Sports ListsDownload App

20 Biggest Sports PR Disasters of the Last Decade

Amber LeeSports Lists Lead WriterJanuary 13, 2017

20 Biggest Sports PR Disasters of the Last Decade

1 of 21

    You would think the White House tradition of honoring those American teams who have won the Stanley Cup would transcend the partisan rancor of politics. After all, you get to meet the president, immortalize your achievement with a photo-op and a pleasant little ceremony; you basically are offered a moment to bask in history and prestige of the Executive Office.

    Well,  2010-11 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Tim Thomas decided to draw a line in the sand. Thomas infamously snubbed the president and posted a mild political diatribe on Facebook. Classy. 

20. Rex Ryan: One Man PR Nightmare

2 of 21

    Since being hired as head coach of the Jets, Rex Ryan has been one PR nightmare after another.

    Ryan's foul-mouthed appearance on Hard Knocks, annual Super Bowl guarantees and the revelations surrounding the sexually adventurous nature of his marriage, have all created headaches for the Jets. 

19. Dwight Demands Stan Van's Job

3 of 21

    Dwight Howard's future in Orlando has been a seemingly unending nightmare—particularly for Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. It's no secret that there is no loved lost between these two. 

    They recently starred in the most awkward press conference ever together and the repercussions from that incident are still playing out. Howard has officially thrown down the gauntlet on Van Gundy. 

18. Ratting out the Red Sox

4 of 21

    What's worse than being an MLB team with a $162 million payroll in the midst of a historic, late-season collapse? Being one that caps off said collapse with a media frenzy over leaked details about your big-money pitchers crushing beers and fried chicken in the clubhouse while the ship sunk.

    This is your 2012 Boston Red Sox; a struggling team still battling a "chicken and beer scandal" and reports about a locker room divided over "snitches."

17. Tim Thomas Turns Down the White House

5 of 21

    You would think the White House tradition of honoring those American teams who have won the Stanley Cup would transcend the partisan rancor of politics. After all, you get to meet the president, immortalize your achievement with a photo-op and a pleasant little ceremony; you basically are offered a moment to bask in history and prestige of the Executive Office.

    Well,  2010-11 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Tim Thomas decided to draw a line in the sand. Thomas infamously snubbed the president and posted a mild political diatribe on Facebook. Classy. 

16. Gronk Gone Wild

6 of 21

    Fair or not, no story makes the media pounce and fans explode than one that creates the perception that certain players don't care about losing a championship. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, despite his amazing individual season, developed an acute image problem when photos and video surfaced of him dancing shirtless at a club after his Patriots lost to the underdog Giants (again) in Super Bowl XLVI.

    To make matters worse, this caused folks to retroactively scrutinize every less-than-flattering image of Gronk floating around the internet.

15. Arenas's Dangerous Dispute

7 of 21

    If someone mentions "guns" and "locker room" in the same sentence, I would assume they were referring to the kind glorified by a specific song by Kiss. However, this was not the case with a 2010 locker room confrontation between then-Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton.

    Arguing over a gambling debt, Arenas drew a gun on Crittenton (who then pulled out his own), leading to an indefinite suspension of Arenas and a reputation from which he has yet to recover.

14. Jets Locker Room Rage Boils over

8 of 21

    It's amazing how the public perception of a team can undergo a complete transformation almost overnight. The formula is almost always the same: a team with a healthy share of talented egos starts losing and then unnamed sources start the finger pointing.

    And this is how the Jets went from brash and lovable—like their enigmatic head coach—to struggling team with a divided locker room. In the end, the biggest losers were Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes.

13. NHL Year in Review: Head-Shots, Concussions & Death

9 of 21

    After enduring a contentious labor battle that canceled the 2004-05 season, the last thing the NHL needed was an image problem. The league was reborn in better form, but like the NFL, it could not escape the inevitable problems that come with a violent sport.

    The 2011-12 NHL season reached a critical mass; star players like Sidney Crosby and Chris Pronger highlighted an epidemic of head injuries, complicated by cheap shots, suspensions and deaths off the ice.

12. Harrison's Hostility

10 of 21

    For much of his career, Steelers linebacker James Harrison's play on the field did most of his speaking for him. Not known for giving long or very candid interviews, Harrison picked a bad time to start opening up.

    As Roger Goodell and the NFL began to aggressively address head injuries through discipline and rule changes, Harrison gave a notorious interview titled "Confessions of an NFL Hitman" to Men's Journal. This photo pretty much speaks for itself.

11. NCAA Investigations

11 of 21

    The past three years have not been kind to the image of NCAA football. Various scandals, from the relatively minor to jaw-dropping, have sullied the reputations of what were once untouchable powerhouses such as Ohio State, Southern Cal and Penn State. 

