The NFL is easily the most popular sport in the United States, even with all the drama surrounding Colin Kaepernick and companies kneeling during the National Anthem, the most recent poll of Americans showed that almost 40 percent named football as their favorite sport (followed by the NBA… Sorry, baseball). The kneeling scandal is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scandals (if you want to refer to kneeling as a scandal) as the NFL has had to deal with scandal after scandal really almost on a yearly basis. Those scandals show that despite being nearly a $10 billion dollar a year business, the NFL really doesn’t have a game plan when it comes to a lot of the scandals it finds itself in as they appear to respond more reactively than proactively, as this list will show. That should go to show you just how entertaining and ingrained football is, as despite the fact that it’s terribly run and filled with players with, at best, questionable morals… It’s just so damn fun to watch. So, let’s take a look at the Top 10 off-the-field scandals that have rocked the NFL over the years…
10. Rae Carruth
Sadly, there are more than one murder scandals for then-current and former NFL players and while the OJ Simpson scandal was one of the biggest stories of all-time, it’s safe to say that Rae Carruth’s scandal is the worst/saddest of them all. Carruth, who was a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers in the late 90’s and early 00’s, was “casually” dating a real estate agent in Charlotte, North Carolina. That real estate agent was named Cherica Adams and she ended up getting pregnant with Carruth’s baby and Carruth was apparently adamant that his girlfriends get abortions (per an ex-girlfriend of his who said he became furious when she refused to have an abortion before Carruth met Adam), something Adams (also) refused. So when Adams was eight months pregnant Carruth hired Van Brett Watkins Sr, a nightclub owner, to murder Adams and her unborn child so Carruth could avoid paying child support. Adams called 911 and explained to them that Carruth was driving in front of her car and basically slowed down to box her in, which allowed Watkins Sr to pull up alongside her car to shoot her. Adams survived the original barrage of bullets long enough to make that call, although she fell into a coma soon after arriving at the hospital. Her child was delivered via C-Section and did survive, but because it was deprived of oxygen at birth it ended up being significantly disabled both mentally and physically. Carruth initially turned himself in and posted the $3 million dollar bail, which had a contingency that if either Adams or his child ended up dying he’d have to turn himself in for murder charges. Adams did end up dying and Carruth ended up fleeing but was eventually caught inside the trunk of his car outside a motel in Parkers Crossroads near West Tennessee. The millionaire only had $3,900 in cash, snacks and bottles of urine in his car. Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, using an instrument to destroy an unborn child and shooting into an occupied vehicle and received 18 to 24 years in prison. Considering the fact that he ended a life and also doomed a child to a life with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy, he got off far too easy.
9. OJ Simpson
There’s no larger off-the-field NFL scandal than the Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. Nicole Brown Simpson met OJ Simpson, the legendary NFL running back who was also a movie star, in 1977 while she was working at a private club in Beverly Hills that Simpson frequented. After starting an affair with Simpson (who was married) at the age of 18, Simpson ended up getting a divorce in 1979 and Simpson and Brown married in 1985 (five years after he retired from the game). They were married for seven years and had two children, and they had a rocky marriage that was full of domestic violence both during and after (per the haunting 911 calls that you can listen to on YouTube) the marriage ended in 1992. At 12:10 on June 13th, 1994, Brown Simpson and her friend, waiter Ronald Goldman were found savagely murdered outside of Brown Simpson’s home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Brown had been stabbed multiple times in the head and neck, with multiple defensive wounds on her hands and a throat that was slit so deeply that she was almost decapitated. Goldman had put up a fight, which with considering the strength required to almost decapitate someone in one motion, implied that whoever murdered them both was both large and strong. They were murdered at least two hours before they were discovered near the front steps of Brown Simpson’s home by the police, with the only initial evidence being a single bloody glove laying next to the bodies. When police went to OJ Simpson’s home to inform him that his ex-wife had been murdered they noticed blood that was “scattered” all over his infamous White Ford Bronco. Simpson’s fame, along with the slow-speed chase that he and his best friend, former football player Al Cowlings, led the police on as OJ held a gun to his head and threatened to kill himself. The trial was broadcast live on television and divided the country mostly along racial lines, as the trial came not too long after the riots in Los Angeles in 1992. The trial was also the first major trial to utilize DNA as part of the state’s case and despite all of the evidence that OJ was involved in the deaths of both Simpson and Goldman, the jury found Simpson not guilty.
8. Aaron Hernandez
While OJ Simpson killed more than one person those murders both occurred at the same time. So, not to be outdone, former New England Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez was living the dream as part of the best 1-2 tight end punch in the history of the league. What really should’ve been a much larger story, Hernandez actually killed at least one person (and potentially a couple more) while he was playing in the league. Hernandez ended up committing suicide last April while serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro linebacker who he was friends with. Lloyd was shot and killed on June 17th, 2013 in an industrial park about one mile from Hernandez’s home. Hernandez had texted two friends that lived outside of Massachusetts requesting that they come into town, stating in those texts that he couldn’t “trust anyone anymore”. Lloyd was riding as a passenger in Hernandez’s car and must’ve known something was up as he texted his sister whether she saw whose car he got into “just so [she] kn[e]w”. The theory is that Hernandez became paranoid that Lloyd was going to “snitch” on him as Lloyd became aware of the fact that Hernandez had murdered two men outside of a nightclub in Boston in 2012 (he was also thought to have shot two men outside a nightclub in 2007). That means that the NFL had a superstar that was essentially a mass murderer at best and a serial killer at worst. While Hernandez was found guilty of the death of Lloyd (mostly because he destroyed the security system in his home to hide the camera footage before and after), but was tried and found not guilty of the 2012 double homicide. Days after that decision, Hernandez was found dead in his cell with ‘John 3:16’ written on his forehead. He was 27 and had hung himself with his bed sheets, during the autopsy it was discovered that he had pretty advanced CTE, which is significant brain damage that one suffers from after repeated blows to the head. While that’s something that older NFL player are known to have, it was shocking that a player that young was suffering from it, something that sent more shockwaves through the NFL.
Spygate is the nickname for the 2007 videotaping controversy surrounding the New England Patriots during that season (and most likely multiple seasons before that). The Patriots were caught videotaping the signals of the defensive coaches or the Patriots’ rivals, the New York Jets. While it sounds a lot worse than it was in reality, as it wasn’t actually illegal to videotape the opposing teams’ coaches, so the actual reason that the Patriots were busted was basically that they didn’t film in the areas that the league had designated. Because the Pats were videotaping the Jets’ coaches from their sideline during the game it was determined by then semi-new NFL Commission Roger Goodell that the Patriots had violated league rules, calling the videotaping “a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field”. Because the Patriots are the winningest franchise in the 21st Century, people jumped on this ruling like crazy and used it to basically attempt to nullify all of the Patriots’ success by claiming that they were cheaters. Beyond that gigantic PR hit, the Patriots were also punished by the league. Their head coach Bill Belichick was fined the maximum amount allowed by the league, which was $500k and also the largest fine in the 87-year history of the league. The team itself was also fined $250k, and also lost its first-round pick in the next year’s draft (31st overall).
