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The Biggest Betrayals in Sports

Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIJanuary 7, 2017

The Biggest Betrayals in Sports

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    For many sports fans, life is just not fair.

    They stay dedicated to their teams, but they have no control over what players, management or even ownership decides to do with their beloved franchise.

    Sometimes it is the foolishness of an individual that throws off something they were connected to.

    Whatever the case, fans deal with betrayal all the time.

    Interestingly enough, most of the biggest betrayals have been more recent. Of course, things such as endorsements have become much bigger deals as of late, making major markets much more desirable.

    These betrayals are some that have and will continue to sting fans for many years to come.


    Note: I wrote a similar article in January, The 30 Most Unforgivable Betrayals in Sports. This is an update on that list, with new additions and moves. 

25. Mark Buehrle Follows Ozzie Guillen to South Beach

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    Mark Buehlre must be crazy.

    I mean, who is his right mind would want to play under Ozzie Guillen TWICE!

    After Guillen was removed as the Chicago White Sox manager, he went to the Miami Marlins to lead the team under their new moniker.

    Coming along for the ride was Buehrle, who accepted a four-year, $58 million deal to join the new bright colored squad.

    Buehrle was the man on the South Side. His two-time manager summed up what the lefty meant to the city, as per's Ken Rosenthal.

    He pitched in the big scenarios, big moments, very tough city to pitch. When people love you in Chicago, that means something.'

    In his time with the White Sox, Buehrle pitched both a no-hitter and a perfect game, as well as claiming a World Series title for the team.

    Tough to see a guy like that follow your manager out the door.

24. Theo Epstein Leaves the Boston Red Sox

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    This one likely stung a lot more at first, but the fact that both teams are struggling pretty badly makes it much better.

    The Boston Red Sox essentially cleaned house after the tailgating reached the club house, with longtime manager Terry Francona being the first to pack his bags.

    Soon after, the fate of general manager and hometown hero Theo Epstein was in question. 

    With the Chicago Cubs and new owner Tom Ricketts desperate to bury the Jim Hendry era, the team made Epstein an offer that he eventually accepted.

    The Red Sox gave permission to Epstein to leave for Wrigley, but not without receiving compensation from the Cubs.

    This situation lasted until March, when the Cubs finally completed the deal with the Red Sox to end the ongoing fallout.

    In the meantime, the Cubs have been one of the worst teams in baseball, much worse than the Red Sox. Now that is saying a lot.

23. C.J. Wilson Leaves Texas Rangers

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    After making it to the World Series in back-to-back seasons, you'd think you would want a third shot at finally grabbing the title, right?

    Well, if you are former Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson, you would be thinking differently.

    The Rangers went to the World Series in both 2010 and 2011, but both years they didn't finish the job. 

    Wilson was a complete stud both seasons, and you'd think he would want to come back and do it one more time.

    Instead, the free agent signed with the division rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, throwing that chance to make it finally happen down the drain.

    The Rangers are dominating the West once again, but the Angels still have a shot of making things happen.

    Nonetheless, you can bet Rangers fans will be cheering against him.

22. Peter Pocklington Trades Wayne Gretzky

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    Not often do you have your owner trading not only his best player, but arguably the best player in your sport. Former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington, however, defied the odds.

    Following the team's fourth straight Stanley Cup win in 1988, Pocklington traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, mostly to make up for his ongoing financial problems.

    The team did go on to win the cup the following season, but without a doubt it just wasn't the same without Gretzky.

    Gretzky never won another title, despite getting a shot with the Kings.

    One can only imagine how many titles Gretzky could have brought to Edmonton had financial reasons not forced his departure. 

21. Johnny Damon Ditches the Boston Red Sox

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    The first rule of the Boston Red Sox is you don't join the New York Yankees.

    OK—that Fight Club reference didn't work as planned.

    Anyway, after becoming a hero for the Red Sox and their 2004 World Series winning season, fan favorite caveman—er, outfielder—Johnny Damon headed to the one place fans didn't want him to, the Yankees.

    Damon went on to win a title in the pinstripes in 2009, but his greediness and departure will likely never be totally forgiven by the Boston faithful.

