20+ of the Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History

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Many budding sports fans and wannabee athletes aspire to be like those heroes whom they see excelling in the sports arena. But, while many athletes are perfectly suitable role models for younger generations, some have expressed behavior that is not quite as impressive off the field. From those who are notoriously bad sports to those who have had run-ins with the law, here are the most controversial athletes in history.

Mike Tyson

Whether it’s his famous lisp, face tattoo, or numerous on-screen cameos, Mike Tyson is known for more than his successful boxing career. Unfortunately, not every one of the noteworthy acts performed by this former heavyweight boxing champion has been of a morally sound nature.

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In 1992, Tyson was found guilty of assaulting an 18-year-old model. After serving three years of his 10-year sentence, Tyson was released. However, this wasn’t the end of his controversies. After losing a match to Evander Holyfield, Tyson bit off a piece of his opponent’s ear.

Tiger Woods

A legend of golf, Tiger Woods has been idolized for his glittering golfing career, which includes multiple triumphs at each of the four golf majors — not to mention spending the most consecutive and cumulative weeks atop the world rankings. On the other hand, his personal life was riddled with controversy.

Shutterstock // Debby Wong

In 2009, allegations came out of Woods cheating on his wife. Several women, including adult film actress Devon James, all claimed to have had extramarital affairs with Woods. He ultimately admitted to these actions, thereby besmirching his public image.

Richie Incognito

Having recently made the Pro Bowl, Incognito could have looked forward to a promising NFL career with the Miami Dolphins had he not decided to get involved in locker room drama — namely the bullying of his teammate, Jonathan Martin.


In November 2013, text message conversations between the two players surfaced, wherein Incognito sent threatening and racially-charged messages. While several black players defended him against racism allegations, the NFL would not ignore the bullying performed by Incognito, with the league ultimately suspending him while the Dolphins released him.

Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder

Before any scandals entered his life, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was celebrated as one of America’s top sports commentators. During his career with the CBS Sports show NFL Today, Snyder became popular for his colorful statements. But, that’s before he crossed the line.

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After losing his temper at a bar, “The Greek” punched his coworker Brent Musburger in the face. If that wasn’t enough, he made inappropriate comments about black athletes while on air. This resulted in CBS Sports dismissing him from his position after 12 years with the major television network.