For some reason it feels like this year is full of scandals and controversies. From senators to actors, and yes, certain prominent sports stars, it seems that numerous public figures have been consumed with scandals. Wrongdoings range from the usual (extramarital affairs) to the unusual (dog fighting rings), and all are equally juicy. But scandals are nothing new, especially in sports. When a lot of money is involved in something, scandal almost always seems to follow. Whether someone’s reputation is tarnished or the sport changes its’ policies, scandals have had a huge impact on sports. Here is a look at some of the biggest sports scandals that shook the sports world. (Note: Since every scandal has its own unique and lasting impact, I have purposely chosen not to rank them)
Tiger Woods Sex Scandal
Ok, let’s get this one out of way because I’m sure EVERYONE is tired of hearing about Tiger and his plethora of mistresses. But this scandal deserves to be on the list because of the impact it has had on Tiger Woods’ image and career. Before we knew about Tiger’s infidelity, he was arguably the most popular and successful athlete in the world. Everyone saw him as a reserved, family-oriented, somewhat dorky golfer who dominated the PGA and earned the admiration of every sports fan. Honestly, he seemed like the perfect sports figure, presumably squeaky clean and a true role model for every young sports fan. But all those presumptions about Tiger Woods came crashing down on Thanksgiving Day after his infamous car crash. Now many people are rooting against Tiger because his image has been forever tarnished – or at least until he wins a masters. But there is no guarantee that Tiger will return to that success, especially given the amount of scrutiny he will play under during every golf tournament he is in. Only time will tell if Tiger can resurrect his career and return to greatness, which is why this scandal is important because if this never happened, Tiger would still be the biggest sports star ever.
Tim Donaghy Betting on Basketball
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was kicked out of the NBA in 2007 after an FBI investigation found that he bet on multiple games that he was officiating and made calls that affected the point spread and outcome of those games. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. The Donaghy scandal was a big blow to referees because it reinforced fan’s beliefs that some refs are biased to teams and make dubious calls because of it. It tarnished the way fans view referees and the trust that people have for officiating. When this scandal happened it shocked the basketball world and made everyone think about whether more referees gambled on basketball games. Although it was proven to be an isolated incident, referees will forever be held to a higher scrutiny and anytime a ref makes a questionable call, Donaghy will be mentioned. Let’s just hope that no one repeats the actions of Donaghy because it would be a shame to disgrace a sport in this way again.
Major League Baseball and Steroids
The late 1980s through the early 2000s of baseball was full players hitting monstrous homeruns and the fans fell in love with that. Little did we know that many of those stars players were using steroids to enhance their performances. Nearly all of the best players from that era were accused or admitted to steroid use. Players such as Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriquez and Manny Ramirez, all hall of fame caliber players have a steroid allegation hovering over them. This scandal was such a big deal that congress got involved, holding hearings where many of these players testified about steroid use in America’s pastime. This era of baseball was easily the most tarnished in baseball history. It turned a lot of fans, including me away from Baseball. After the Mitchell Report was released, which named players who tested positive for steroids, I had a hard time following the game. I didn’t want to watch a game full of cheaters because I felt that the integrity of the game was compromised. Many players that I cheered for had cheated and I felt that they let me down by making me and everyone else feel that we were watching a clean game. But it still amazes me that fans didn’t realize that players were juicing all along, I mean just look at the stars of the steroids era. It was obvious that they were taking performance enhancers, us fans were just blinded from it because we feel in love with the long ball. Thankfully the MLB cleaned up the game and steroids are no longer an issue, which has brought me back to being a fan of the game once again.
Michael Vick and Dog Fighting
Once again this is a scandal that tarnished the image of a superstar athlete. From the time Michael Vick was drafted in 2001 up until he was convicted of running an illegal dog fighting ring in 2007, Vick was the most exciting football player in the NFL. His skills were transcendent, no quarterback could run like him and dominate a game the way he did. Everyone loved watching Vick play because he put on a show every game. He was one of the biggest stars in league and on his way to a promising career. But all that came crashing down once he pleaded guilty to running an illegal dog fighting operation, in which he provided most of the money for gambling purposes. Not only was his involvement illegal, it involved cruel and inhumane acts towards animals. Vick was sentenced to jail time, was suspended by the NFL, was dropped by all his endorsers and went bankrupt during this whole process. This scandal ruined his career as a budding superstar but he is the only one to blame. Many people turned against Vick, especially dog owners and animal lovers. He was painted by many as a cruel human being. But since his release from prison in June 2009, Vick has worked his way back into the NFL as a backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Even though he is back in the NFL, his career may never live up to the expectations.
Stay tuned for next week, when I bring you Part II of the biggest sports scandals.