    Amazing stories like the meteoric rise of Cam Newton, were sometimes overshadowed by things like "Tattoo-Gate" and the "Sandusky Investigation," while Joe Paterno, Jim Tressell and Butch Davis found themselves fired or forced out of the job.

10. Favre Gets...Flirty?

12 of 21

    Brett Favre is a record-setting quarterback and future Hall of Famer. Yet despite having one the greatest and longest NFL careers, toward the end he couldn't avoid the kind of shenanigans that remind us he's human.

    While a member of the Jets, Favre allegedly became enamored with fellow employee Jenn Sterger, courting her numerous explicit texts and a low-res snapshots of his man-parts.   

9. LeBron's Decision Debacle

13 of 21

    You're a beloved, hometown hero; a basketball wunderkind who single-handedly made the city's struggling NBA franchise relevant. Not only did you transform the team into a playoff contender, you gave an old rustbelt stronghold hope. However, you know the truth: you'll probably never win a championship with this team.

    So it's time to move on, but you'll let the fans down easy, right? Nope, you ripped their hearts out on a national televised ESPN spectacle called "The Decision."

8. Burress Plaxidentally Shoots Himself

14 of 21

    Whenever a high-profile NFL player is drafted or acquired via free agency by the Giants or the Jets, the sports punditry class loves to speculate about how that player will handle the NYC media feeding frenzy. Surviving the back page of the New York Post is almost a rite of passage.

    Well, shooting yourself in the leg with an unregistered gun at a New York nightclub, during the height of your career, is akin to dumping a bucket of bloody fish heads in a shark tank.

7. Braun Battles Steroid Allegations

15 of 21

    Just when it seems like the MLB is ready to move on from the steroid and substance abuse scandals of the last decade, Ryan Braun's positive test brought back all the bad memories.

    If nothing else, we've learned that no matter how much you deny the allegations or how much time you're banished from the league, your reputation will always have an asterisk.

6. Always Tumultuous Terrell Owens

16 of 21

    From publicly questioning his quarterbacks' sexual orientation to elaborate (and expensive) touchdown celebrations, Terrell Owens' antics will always define his career as much, or more, than his production on the field. Owens is practically a self-parody and the very definition of a walking PR nightmare.

    For better or worse, Owens' employment means accepting that your team's media relations staff are going to be working some nights and weekends.

5. Donaghy's Disgrace

17 of 21

    Although sports fans, players and media alike will always have a volatile relationship with game officiating, referees are vital to the integrity of the game. So when allegations are made about point-shaving and other malfeasance by an NBA official, it sends shockwaves through the sport.

    After an FBI investigation found that Tim Donaghy had made calls during his games to influence the outcome for financial gain, fans of the sport were rightly outraged.

4. Petrino's Crash and Burn

18 of 21

    You got to hand it to Bobby Petrino.  He found a way to give the world an encore to the shameful and disingenuous way he handled himself when he left the Atlanta Falcons to become head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. The bizarre series of events in early April 2012 that got him fired checked all the boxes for a PR disaster.

    Inappropriate relationship with a younger woman. Check. Misuse of influence to get her a job she wasn't qualified for. Check. Attempted cover-up. Check.

3. Ozzie Guillen's Fidel Fiasco

19 of 21

    When you are the first-year manager of a MLB team based in a city known for its large population of Cuban expatriots, you should probably cross out "Praise Fidel Castro" from your press conference notes. Predictably, when lightning rod Ozzie Guillen inexplicably praised the longevity of Castro's rule in Cuba, the media jumped on the statement and Cuban advocacy groups went ballistic.

    It isn't the first time Guillen put his foot in his mouth—and won't be the last—but this incident put him on the wrong side of an issue a core part of the Marlins fanbase cares deeply about. 

2. Spygate Stains Patriots Legacy

20 of 21

    The very identity of Bill Belichik's Patriots is characterized by a fundamental, business-like approach to football. Considered two of the best football minds in the NFL, Belichik's and owner Robert Kraft built their brand around quarterback Tom Brady—a cool headed seventh-round pick who just wins without the pomp and circumstance.

    So, when the Spygate story broke in 2007, it struck at the very core of the Patriots ideal and for some players and fans, stains their winning legacy.

1. Bountygate Blows Up

21 of 21

    Decades from now, what will be the legacy of Bountygate? Will it be the symbol of a game that will never be able to escape the worst aspects of it's violent nature. Or, will it be viewed as a turning point for a new NFL era focused on protecting player safety.

    This question will be answered at some point, but there is no question about the immediate fall out. Once considered a hot commodity, Gregg Williams' career is in serious jeopardy, while a resurgent Saints franchise will be without head coach Sean Peyton for an entire season.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices