It's a fact that every professional sports league has an image to uphold--an image of professionalism, of spectacle, and of seamless fusion between sport and business. It is also true that every professional sporting league has a dark side, or a Mr. Hyde, if you will. The dark side of each league represents the off-field antics of its athletes and is the one that involves attorneys, agents, police officers, prison guards, and celebrity journalists. Unfortunately, while each league can do its part to shape its athletes’ actions on the field, it can do little to harness their decisions off the field and outside of the locker room.
It is not uncommon to read in the news that a professional athlete was arrested or that they were involved in an off-field incident that warrants considerable media attention. However, the National Football League (NFL) seems to make the headlines more often than other sporting leagues do because of its athletes’ off-field stupors. It is tough to confidently theorize as to why this is the case, but alas, as we prepare for the start of the 2016-2017 NFL season, we must also prepare for a barrage of stories of NFL players making mistakes outside of the arenas.
Sometimes these stories can be innocent and even funny given an appropriate amount of time to reflect on the scenario and the eventual outcomes. More often than not, though, these stories turn out to be pathetic, disgusting, sad, and in some cases, horrifying. Each off-field decision always shares one common denominator, regardless of the outcome. The catalyst behind each and every mistake made by NFL players outside of the football stadium is stupidity.
Here are the 15 dumbest things NFL players have ever done off the field.
29 Brandon Marshall – Slipped On A McDonalds’ Bag
Apparently, Brandon Marshall’s family is a fan of Big Macs from McDonalds. In 2008, the New York Jets’ wide receiver was wrestling with family members in a living room, slipped on an empty McDonald’s bag on the floor, and fell through the television. In the fall, Marshall’s arm went directly through the glass screen of the TV and sustained serious structural damage. Marshall’s arm received lacerations to one nerve, one artery, one vein, two tendons, and three muscles. Although his injuries healed in time to start the 2008 season with the Denver Broncos, Marshall admitted that his right hand was numb throughout the entire season. Considering that a Big Mac almost resulted in the end of his career, it would be surprising to find out that the Marshall family continues to get McDonalds for family get-togethers. After all, those paper bags can be extremely slippery when they are soaked in french-fry grease!
27 Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson – Met Ex-Wife On Twitter, Domestic Violence
Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson had no idea what he was getting into when he proposed to his ex-wife, Evelyn Lozada, a Basketball Wive’s reality TV star, who by the way, he met via Twitter. The wedding was held on July 4, 2012 and a little over one month later on August 11, 2012 Johnson was arrested on a charge of domestic battery after head-butting his wife. The altercation prompted the Miami Dolphins to release the wide receiver and eventually ended his marriage after Lozada filed for divorce. The divorce was finalized on September 19, 2012 meaning the two had been married for a measly two months. The charge itself was followed by a probation sentence of one year and when Johnson failed to meet the requirements of that probation, he was summoned before a judge. When a plea deal was reached that exempted Johnson from any jail time, he playfully slapped his attorney on the butt in front of the judge who took offense to Johnson’s lack of seriousness and swiftly sentenced him to 30 days in prison.
25 Manti Te’o – Imaginary Girlfriend
Maybe more weird than anything, Manti Te’o and his imaginary girlfriend snowballed into one of the bigger sports stories of the 2013 football season. Although Te’o was not directly involved in the “hoax”, there were some lingering suspicions that he was in fact a participant – he received a tremendous amount of sympathy and praise for continuing to play despite his “girlfriend’s” death (he became a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy in the process). Upon investigation, it was discovered that the girlfriend had in fact never been real; a friend of Te’o had created a female identity online and had used photos and social networking accounts to act as the supposed girl. It is true that all of the blame cannot be placed on Te’o in this scenario, as it was a hoax being played on him. However, the stupidity rests with Te’o in that he never actually met this “girlfriend” in person. Rather, all of his interactions with the imaginary female had been online and he had lied, in several instances, to his family and to the media that he had been with her in person before. Instead of getting to the bottom of the mystery, Te’o let the fairy-tale play out in full, all the way to the protagonist’s revelation that he had been betrayed.
23 Lawrence Taylor – Solicited Underage Street Worker
Lawrence Taylor has been referred to as being one of the greatest, and most feared, defensive players to ever play in the NFL. The former outside linebacker spent his career playing for the New York Giants and left quite the legacy, both on and off the field. Throughout his career, Taylor experienced lots of problems with drugs and prostitution. According to Taylor, while he was still playing in the league, he would often hire prostitutes to go to the hotel rooms of his opponents so as to keep them busy and tire them out. He also showed up to practice once still in handcuffs from the night before in which he had spent with call girls. It seems as though Taylor’s involvement with prostitution did not end upon his retirement, as he was recently arrested for soliciting a 16 year old underage prostitute. He received six months of probation for his solicitation of the young girl, and upon being questioned about the morality of his actions said that you never know what you’re going to get for a prostitute and that prostitution was the oldest profession in the world.