    Maybe one day Damon will be able to return to Fenway appreciated, with his departure forgotten.

20. Adam Vinatieri Goes from New England to Indy

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    Adam Vinatieri has four Super Bowl rings to his name, three of which came with the New England Patriots, while the fourth came with the Indianapolis Colts.

    With quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning leading each squad, these two teams became quite the rivals during the mid-to-late 2000s, but the addition of Vinitieri to the Colts made things even more exciting.

    For the most part, this wouldn't have really been a betrayal, but considering these two teams were typically neck-and-neck for the top spot in the AFC, this was quite the change of location.

    Vinatieri had the last laugh of that situation, eliminating his former team in a 38-34 win of the AFC Conference title game in 2006, going on to win his fourth Super Bowl in six seasons.

19. Pete Carroll Runs Away from USC to NFL

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    While it wasn't absolutely shocking that Pete Carroll left the USC Trojans for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, his departure amidst a scandal unraveling was no way to bow out.

    Carroll was feeling the heat from the ongoing situation of booster issues for the Trojans, most famously for running back Reggie Bush. 

    While he hasn't seen nearly as much success with his Seahawks as the Trojans have had since he left, there is no doubt that the once great coach left a sour taste in everyone's mouth once he jumped ship.

    It will remain to be seen if Carroll ever returns to the college game again, but one thing you can take to the bank is that USC will never take him back.

18. New Jersey Nets Head to Brooklyn

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    There is no worse way to disgrace New Jersey than opting for a city in New York.

    The New Jersey Nets will be moving to Brooklyn where they will become the Brooklyn Nets, leaving their former state without a team.

    Whether fans will follow their struggling franchise remains to be seen, but for now, fans can only feel like they are losing some unfinished business.

    The Nets came extremely close to winning titles recently during the franchise's glory days with players like Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, failing to capture a title in back-to-back NBA Finals appearances during the 2001-'02 and 2002-'03 seasons.

    Maybe a move is the spark the team needs, but without a doubt, a title in Brooklyn won't feel the same as that long-hoped-for one in Jersey.

17. Eric Mangini Tattles on the Patriots

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    I know Bill Belichick doesn't come off as a real nice guy, but for that reason alone he doesn't seem like the ideal guy to go telling on.

    Eric Mangini didn't think twice about that. As soon as he joined the rival New York Jets, he ratted out his former boss and organization for spying on other teams, potentially tarnishing the New England Patriots Super Bowl seasons.

    Did it work?


    One thing that did happen though was Mangini's reputation was instantly damaged, something he sure hopes he could fix now.

    Via's Robert Klemko:

    "If there is a decision I could take back it's easily that decision," Mangini said. "Never in a million years would I have wanted it to go this way. It's disappointing whenever it comes up.

    Unfortunately for him, that ship sailed a long time ago. 

16. Lane Kiffin Blows off Tennessee

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    After just one season with the Tennessee Volunteers, Lane Kiffin headed back to USC to coach the Trojans following the departure of his former boss Pete Carroll.

    Kiffin seems to have made the right choice with the Trojans looking ready to make a serious run during senior quarterback Matt Barkley's final season.

    Still, Kiffin blew off Tennessee after just a year, putting the school in the position to once again have to go out and find their guy.

    Hiring a coach and finding a guy who fits your system isn't easy, and it certainly isn't easy to have to do it two years in a row.

    Time for him to prove that he can consistently recruit to keep the USC legacy going.

15. Rick Pitino Leaves the Kentucky Wildcats

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    From 1991-'97, Rick Pitino and the Kentucky Wildcats dominated college basketball. Maybe they won just a single title during that span, but nonetheless they had a ton of success, making it to both the title game and Elite Eight twice, as well as the Final Four and second round.

    Following the team's title game loss to the Arizona Wildcats, Pitino decided to return to the NBA to coach the Boston Celtics.

    His second trip to the NBA was not successful to say the least, which led to his return to the college game.

    Pitino joined the Louisville Cardinals, who would eventually play Kentucky in the 2012 NCAA tournament Final Four.