If Spygate made people believe that the Patriots were cheaters then Defaltegate ended up making people KNOW that they were cheating. Although this was a large scandal, it also was slightly misunderstood like Spygate (as in the case of Spygate most people didn’t realize that the league does allow for teams to sneakily videotape one another), it was also one of the largest stories in NFL history that ended up reaching beyond the reach of the NFL and into the grasp of the United States’ judicial system. After the league ruled that the Patriots also had to turn over all of their videotapes the league ended up destroying the tapes by smashing them by the order of Goodell, which added to the idea that the league was essentially in cahoots with the Patriots because their success was good for ratings. Because of that move, then-US Senator from Pennsylvania Arlen Spector requested a meeting with Goodell. Spector let the public know that Goodell had said that the Patriots had been essentially filming other teams illicitly since they hired head coach Bill Belichick back in 2000 (To be fair, Belichick said that they were operating within the rules of the NFL). A little before a year after that, the Boston Herald reported that the Pats had also filmed the St. Louis Rams walkthrough practice before Super Bowl XXXVI back in 2002, which was denied by Belichick. Either way, this is still part of the Pats’ reputations as the Eagles actually staged a fake practice walk-through in the hopes that the Patriots would film/spy on the practice and get the wrong plays.
If you haven’t noticed yet, there are a lot of “gate” scandals in the NFL and most of those “gates” were things that most people couldn’t relate to as they did involve football in some way. Bullygate, however, was a scandal that most people could relate to as it involved the supposed bullying of a player to the point that that player left not only the team but the sport as a whole. Now, full disclosure, that player was Jonathan Martin a person who has numerous mental health issues that have lead to the police arresting him for posts online (one of which showed him with a shotgun, seemingly referencing the bullying scandal by saying his options to respond to bullying was either suicide or “revenge” (he also named his former high school in that post, which lead to the closure of his school for the day)). The alleged Bully was Richie Incognito, who played the same position as Martin and had reportedly sent racially charged and threatening text and voice messages to Martin. It was reported early on that Martin wasn’t the only victim of Incognitos, and that some of his teammates were afraid of him. Incognito ended up being suspended for conduct “detrimental to the team”, the team then cut him after it was reported that he left a voicemail calling the mixed-race Martin a “half n-word piece of s***”. It turned out that Incognito had been tasked by the Dolphins to “toughen up” Martin and that he was simply trying to do so in the stupidest way possible. Martin never played for the NFL again, whereas Incognito went to treatment and therapy and ended up getting picked up by a few different teams in the NFL, he currently plays for Buffalo Bills (he also made the Pro Bowl last season).
The last “gate”, honest. This scandal does involve on the field actions more so than the others on this list, but because the directives for this scandal happened off the field (and because they broke the dreams (and bodies) of a team that seemed destined to finally win a Super Bowl), it makes this list. Bountygate refers to the New Orleans Saints defenses toward the end of the last decade, a unit that was coached by Gregg Williams, who had essentially rewarded players financially for hurting the players on opposing teams/offenses. There is audio of Williams discussing a specific player on an upcoming and opposing team that was recovering from an injury to his knee, as the Saints were filming a documentary about how football was so important to the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In the audio, Williams informs his players to hit that players knee to knock him out of the game, something that is beyond awful in a league where players careers can end on any play without people targeting specific areas of their bodies. Bountygate reached its apex in the NFC Championship game during the 2009 season, a game in which the Saints repeatedly hit opposing quarterback Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings, injuring his ankle to the point that he couldn’t participate in drills six months later. Once the league caught on they did what they always do, which is respond reactively instead of proactively. The largest problem is that Saints team ended up winning the Super Bowl, and while the league couldn’t take that away from them they did end up suspending the Saints coaches, Williams was suspended indefinitely while the head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a season (which was the first time in the modern NFL that a head coach had been suspended for a season (it was also the harshest punishment the league had ever doled out)). It didn’t matter though, they still had their stolen Super Bowl championship, while Brett Favre and the Vikings missed their window of opportunity and the people of Minnesota got frostbite from their tears freezing on their face.
