19 thanks to a streak of brutal knockouts. He also bit the tip of Evander Holyfield’s ear off in a bout in 1997. After a public relationship with Robin Givens, in which he was accused of abuse, Tyson again found himself in trouble in 1992 for the sexual abuse of Desiree Washington. He was found guilty following a trial and served three years in prison, during which time Tyson converted to Islam. Tyson maintains his innocence to this day.
11 Mike Danton – Hockey
Mike Danton bounced around several minor league teams before making his way to the NHL, playing for the New Jersey Devils and the St. Louis Blues. After being eliminated from the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Blues, Danton attempted to hire a hitman to murder his agent, David Frost. His hired gun turned out to be an undercover 911 dispatcher. Danton was sentenced to 90 months in prison, of which he served 73 before his release. Danton’s defense attorney was found to have never graduated from law school, nor was he licensed to practice law. Danton has since resurrected his hockey career and now plays professionally in Poland.
10 Jayson Williams – Basketball
Jayson Williams earned multiple criminal charges after his successful NBA career. The most notable charge stems from a 2002 shooting at Williams’ residence where limo driver Costas Christofi was shot dead. Williams was then involved in a lengthy legal battle which included several delays. Finally in 2010, Williams was found guilty of aggravated assault and four counts of attempting to cover up the shooting. Williams was sentenced to five years in prison with the possibility of parole in 18 months. He has also been involved in incidents where he was tasered by an NYPD officer, involved in a Raleigh bar fight, and earned an extra term in prison for driving under the influence.
9 Don King – Boxing
Don King is perhaps the most infamous figure ever involved in the boxing business. He began his criminal career with an illegal gambling operation in Cleveland. During his time in Cleveland he was found guilty of manslaughter and acquitted in a justifiable homicide in two incidents fifteen years apart. He then went on to promote some of the biggest fights of all time including the “Thrilla in Manilla” and the “Rumble in the Jungle.” He also found himself under FBI investigation three times for wire fraud, insurance fraud, and forging fighters’ records. He was acquitted all three times. King has also been sued by many fighters that he represented including Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, and Muhammad Ali for not paying agreed upon amounts.
8 Rae Carruth – Football
Rae Carruth is one of the most infamous names in sports, but not because of any performance on the field. Carruth was found guilty of conspiring to commit the murder of his girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant with the couple’s child. On November 16, 1999, Carruth stopped his car in front of girlfriend Cherica Adams’ vehicle, at which time conspirator, Van Brett Watkins, pulled alongside Adams and shot her four times. Watkins and Carruth both fled the scene. Doctors were able to save the unborn child via emergency cesarean section, but Adams died after falling into coma. Carruth was initially released on $3 million bail, but skipped bail once Adams had died. He was found in the trunk of a car in a Tennessee motel parking lot, following a FBI assisted manhunt. He was sentenced to 18 to 24 years for conspiracy to commit murder and is scheduled for release in 2018.
7 O.J. Simpson – Football
Following a long, successful career in the NFL and several highly regarded acting performances, the OJ Simpson murder trial captured the attention of America for months. On June 12, 1994, Simpson’s ex-wife and her friend were found murdered outside of their Los Angeles area condominium. Five days later, Simpson led police on a low speed chase through the LA area in a white Ford Bronco. After a lengthy trial, Simpson was eventually found not guilty thanks to a stellar defense attorney team of Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, and F. Lee Bailey. He was later found guilty in a civil trial and published a book “If I did it: Confessions of a Killer.” In 2007, Simpson again found himself in trouble following an armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison.
6 Oscar Pistorius – Track & Field
Oscar Pistorius holds the honor of being the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympic Games. He accomplished this feat at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He won six gold medals during career as a Paralympian. However, his problems off the track could keep him from ever competing again. In 2013, Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his home in South Africa. Pistorius claims that he mistook her for an intruder before firing through a closed door, killing her. Closing arguments in the trial took place on August 8, 2014. The verdict will be handed down on September 11, 2014 to determine whether the “Blade Runner” will be held criminally responsible.
5 Ugueth Urbina – Baseball
Ugueth Urbina enjoyed a successful career in baseball, where he was named to two All-Star teams and won the 2003 World Series with the Florida Marlins. In 2004, the Venezuelan pitcher’s mother was kidnapped and held for ransom. She was later rescued in a raid on the kidnapper’s mountain camp. After finishing the 2005 season with the Phillies, Urbina was charged with the attempted murder of five workers on his family’s ranch south of Caracas. Urbina allegedly attacked the workers with a machete and attempted to pour gasoline on them. He was found guilty and sentenced to over 14 years in prison, but was released in 2012, after serving only five years and nine months.
4 Aaron Hernandez – Football
Aaron Hernandez was a dynamic playmaker during his three years as an NFL tight end, but he will likely be remembered for his three murder charges. Hernandez is currently on trial for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd and the 2012 double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Hernandez was also accused of being involved in a shooting incident, which left Alexander Bradley without his right eye. His arrest led to the termination of his contract with the New England Patriots. Hernandez is alleged to have ambushed his 2012 victims at a stoplight in South Boston.
3 “Fast” Eddie Johnson – Basketball
After a ten-year career in the NBA, Fast Eddie Johnson’s life unraveled before the public’s eyes. He was banned for life from the NBA following several suspensions for using illegal substances. He was arrested over 100 times for various crimes such as burglary and battery. His most despicable crimes took place just three weeks apart from each other. In 2008, Johnson was found guilty for the molestation of an eight year old girl. The incident occurred three weeks after Johnson was accused of entering a hotel room and sexually assaulting a 25-year-old woman. The charges carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison. He is incarcerated at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution.
2 Robert Rozier – Football
After a career in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, Robert Rozier became involved with a black supremacist cult known as “The Brotherhood.” The cult led by Yahweh ben Yahweh, required members to kill a white man and present a part of the body in order to gain entrance. Rozier admitted to the murder of seven white men, but his willingness to testify against fellow cult members earned him leniency. He was released from prison in 1996 after serving ten years of a 22-year sentence. He was rearrested in 1999 following a string of 29 bounced checks that landed him in prison for life under California’s three strikes law.
1 Jerry Sandusky – Football
Jerry Sandusky has had a lasting impact on life in Central Pennsylvania. The former Penn State defensive coordinator was charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse. In 1977, he founded the charity The Second Mile, a non-profit foundation dedicated to helping foster children. Sandusky utilized his charity to befriend and ultimately sexually abuse his victims. Sandusky systematically abused his victims while hiding behind the guise of a respectable public figure. Once such incident occurred in a Penn State football locker room, where it was discovered by assistant, Mike McQueary. Sandusky was sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in prison.
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