    The Wildcats came out victorious, crushing the season of the school's former coach.

14. Luis Figo Ditches Barcelona for Real Madrid

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    A lot of soccer players change teams for more lucrative clubs, but no betrayal stands out more in soccer than Luis Figo leaving Barcelona to head to Real Madrid.

    Why so famous?

    Well, because of how he was welcomed in his return to his former field.

    In his first game back in front of his old crowd, Figo was showered with garbage. The most shocking piece thrown at him was the head of a pig.

    Soccer fans have proven to be tough on players in the past, but the situation between Barcelona and Figo takes the cake.

13. Albert Pujols Leaves St. Louis for Anaheim

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    Let's be honest, it isn't easy to always be a major player in the Midwest.

    That is at least what the St. Louis Cardinals learned, as star slugger Albert Pujols left the only team he had ever played for in favor of a more lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    Pujols hasn't been Pujols in LA, batting a mere .232 batting average. Considering the Cardinals are sticking around in the NL Central yet again, it looks like the party against the odds is doing OK.

    Without a doubt, though, St. Louis will never be able to forget what Pujols meant to their team and city, so hopefully when it is all said and done, they will welcome back their former star with open arms.

12. Eli Manning Tells the San Diego Chargers 'No'

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    Eli Manning two, Phillip Rivers zero.

    That is how many Super Bowls Manning, of the New York Giants, has won in comparison to the San Diego Chargers' Rivers.

    The players were swapped on draft night, as the Chargers originally drafted Manning with the first overall pick.

    His refusal to play in San Diego put them in a bind, which eventually led to a trade, swapping him and Rivers on the same night.

    Both players have had strong careers and are towards the upper echelon of quarterbacks, but until Rivers grabs a Super Bowl title, this trade will continue to sting.

11. Carlos Boozer Breaks His Deal with the Cavaliers

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    I wouldn't call Carlos Boozer a loyal guy, especially after the way he handled his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Boozer was set to be a restricted free agent in 2004, but with the Cavaliers taking his word that he would re-sign with the team, they allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.

    The Cavaliers were looking like a team poised to take off, with a young LeBron James just coming into his own.

    The team thought they had the ultimate forward combination in Boozer and James, but unfortunately they would only end up with one.

    Boozer's departure to the Utah Jazz definitely hurt the club, and there is just no way he could have ever won back the fans after what he had done.

10. Shaquille O'Neal Leaves Orlando for LA

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    Sorry, Orlando, you may be once again facing a similar situation to when Shaquille O'Neal left town to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Shaq heading to LA shouldn't have been a surprise, as the man has always had aspirations of being a star on and off the court.

    I give Kazaam at least one star.

    Anyway, the Magic were a team coming up to be potential contenders for years to come, most importantly built around their No. 1 draft pick in O'Neal.

    Those dreams came and went too fast, though, as Shaq only lasted four seasons in Orlando.

9. Nick Saban Leaves LSU to Later Go to Alabama

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    It is one thing to leave the LSU Tigers to pursue a career in the NFL.

    It is another thing to leave that career in the NFL and return to the team's biggest division foes in the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    Add a BCS Title game win over your former squad, and you have the definition of why Baton Rouge hates Nick Saban.

    Can you blame them?

    That is like Brett Favre signing with the Chicago Bears.

    Nick Saban doesn't seem to care, though.

    I wouldn't either if I had two BCS titles in three years.

8. Clay Bennett Moves the Sonics to OKC

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    It wasn't easy for fans of the Seattle Super Sonics to see their team leave for Oklahoma City, and now it especially doesn't help to see them fighting for a chance to make it to the NBA Finals this season.

    Thunder owner Clay Bennett will always be the man to blame in this situation, although some can argue that the NBA and commissioner David Stern carry some responsibility as well.

    Nonetheless, Bennett, an Oklahoma City businessman, moved his newly acquired team from Seattle to Oklahoma City—a plan that had to be set in his head from day one.

    The Sonics have some great history, and maybe in the near future they will get a chance to rise from the ashes and compete in those yellow and green unis again.

7. Art Modell Takes Away the Pride of Cleveland

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    Oh, you think Art Modell should be lower?

