When one thinks of a scandal in sports nowadays the first thing that comes to mind is steroid use or a drug offense. But sports has a history of athletes who have done unspeakable crimes that have had them suspended by their teams, kicked out of the leagues and in some cases even arrested.
The New England Patriots just released Antonio Brown after several altercations with teammates and coaches, which led to him being traded from Pittsburgh to Oakland and then New England. But it was only when there was an indication of sexual harassment and possibly assault against a female broadcaster that New England released him and Brown effectively announced his retirement. And in baseball Felipe Vazquez was just suspended by the league after he was charged with crimes related to pedophilia that included child pornography, sending indecent videos of himself to a minor and sexual interference with a minor that occurred in 2017, when he tried to have sex with a 13 year old girl who was following his career. When news of those unspeakable crimes came out, reports claim that the city has tried to distance themselves from Vazquez and that every picture in Pittsburgh of the two time all-star were taken down and, the day after the charges were announced, the Pirates pulled all programs at the games which had him on the cover. The media are now reporting that Vazquez will likely be deported back to Venezuela.
While both athletes are in the spotlight now, they are hardly the only ones who have committed offenses that have tarnished their reputation and that of their teams and their sports. Adrian Peterson continues to play despite being suspended for beating his four year old son with a stick, although his name now is met with more boos than cheers and the Washington Redskins have been condemned by many fans for giving him another chance. Similarly, Michael Vick was able to make a comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles after being indicted on dog fighting charges, but his reputation was never the same after serving his prison time and when he played at Eagles games, he was mostly met by taunts and boos by fans who felt they had no use for an animal abuser. And no one can forget the TMZ video of Ray Rice punching his girlfriend in an elevator and dragging her out, leading to him being released by the Ravens and never signing with another team.
Of course none of the crimes listed above were the worst to occur in sports when athletes were still at height of their careers. The following are four stories of crimes that shocked the sports world and ruined the lives of players and their victims. Note these only involve active athletes, so players like O.J. Simpson will not be mentioned since his crimes came long after he retired from the NFL.
Drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the first round in 1997, Carruth had a good rookie season as wide receiver for the team, landing him on the all-rookie team as wide receiver. It appeared Carruth was on his way to a star career despite a down season the following year due to an injury, but Carruth made a good comeback in 1999. That was all derailed when Carruth was charged with the most unspeakable crimes. In November 1999 a real estate agent, Cherica Adams, who Carruth was dating, was shot by an associate of Carruth while sitting in her car. Adams was able to call 911 and told dispatchers that Carruth stopped his vehicle in front of hers ensuring she couldn't drive forward and consequently blocked her in. While stopped, another car (which turned out to be driven by Van Brett Watkins, an associate of Carruth) pulled up beside her car and shot her four times through the window. Carruth then drove away from the scene. After an investigation into the motive it turned out that Adams was 8 months pregnant with Carruth's child and Carruth asked her to get an abortion. When she refused Carruth devised a way to kill the baby so that he wouldn't have to pay child support. The baby, Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered by a cesarean section and survived, although he suffered permanent brain damage and has cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen deprivation. Cherica Adams died a month later. After her death a nationwide search went out looking for Carruth and he was found hiding in the trunk of a car in Tennessee the next day. Carruth was arrested on December 15th, and on December 16th Carruth was let go by the Panthers. On December 17th he was suspended by the league. Carruth went to trial and was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and trying to destroy an unborn child. He was given a sentence of 18 years, 11 months and was released from a North Carolina prison around 11 months ago. Despite his heinous crimes Carruth was hoping for another chance telling CNN the following:
"I'm nervous just about how I'll be received by the public. I still have to work. I still have to live. I have to exist out there and it just seems like there is so much hate and negativity toward me."
Not surprisingly Carruth apparently has found no work and has generated no interest by anyone involved in the football industry to be associated with him in any way.
Despite concerns about Hernandez' size and some off field activities, Hernandez was signed by the New England Patriots and played three good seasons along side Rob Gronkowski as tight end. His stock was highest in 2011 after he was excelled in the run up to the Super Bowl, which the Patriots lost to the Giants. After that season Hernandez was given a contract extension of 5 years, $40 million which was considered quite high for a tight end at the time.
Unfortunately for Hernandez, he had severe anger issues and seemed anxious to settle beefs with a weapon and thus he had several gun possession charges laid against him. In 2012 Hernandez was investigated into a double homicide after two men were killed with shots fired into their vehicle and witnesses came forward to say they saw Hernandez’s SUV at the scene. Hernandez was exonerated when security camera footage from a nightclub he had just been attending showed him smiling and taking pictures with fans and instead the police pointed to a drug dealer, Alexander Bradley, who was hanging out with Hernandez at the club. Hernandez identified Bailey as the likely killer which would lead to more confrontation between them later. Hernandez was charged with possession of a handgun. To this date many people including the Boston Globe believe Hernandez was guilty of that crime. Because of shoddy police work that crime has still been unresolved as both Hernandez and the drug dealer were not charged. Hernandez later shot Bradley between the eyes after visiting a strip club, although Bradley survived. He sued Hernandez in civil court but the charges were later stayed.
