The Most Frequently Arrested Athletes in Sports History

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIJanuary 25, 2012

The Most Frequently Arrested Athletes in Sports History

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    Athletes' run-ins with the cops are always great fodder for TMZ, SportsCenter, or sports talk radio, and some of the most elite seem unable to avoid repeatedly finding themselves at odds with Johnny Law.

    Yes, some of the world's finest athletes are also some very prodigious criminals.

    It seems athletes' thirst for competition doesn't end when they leave the field, even if it means racing toward a life behind bars. So, somewhat predictably, it takes a special someone to enter the ranks of the most arrested athletes. 

    But don't expect to see repeat offenders like Darryl Strawberry, Michael Irvin or O. J. Simpson on this list. Not even Chris Henry, Charles Barkley, Denny McLain or Steve Howe (above, after his 1996 arrest for trying to carry a firearm through JFK International Airport in New York) crafted rap sheets long enough to find themselves among this motley crew.

    No, despite their renowned appetites for trouble, they couldn't match the accomplishments of these ten pillars of society—the most arrested athletes in sports history.

    (One quick note: In case it's not obvious, this is not an exact science. Many arrests go unreported in the press, and some of the rap sheets involved stretch back decades. Consider these figures as the bare minimum of arrests for each listed athlete—no doubt a frightening idea.)

10. Dexter Manley

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    Number of arrests: 6

    The "Secretary of Defense" played 11 seasons during the 80s and early 90s with the Washington Redskins, the team formerly known as the Phoenix Cardinals, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning two Super Bowl rings with the Skins and amassing 97.5 sacks.

    He also amassed quite the criminal record, tallying six arrests—mostly drug-related and mostly after his 1991 lifetime ban from the NFL following his fourth positive drug test—before getting sober in the last decade:

    1982: impersonating a police officer (source)
    1994: possession of crack cocaine (source)
    1995: failure to pay motel phone bills & possession of crack cocaine (source)
    1995: possession of crack cocaine (source)
    1995: driving without a license & possession of crack cocaine (source)
    2002: possession of crack cocaine (source)

    Manley served 15 months following his third 1995 arrest, and then another two years after his 2002 arrest, which resulted in a conviction for evidence tampering (he swallowed the crack when approached by police).

    Released in 2004, Manley nearly stretched his arrest tally to seven when Washington, D.C. police found him "disoriented" in June 2006. They chose to transport him to the hospital instead of jail, and no charges were filed. During his stay in the hospital, Manley was found to have an enlarged colloid cyst in his brain—a cyst he had known existed since 1986 when he was hospitalized following an all-night drug binge.

    Surgery to remove the cyst followed soon after, and Manley has reportedly been sober since.

8. Dwight Gooden (tie)

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    Number of arrests: 7

    Despite his reputation as a prodigious consumer of cocaine back in his heyday with the New York Mets, most of Doc Gooden's earliest run-ins with the law involved alcohol or driving with a suspended license. In fact, it wasn't until his arrest in 2006 that cocaine was at the center of the incident:

    1986: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest with violence, & battery on a police officer (source)
    2002: driving while intoxicated, with an open container & with a suspended license (source)
    2003: driving with a suspended license & suspicion of driving while intoxicated (source)
    2005: domestic battery (source)
    2005: fleeing police, driving while intoxicated & resisting arrest without violence (source)
    2006: probation violation (admitted cocaine use) (source)
    2010: driving with intoxicated with a child passenger, driving while under the influence of drugs, endangering the welfare of a child, being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, reckless driving, and failure to keep right (source)

    Arrested alongside Gooden after his December 1986 brawl with Tampa police was 18-year-old Gary Sheffield, still nearly two years shy of his first Major League at-bat.

    From the lengthy list of charges, it's clear the incident last year was particularly disturbing. Gooden was driving with his unbuckled five-year-old son in the backseat of his car when he collided with another vehicle. No one was injured, but Gooden was allegedly high on cocaine and inexplicably was given just five years' probation after pleading guilty to one count of child endangerment.