3. Adrian Peterson Child Abuse
Speaking of the Minnesota Vikings and tears, one of the players that ended up missing out on that Super Bowl was running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson is the father of enough children (across multiple women) to field his own football team and the running back that was known for punishing the defenders who had to tackle him was also apparently punishing his children that same way. Peterson played in the first game of the 2014 season and ran for 75 yards and then ended the entire season with 75 yards as he was suspended for the entire season, as well, as he ended up being suspended for the entire season after he was indicted for child abuse in his home state of Texas. Peterson reportedly had used a switch on his son and he hit him so hard that his ex-girlfriend had to bring the child to the doctor, who alerted the police after he saw the aftermath that included cuts on the child’s backside, legs and genitals. As stated in the previous entry, the league reacted the way the league always does and initially didn’t suspend Peterson (as they had no policy against child abuse and simply were going to wait for Peterson’s trial to play out) and the Vikings also reinstated Peterson after he was deactivated for the second game of the season. Because of the uproar from the public, the NFL decided to place Peterson on the NFL’s “Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List”, which lead the Vikings to suspend Peterson without pay for the entire season (which was a huge hit for Peterson, especially considering the amount of child support he was paying). So, it probably shouldn’t surprise people that Peterson already seems to be broke and he isn’t even retired yet. Peterson returned from that suspension and lead the league in rushing in 2015, but it’s something that will definitely follow Peterson for the rest of his life. Hopefully, it’s not the same situation for his son.
2. Ray Rice
In the previous entry, we broke down the Adrian Peterson child abuse situation, which actually had some defenders from (mostly African American) people that were mainly from the South, a region that believes more in corporal punishment. Had Peterson’s situation happened in 2013 he probably would’ve only missed a game or two, but it happened right after this entry, when the eye of outrage was directed at the NFL and its apparent protection of generally terrible men. The most terrible of those men was Ray Rice, who literally one-punched his fiance in an elevator after she spit on him. She was knocked out after she fell and also hit her head on the handrail in the elevator, and the highly intoxicated Rice dragged his fiance out of the elevator and into the lobby. Showing little or no remorse or concern for well-being. Rice was indicted on assault charges and he was originally suspended for the first two games of the 2014 seasons, but after the video of the assault was released people basically had had enough with the bad behavior from players in the NFL and the Ray Rice story literally became the biggest story in the country. The NFL yet again reacted reactively, attempted to change it’s rules after the fact, which in the legal world is called an ex-post facto situation, which means that you can’t really change or create a new rule and then punish those who didn’t adhere to the rule before it existed. So when the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely, he ended up suing the league/his former team (who cut him) and they both ended up settling with Rice, who has never played again but at least is still with his fiance turned wife. I’m surprised no one threw a penalty flag when the priest at their wedding asked if anyone in the crowd had any reason why those two shouldn’t be married.
1. Michael Vick
As of the writing of this piece, Kirk Cousins is reportedly going to join the Minnesota Vikings with the largest per year contract in the history of the NFL. There was a point in time where Michael Vick was the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, as a player who revolutionized the quarterback position as one of the fastest runner at the position (and perhaps the league) ever. While he had a weird throwing motion and wasn’t the most accurate passer, he was also an efficient enough passer to warrant the contract that he received from the Atlanta Falcons. However, one of the largest problems that some players in the NFL have stem from the fact that they don’t separate themselves from some of their friends from their neighborhood/childhood. Aaron Hernandez is a perfect example of that, as he grew up near Boston and when he was drafted by the Patriots he ended up being stuck with the people he grew up with. In Vick’s case, it was his family that ended up sinking him as his cousin used Vick’s money to start a dog fighting operation, something that Vick was more than just financially involved in as it was reported that Vick actually killed multiple dogs himself (by drowning them by sticking their heads in buckets full of water. Vick ended up going to prison and having to return a lot of the money he received from Atlanta. However, he emerged from prison and got a second chance in the league and ended up playing for the New York Jets. He had clearly lost the speed that made him the best Madden QB ever, but he did play for long enough to earn enough money to retire/re-start his house of horrors. I’m sure you’re wondering why a guy who drown some dogs is ahead of people like OJ Simpson and Aaron Hernandez, who murdered people. I’d direct you to our Facebook channel at www.Facebook.com/BabbleTopCOM, a bastion of cute puppy/dog videos (and cats, too! We don’t discriminate!).