    While I would mostly agree, the fact of the matter is that the Cleveland Browns ended up getting back everything about their franchise, while getting rid of an owner like Modell when he moved his franchise to Baltimore to become the Ravens.

    Unfortunately, though, the Browns have continued to struggle mightily while the Ravens have been pretty consistently successful.

    No matter how bad things get though, Browns fans stand by their team. Only question is though, how much longer can they take it?

6. LeBron James Takes His Talents to South Beach

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    "I'm taking my talents to South Beach."

    Shakespeare couldn't scribe it better himself.

    If LeBron James was smart, he would have trademarked that phrase way before he said it. Without a doubt he would have raked in some nice cash on that little overly used phrase.

    Nonetheless, James will always be painted as a traitor for leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in favor of joining forces with buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.

    James promised he wouldn't leave Cleveland without a title (he broke that promise), but now fans must be cringing to see him getting so close to actually winning one.

    Nonetheless, you can bet that Cleveland fans never want to see a NBA ring on that finger, as they are still waiting on theirs.

5. Urban Meyer Retires from Florida but Ends Up at Ohio State

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    One could understand Urban Meyer retiring from college football and the University of Florida in 2010 because of health issues and the desire to be around family, but that just looks like a bunch of bologna as he joined the Ohio State Buckeyes a year later.

    Meyer's return to college football is exciting, but some have to wonder about his departure from Florida and quick return to Ohio State.

    The puzzle pieces just don't match, and to be honest, Florida hasn't been the same since he left.

    Whatever the case may be, Meyer is now coaching the Buckeyes, so we will have to see if he will be able to find his magic in the Midwest like he had for so many years down South.

4. Bobby Petrino Messes Up on His Last Two Gigs

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    Bobby Petrino originally would have been much farther back, but after messing up on his second straight job, there is no reason to not have him higher.

    Petrino was recently removed as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks football team following a motorcycle accident he had while being with a mistress.

    He betrayed the school by misbehaving, throwing the school into a situation they were not looking to have to deal with following the 2011 season.

    Petrino is perhaps more famous, though, for his betrayal of the Atlanta Falcons, as he left the team with just three games left in the 2007 season.

    I think it is fair to say that Petrino's time as a coach may have finally come to an end.

3. Brett Favre Heads to Minnesota

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    Throughout the 1990s and mid 2000s, Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers were a match made in heaven.

    Favre was the face of the Packers organization, and it seemed like the only thing that could ever tear them apart was Favre retiring.

    Well, after too many in-decisions, the team couldn't deal with the ongoing offseason drama and shipped the veteran to the New York Jets.

    Favre did a stint there, did the whole retirement song-and-dance again, only later to decide to come back once again.

    This time, he joined the Minnesota Vikings, perhaps the one other team Packer fans would never want to see No. 4 in besides a Chicago Bears jersey.

    It wasn't easy for Packer fans to see Favre in the purple and gold, but it was time for Aaron Rodgers to shine.

    Nonetheless, Favre made a move that essentially saw him turn his back on the franchise that saw him develop in the man he was.

2. The Baltimore Colts Sneak off to Indianapolis

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    Perhaps the definition of betrayal—running away.

    That is what the Baltimore Colts did when current owner Jim Irsay's father Robert moved his team from Baltimore to Indianapolis in the middle of the night so nobody would catch them in the act.

    The fact is, they did it without people knowing, as fans woke up to find out that their beloved franchise had headed out of town without even a proper goodbye.

    It was just a weak move.

    There is no problem in moving, as it is going to be regarded as a betrayal either way. But doing so in secrecy is just an ugly way of doing it.

1. The Steroid Era*

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    There is no bigger betrayal in all of sports than the MLB's steroid era.

    Some of the greatest moments in all of sports history will be forever tainted, including the home-run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds' breaking of the single season home-run record.

    Even the beloved careers of players like Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens live in the past, their great performances now carrying this extra baggage.

    For fans, we live in the moment. Typically, we want to remember those moments for as long as possible.

    With what steroids meant to baseball, fans would likely rather just forget.

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