    Needless to say, I'm not entirely convinced that another slap on the wrist is going to force Doc to use better judgment. Here's hoping the 1984 National League Rookie of the Year and 1985 National League Cy Young Award Winner can straighten himself out for good before he kills someone.

8. Lawrence Phillips (tie)

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    Number of arrests: 7

    Lawrence Phillips' fall from grace was astonishingly fast, beginning with a violent incident in college, followed by a brief stint in the NFL derailed by multiple arrests, and ending with the former Heisman candidate in jail until potentially 2037.

    Heading into the 1995 season (his junior year) under Tom Osbourne at Nebraska, Phillips was a Heisman Trophy candidate. Following the team's victory over Michigan State in East Lansing, the Huskers returned to Lincoln, where Phillips allegedly caught quarterback Scott Frost with his ex-girlfriend and completely lost his mind.

    Phillips dragged his ex down three flights of stairs—by her hair—before he was arrested.

    Osbourne's unscrupulous decision not to boot his star running back off the team (Phillips was suspended for six games) was widely criticized. After the Huskers finished their undefeated, National Championship season with a 62-24 thrashing of Florida in the Fiesta Bowl, Phillips entered the 1996 NFL Draft and was taken 6th overall by the St. Louis Rams.

    The Rams' draft pick lasted little more than one season with the team, before playing parts of two seasons with the Dolphins and 49ers and then vanishing from the NFL, a victim of his own criminal behavior.

    Here's Phillips' full list of arrests:

    1995: domestic violence (source)
    1996: driving while intoxicated (source)
    1997: disorderly conduct (source)
    1997: probation violation (source)
    1998: battery (source)
    2000: domestic abuse, making a terrorist threat, conspiring to dissuade a witness, possessing a concealed firearm in a car, carrying a loaded firearm & vandalism (source)
    2005: attempted murder & domestic violence (source

    The last arrest came after Phillips ran down three teenagers after a dispute during a pickup football game near the LA Coliseum, and he was wanted at the same time by San Diego authorities for domestic abuse. He was eventually brought to trial on the charges resulting from both incidents, and was sentenced to a total of 31 years behind bars.

7. Adam "Pacman" Jones

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    Number of arrests: 8

    Adam "don't call me Pacman" Jones was the poster boy was the NFL's discipline problem during the 2000s. Eventually banned for the entire 2007 season by Commissioner Roger Goodell, he had already racked up seven arrests, the first of which came while he was still at West Virginia University:

    2003: assault with a pool cue (source)
    2005: assault & felony vandalism (source)
    2006: felony & misdemeanor obstruction of justice (source)
    2006: possession of marijuana (source)
    2006: disorderly conduct & public intoxication (source)
    2006: simple assault (source)
    2007: felony coercion (source)

    The charges of felony coercion resulted from Pacman's involvement in the now-infamous triple shooting outside a Las Vegas strip club that left one man paralyzed. Jones eventually pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct, and this incident then provided the impetus for the 2007 suspension. 

    Pacman stayed out of the law's crosshairs for nearly four years, except for an incident where he was mistakenly arrested (something I'm not including on Jones' rap sheet for obvious reasons). 

    Jones then added to his tally during last year's lockout, arrested by Cincinnati police for disorderly conduct. He allegedly swore at cops following their handling of a dispute between his wife and another woman, and despite initially professing his innocence, Pacman entered a guilty plea last week in an Ohio courtroom. He was subsequently sentenced to a year of probation, given 50 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $250 fine plus court costs.

6. Dennis Rodman

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    Number of arrests: 9

    As if it wasn't obvious enough from his various high jinks throughout the years, NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman has some anger management issues and, well, judgment problems. His rap sheet includes ten arrests:

    1979: stealing watches from a store at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (source)
    1999: suspicion of public drunkenness (source)
    1999: battery (source)
    1999: driving while intoxicated (source)
    2002: interfering with a police investigation (source)
    2003: domestic violence (source)
    2003: driving while intoxicated (source)
    2008: domestic violence (source)
    2008: driving while intoxicated (source)

    The Worm's most infamous arrest came in 1999, when cops were called to break up a fight between the NBA superstar and his newly divorced ex-wife, actress/model/wonder of plastic surgery Carmen Electra, at the Bentley Hotel in South Beach. Apparently the argument began when the couple saw one of Electra's former beaus came on MTV, and Rodman didn't take kindly to learning that his ex had been testing the waters, so to speak.

