Biggest Scandals Ever In Sport

Following on from last week’s post, which focused on Cam Newton’s and Ben Stokes’ recent image problems, BusinessOfSport.net has pulled together the top five sports PR disasters ever.

1. Lance Armstrong

Before The Fall:

  • In 2011, Lance was a seven time winner of the Tour de France, worth an estimated $125 million (thanks to 11 sponsors).
  • Chairman of the wildly successful and prominent Livestrong Foundation (which distributed 2.2 million of its iconic yellow wristbands in 2010).

The Fall:

  • Yet, Lance is the daddy of all PR disasters in sports history.
  • The US Anti-Doping Agency released a report in 2012 in which it said it had containing that Armstrong had used banned substances to improve his performance.
  • The New York Daily News outlined how Armstrong and his team dealt with those who accused him, including one sponsor saying to an accuser over a voicemail: “I hope somebody breaks a baseball bat over your head.”
  • Armstrong sat down with Oprah Winfrey to offer his apologies (see the video above).

After the fall:

2. Tiger Woods

Before The Fall:

  • Much like Armstrong, Tiger Woods was one of the most recognisable and respected sports people on the planet before his fall.
  • Since debuting as a pro in 1996, Woods had earned an astounding $1.4 billion, and won a world record $110,061,012 from his success solely on the golf course.
  • He had won 14-time major championships and was closing in on Jack Nicklaus record of 18.

The Fall:

After the fall:

3. Ray Rice

Before The Fall:

  • Life for NFL running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens looked rosy after securing a new five year contract worth $35 million in 2012.
  • At Super Bowl XLVII, in February, 2013, Rice earned his first Ring, when his Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.
  • He earned $1.6 million a year in endorsements.

The Fall:

  • Rice, in March 2014, was arrested and then charged with third-degree aggravated assault relating to an incident in which he was caught on video allegedly assaulting his fiancée.

After the fall:

  • Ever single sponsor dropped Rice.
  • EA Sports removed him from its Madden NFL 15 and all subsequent versions.
  • Despite overturning his indefinite suspension from the NFL, he has not played in the League since his sacking from the Ravens.

4. Michael Vick

Before The Fall:

  • Michael Vick was the first pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, signing a six-year contract worth $62 million.
  • His outstanding play saw him become the face of Madden NFL 2004 and sign a nine-year $130 million extension the same year.
  • By 2006 he became the first quarterback to  rush for over 1,000 yards in one season.

The Fall:

  • Vick was found guilty of creating and running a dog fighting ring (called Bad Newz Kennels)
  • He admitted to killing up to six to eight dogs, himself, by various methods including hanging, drowning and other methods.
  • According to NFL Commissioner Vick’s actions were: “not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible.” 
  • He served 18 months in prison for his actions.

After the fall:

5. Maria Sharapova

Before The Fall:

  • Sharapova won five Grand Slam Singles titles and was estimated to earn $285 million.
  • She became the face of (*takes deep breath*) Head tennis rackets, Sony Ericsson, Evian, Tag Heuer, Canon, Honda, Land Rover, Avon Luck, Porsche, and Samsung to name just a few.
  • In 2010, Nike signed her to a eight year, $70 million deal.

The Fall:

  • The tennis star failed a drug test during the Australian Open in 2016.
  • She was banned from tennis and was 15 months out of the game.

After the fall:

  • Brands like Avon and Tag Heuer dropped her.
  • Yet not all did, with Nike, just one of a number, to stand by the player.
  • Much like Vick, Sharapova is seeking to rise like a phoenix once more. The 36-year-old is on the comeback trail, winning her first WTA title since returning from a drugs ban, winning in October the Tianjin Open.
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