Hernandez was finally arrested and charged on June 26, 2013 after police uncovered a ton of evidence which showed that Hernandez murdered his friend Odin Lloyd, a semi pro player who was dating the sister of Hernandez' fiancée, and dumped his body in an industrial park. Almost immediately after he was arrested the Patriots released Hernandez and indications are that both Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft suspected Hernandez was guilty of the murder and already planned to release him as soon as he was charged. The team again indicated they were doing so to save the reputation of the team, although many Patriots players have since said that, they knew Hernandez was bad news from the beginning and should never have been signed by the Patriots. Along with the Patriots who removed all images of Hernandez, the university of Florida and Bristol Central High School removed all references to his name and likeness from their stadia and EA Sports took him off all of their games. Obviously endorsement deals were cancelled too.
Hernandez was found guilty of Odin’s murder in April 2015 and was given a life sentence. The investigation was also reopened into the double homicide, although Hernandez was again exonerated for that crime. On April 19, 2017 Hernandez was found hanging in his cell after he hung a bedsheet to the bars in his cell and suspended himself from it. Despite his suicide, the courts refused to reverse his conviction as his lawyers requested.
Ugueth Urbina was a Major League All-Star reliever playing most of his career with the Montreal Expos, although he was probably best known for the 2003 season when he led the Florida Marlins to the World Series, recording 4 saves in the post season. Urbina's skill was declining but he was still sought after until he was arrested and charged with attempted murder in his home country, Venezuela. The exact details of his crimes are not well documented, because Venezuela tends not to make all details public, but reports suggest that in October 2005 Urbina, along with some associates got into an argument with farm workers over a gun that he said the workers stole from him on his Venezuelan ranch. According to reports, a group of men approached five ranch workers who they believed were slacking off and stole property from the ranch. It appears the group wanted to teach the workers, and any others that would follow a lesson by beating them mercilessly and Urbina joined in by attacking the men with a machete. He then poured gasoline on them. All 5 workers were injured and one suffered severe burns. Urbina maintained his innocence, but was found guilty in 2007, and was given a 14 year sentence. He was released after 7 years at the age of 40, but he obviously never pitched again.
This wasn't the only incident that Urbina was involved in. In 2000 Urbina was involved in a fight at a Montreal nightclub and was charged with assault, although the charges were dropped. And in 2004, Urbina was highly criticized for not paying ransom to a group who kidnapped his mother and held her hostage for four months. She was only freed after a gun fight between her abductors and 30 police officers resulted in the death of her kidnappers. Urbina’s lawyer seemed to suggest that being rich and famous in Venezuela will result in people trying to extort you and the only way to protect your interests is not to give in.
Most people probably think of board games like Monopoly when they hear Milton Bradley, but Bradley was actually a Major League player who played in the All Star game. His bad attitude and both on field and off field antics led to him being constantly traded despite his skill.
Bradley was actively involved with children's charities, giving the perception of a caring man, but the reality is that he had severe anger issues, particularly with his wives. Bradley married Monique in February 2005 and apparently abused her from the start. In July of 2005 she called 911 after Bradley pushed her against a wall and started to choke her, despite the fact she was pregnant with his child. He also threatened to kill her if she called the police. Despite several altercations and filings for divorce the couple stayed together until 2011. During that time Bradley constantly beat his wife and threatened to kill her. He also got into numerous altercations with fans when they mentioned his wife.
Things finally came to a boiling point with Bradley after he was released by the Seattle Mariners in 2011 and wasn't signed by another team. It appears Bradley was blaming her for his bad play and disinterest by teams and in a drunken rage he hit her with a baseball bat. He also beat her mercilessly on a trip to Hawaii and choked her to the point she lost oxygen.
In 2013, while Bradley was still looking for a job as a free agent (no team would touch him), Bradley was charged with spousal abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism and dissuading a witness from making a report. The jury found him guilty on nine counts of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant and in July that year the judge sentenced Bradley to 32 months in prison and forced him to take classes on anger management. In October of that year Monique died from cirrhosis of the liver (she started drinking as a result of the beatings), hemorrhagic shock and cardiac arrest. Most medical experts agree it was the result of her body giving out from the beatings.
Bradley remarried and in 2018 he was charged again with spousal battery and was given a 36 month sentence, but was released on probation provided he took a year’s worth of classes on domestic abuse.
Antonio Brown and Felipe Vazquez are just the latest examples of talented athletes whose personal problems off the field make them poison on the field. And teams will still take chances on players who have issues or had issued in the past, as often the perceived benefits outweigh the negatives, until it all comes crashing down for players and their teams.
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