    And to top off Rodman's reputation as a bad boy, Newport Beach Police apparently have been called to his home more than 70 times for noise complaints.

    Due in no small part to his run-ins with the law, Rodman's career is known more for his penchant for outlandish behavior than for his prowess on the court—skills and a work ethic that got him to Springfield alongside the rest of the game's all-time greats.

4. Lawrence Taylor (tie)

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    Number of arrests: 10

    Hall of Fame New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor famously wrote in his autobiography LT: Over The Edge (and later told 60 Minutes) that, after quitting cocaine from 1988 to 1993 in order to avoid lifetime banishment from NFL, he looked forward to resuming his drug use in retirement because, "I saw coke as the only bright spot in my future."

    From his rap sheet, it's clear that L.T. did his best to live up to his grand vision of his post-retirement self. After only registering one arrest during his playing career (DWI charges of which he was acquitted at trial), the man some consider the greatest linebacker of all-time has amassed quite eight more since he retired:

    1989: driving while intoxicated (source)
    1996: attempting to purchase crack cocaine from an undercover officer (source)
    1996: leaving the scene of an accident, not reporting an accident & driving with a suspended license (source)
    1997: filing a false tax return (source)
    1998: failure to make child support payments (source)
    1998: attempting to purchase crack cocaine from an undercover officer (source)
    1998: possession of narcotics and narcotics paraphernalia (source)
    2000: tax evasion (source)
    2009: leaving the scene of an accident (source)
    2010: third-degree (statutory) rape and soliciting prostitution (source)

    The 2010 rape charge arose out of an incident where Taylor allegedly had a 16-year-old prostitute brought to his hotel room and paid $300 to have sex with her. He eventually pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute, misdemeanor charges that carried no jail time but required him to register as a sex offender (although, unfortunately, not on any state online sex offender registry).

4. Todd Marinovich (tie)

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    Number of arrests: 10

    If you haven't already, check out both the recent ESPN documentary "The Marinovich Project" and Mike Sager's May 2009 Esquire article entitled "Todd Marinovich: The Man Who Never Was." Both tell the fascinating story of the meteoric rise and fall (and hopefully, rise again) of the kid dubbed the "Robo QB" when he was coming out of high school.

    Todd Marinovich was already smoking marijuana daily in high school and was introduced to cocaine after he arrived on campus at USC in 1988. It should have come as no surprise when he was arrested for possession of cocaine in 1991, and subsequently left for the NFL Draft after playing just two years for the Trojans.

    Taken by Al Davis and the Los Angeles Raiders with the 24th overall pick in the first round, Marinovich didn't slow his drug use and erratic behavior. Marijuana, coke, ecstasy, pharmaceutical amphetamines, and Vicodin were regularly consumed and, by 1993, he failed three drug tests, ending his NFL career.

    Marinovich's post-"retirement" rap sheet details 10 arrests, mostly arising out of his drug use, as the former golden boy graduated from pot and coke to heroin and meth. Here's a sampling:

    1997: investigation of cultivation of marijuana and possession of narcotics (source)
    2000: sexual assault (source)
    2001: suspicion of heroin possession (source)
    2004: skateboarding in a prohibited zone & possession of meth and syringes (source)
    2005: probation violation (possession of drug paraphernalia) (source)
    2007: possession of a controlled substance, unauthorized possession of a hypodermic needle & resisting a police officer (source)
    2009: probation violation

    Marinovich has allegedly stayed clean since his last arrest and recently opened his own art gallery, finally putting his Fine Arts classes from USC to productive use.