21 Jason Pierre-Paul/CJ Wilson – Fireworks
You would think that an athlete blowing off fingers and parts of their hand with the improper use of fireworks would be isolated, infrequent occurrences. Well, you thought wrong. There are two separate occasions when an NFL player blew off his fingers with fireworks. Jason Pierre-Paul, a defensive end for the New York Giants, and CJ Wilson, a former cornerback in the NFL, both received serious injuries as a result of having fireworks explode in their hands. Wilson, who was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 season, lost two fingers from a firework accident and was forced to retire as a result of the incident. Similarly, Pierre-Paul lost two fingers in a firework accident and had to have skin-graft surgery to replace the burnt skin on his palm. For Pierre-Paul, who continues to play for New York, the injury came only four months after the Giants placed their franchise tag on the defensive end. The word you’re looking for is dumb.
19 Ben Roethlisberger – Motorcycle Accident
A decade ago, in 2006, Ben Roethlisberger was involved in a car accident whilst riding his motorcycle – without a helmet. Not only did Roethlisberger choose to leave his helmet at home, he was driving the motorbike without the proper class of license required to operate such a vehicle. Witnesses claim that Roethlisberger’s motorcycle struck a car which propelled the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback over the bike’s handlebars and into the car’s windshield. Roethlisberger’s head hit the windshield and he was flung onto the concrete. The accident left him with fractures to the upper and lower jaw, a fractured sinus cavity, missing teeth, and a 9-inch laceration to the back of his head. The injuries were severe enough to prevent witnesses from recognizing who he was. Although he made a full recovery, and was ready for the start of that football season, Roethlisberger’s stupid decision to ride a motorcycle without a helmet could have ended his professional career and, according to him, was extremely close to ending his life.
17 Chris Hanson – “Choppin’ Wood”
Chris Hanson was perhaps the victim of his own coach’s stupidity in 2003, when Jacksonville Jaguar’s coach, Jack Del Rio, placed a wooden stump and an ax in the middle of the team’s locker room. The coach’s motto to his players was to “keep choppin’ wood” and thought that the tree stump would serve as a motivational tool for players. After several teammates had taken turns swinging the ax at the stump, “choppin’ wood” as it were, Hanson attempted to do the same. Unfortunately, Hanson missed the stump altogether and struck his non-kicking foot with the ax. Hanson’s foot was seriously injured in the incident and he was forced to miss the entirety of the 2003 football season. Putting an ax in the middle of a football locker room – where testosterone and adrenaline run rampant – may be one of the dumbest things to ever occur off of the field, and Chris Hanson just so happens to be the poster-boy for that moronic decision.
15 Eugene Robinson – Soliciting Street Worker On Eve Of Superbowl
The majority of NFL players never get the chance to play for the Superbowl, let alone win the championship. So it may be confusing as to why Eugene Robinson was so fatigued during Superbowl XXXIII, given the fact that he and his Atlanta Falcons teammates should have had a curfew the night before. Well, the night before the Superbowl, Robinson was arrested by an undercover police officer for soliciting a prostitute. Thereafter, he spent a good portion of the night in jail and not surprisingly, was not the beneficiary of a good night’s sleep. The next day, during the Superbowl, Robinson gave up an 80-yard touchdown reception to the Broncos’ wide receiver he was defending and, later in the game, missed a crucial tackle that led to a huge gain for the Broncos. The Falcons would eventually lose Superbowl XXXIII and Robinson was labeled by fans and the media as the clear scapegoat in the loss. Ironically, the day that Robinson was arrested, he was the recipient of the “Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award” for his outstanding leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community. It was the first time that the Falcons had reached the Superbowl since their inception in 1965. They have not been back to the finals since.
13 Johnny Manziel – One Drink Too Many
Where to begin? Over the last several years, Johnny Manziel has done so many idiotic things off of the football field, that it is hard to choose just one. Most of his off-field actions have been tied to incessant partying – a habit that has attracted alcohol, drugs, and women – and attempts to curb his unhealthy lifestyle choices. It is so difficult to select just one that it may be easier to label the last two years of Manziel’s life as the culmination of idiocy and poor choices. One decision that stands out however, is when he decided to abuse his ex-girlfriend in his car while threatening to kill her. The allegations and subsequent criminal investigation led to Manziel’s marketing agency, two of his player agents, and Nike all cutting ties with the troubled quarterback. Since then, Manziel has battled alcohol addiction while trying to recapture some of the glory he once boasted as a college QB. Manziel’s off-field antics have been so documented and frequent, that his dad has questioned the 23 year old’s will to live and suggested that he might not be capable of staying alive.
11 Michael Vick – Dog Fighting
Michael Vick was famous in the sporting world for being the first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft as well as for his play on the field as a quarterback. Despite his accolades however, he became infamous, both within the sporting realm and outside of it, for his involvement in a dog fighting ring that acted as a site for drug running and gambling. Not only was Vick an active member of the ring – which was named “Bad Newz Kennels” – he supplied most of the money for the gambling and was personally involved in organizing the fights and the executions of “under-performing” dogs either by hanging or drowning. This stupid, and downright barbaric, activity landed Vick in jail for nearly two years, while nearly ruining his professional football career. He was lucky enough that upon his release from prison in 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles were willing to take a chance on him. This idiocy permanently tarnished Vick’s reputation as an individual, let alone a football player, and forced him into bankruptcy as he was unable to pay off numerous lawsuits against him.