3. Isaiah Rider

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    Numbers of arrests: 30

    Isaiah Rider's NBA career was full of promise when he was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the 1993 draft. But, after 22 arrests in and during his college and pro careers, Rider found himself out of a job in November 2001, never to take the court again.

    It's no surprise that Rider shuffled through five franchises in little more than eight seasons, when you see a sampling of his run-ins with the cops during his playing days:

    1992: assault (source/source)
    1994: fifth degree assault & disorderly conduct (source)
    1995: probation violation (source)
    1996: possession of marijuana & an illegal cell phone (that charged calls to someone else's bill) (source)
    1996: suspicion of rape (not charged) (source)
    1996: gambling in public (source)

    The 1992 assault charges resulted from an incident when Rider allegedly threw a milkshake at a Jack In The Box drive-through window after getting the wrong flavor.

    The 1994 assault occurred when Rider was late to an autograph signing appearance and allegedly kicked a pregnant bar manager in the back. He was convicted and sentenced to probation and community service.

    And since his less-than-honorable discharge from the Association, Rider's thirst for danger hasn't waned:

    2005: domestic violence (source)
    2006: kidnapping & battery (domestic violence) (source)
    2006: failure to appear for kidnapping, battery & drug charges) (source)
    2006: possession of cocaine (source)
    2008: unlawful firearm possession and grand theft (source)
    2008: grand theft auto (source)
    2010: domestic violence & failure to pay cab fare (source)
    2011: probation violation (source)

    Its seems nothing will slow down the man who used to be called "J.R."

2. Mike Tyson

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    Number of arrests: 36+

    Iron Mike was reputedly arrested more than 30 times before he ended up at Tryon School for Boys at age 12, with the last straw being an arrest for purse snatching. Tryon is where Tyson became involved in boxing, leading to his legendary, if infamous, career in the ring.

    Since his ascent into the pantheon of the greatest practitioners of the Sweet Science, Tyson has slowed somewhat, but still seems to find himself in trouble every couple of years, racking up six more arrests:

    1987: misdemeanor assault and battery & assault with a deadly weapon (source)
    1991: rape & deviant sexual conduct (source)
    2003: assault & disorderly conduct (source)
    2004: suspicion of misdemeanor criminal damage (source)
    2006: driving while intoxicated & possession of cocaine and paraphernalia (source)
    2009: misdemeanor battery (source)

    He was also cited for misdemeanor assault after he reportedly punched and kicked two men following a traffic accident in Gaithersburg, Maryland in 1998. Tyson wasn't arrested because Maryland law didn't allow for an arrest if it was merely a misdemeanor and a police officer did not witness the assault. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, with three years suspended, and was released after little more than three months behind bars.

    Tyson's most famous arrest during his career was in 1991, when he was accused of raping Desiree Washington, Miss Black Rhode Island, in an Indianapolis hotel room. He was eventually convicted of one count of rape and two counts of deviant sexual conduct and would serve three years out of his ten-year sentence, before being released in 1995.

1. "Fast" Eddie Johnson

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    Number of arrests: 100+

    "Fast" Eddie Johnson played college ball at Auburn, and then lasted ten seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Atlanta Hawks. He played in two All-Star games, but his career was derailed by drugs.

    Although he has been on a downward spiral since being banned by the NBA in 1987, Johnson's criminal record stretches back even further, beginning shortly after he entered the league. In 1980, Johnson was arrested twice in a two-week span, first for possession of cocaine, driving while intoxicated & driving with a suspended license (source) and then for grand theft auto (source).

    By his own estimates, Johnson has been arrested more than 100 times on charges of burglary, battery, robbery, marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting or obstructing an officer without violence and writing bad checks, among others.

    Johnson's last run-in with the law—a 2006 arrest and subsequent conviction for sexual battery and sexual molestation of a 12-year-old—resulted in a life sentence, although this career criminal continues to deny that he did anything wrong.

    Guilty or not, it's clear the streets are safer without "Fast Eddie" on the prowl.