9 Pacman Jones – Las Vegas Shooting
Adam “Pacman” Jones was selected sixth overall in the 2005 NFL Draft and currently plays cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals. Originally, Jones played for the Tennessee Titans, the team who drafted him, before an incident in 2007 resulted in him being suspended and subsequently traded. During the NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas, Jones was at a gentlemen’s club when he became involved in an altercation with a dancer and a security guard. Eventually, Jones left the premises but later on, an individual returned to the club and fired gunshots into the crowd, hitting the same security guard twice, as well as Tommy Urbanski, a former professional wrestler, paralyzing him from the waist down. Although Jones contends that he had nothing to do with the shooting, several documents revealed that he in fact did, including the paying off of various suspects involved in the incident. Jones was forced to pay Urbanski $11 million and was suspended by the NFL for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season. It was the first time in over 40 years that an NFL player had been suspended for an off-field incident involving anything but substance abuse.
7 Adrian Peterson – Beating His Child
The current Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, has made some questionable decisions over the span of his career. None of those decisions however, come close to as stupid as the one he made just a couple of years ago. In 2014, it was reported that Peterson had beaten his four year old son as a form of punishment. Peterson claimed that it was a form of discipline that he himself had received when he was a young boy from his father. However, far from a simple act of discipline, photos were published that showed the severity of Peterson’s son’s injuries. The images showed slash wounds across the child’s back, genitals, ankles, and legs which were the result of Peterson using a tree branch as a “switch”, or whip. This act of sheer stupidity cost Peterson the rest of the 2014 football season, as he was instated on the NFL’s “exempt list” and barred from participating in any NFL-related activities for over a year.
5 Plaxico Burress – Shot Himself… And Went To Jail For It
In 2008, while playing for the New York Giants, Plaxico Burress was at a nightclub in Manhattan when he accidentally shot himself in the leg with the gun that he was carrying in his pocket. Although Burress’ injury was not life-threatening, it garnered quite a bit of media attention which led to the mayor of New York calling for the maximum sentence for the unlawful carrying of a handgun. Even though no one was hurt in the incident, aside from Burress himself, he was charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and one count of reckless endangerment. During the trial, Burress was bold enough to ask the grand jury for sympathy – a plea that fell on deaf ears, as he was sentenced to 2 years in jail and 2 years of supervised release. Carrying a loaded handgun into a nightclub full of people is not very smart to begin with. However, it takes a lot of stupidity to somehow shoot your own leg with said gun and end up going to prison for it.
3 Rae Carruth – Murder Conspiracy
Rae Carruth was playing wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers in the 1990s when he made the most idiotic decision he could ever make. In 1999, Carruth conspired with an associate of his, Van Brett Watkins, to murder his girlfriend who was pregnant with his unborn child. His girlfriend, Cherica Adams, was shot four times in her vehicle and was taken to hospital where she fell into a coma and later passed away from her injuries. The baby, who was named Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered via a C-section and survived, although suffering irreparable brain damage in the process. Carruth fled upon his girlfriend’s death and was later found hiding in the trunk of a car with candy bars and bottles of his own urine. He was found guilty of several charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, and was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison. For a player that was selected in the first round of the NFL draft and who was named to the all-rookie team as a wide receiver in 1997, it is ridiculous to think that Carruth would do something this dumb.
1 Aaron Hernandez - Murder
Easily the stupidest decision(s) undertaken by an NFL player in the history of the league, Aaron Hernandez shocked not only the football world, but the rest of the world as well, when he was indicted on two separate occasions for the double homicide killing of two men in 2012 and the first-degree murder of his friend in 2013. The 2012 incident concerning the double murder, involved Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, both of whom were killed by gunshots being fired into their car. Two years later, after a lengthy investigation, Aaron Hernandez was indicted on murder charges for the killings of both men, while also receiving several charges of attempted murder in relation to the other individuals who survived the attack. As if this act of idiocy wasn’t enough for Hernandez, a year later he was investigated by Massachusetts authorities in connection to the murder of his long-time friend, Odin Lloyd. Following a two year investigation, it was proven that Hernandez had murdered Lloyd execution-style by firearm, and was found guilty of first-degree murder – a conviction which carries an automatic life-sentence in the state of Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, the New England Patriots – Hernandez’s former team – cut all ties with the tight end, who forfeited upwards of $25 million in guaranteed salary. Hernandez’s likeness, memorabilia, and name were removed and destroyed by the Patriots, by EA Sports, and his former college (University of Florida), among other corporations – effectively erasing his legacy as a professional football player. So, rather than playing in the NFL, growing his fame, and earning millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals, Hernandez is now sitting in an 8 x 8 cell where he will spend the rest of his life staring at a blank wall. Talk about the pinnacle of dumb.