The Most Bizarre Sports Scandals That Happened In 2022

One part a culturally sanctioned non-deadly form of combat, one part highly competitive celebration of the world's most physically advanced, talented, and trained specimens, and one part lucrative form of deeply compelling and unscripted entertainment — there really isn't anything as dramatic or universally enjoyed as sports. Every day of the year, the best in the world at basketball, football, golf, tennis, baseball, and other pursuits put their bodies and brains to the test in pursuit of glory, perfection, and money. As such, that makes sports intense and complicated. There are a lot of moving parts, with a lot of people and stakes involved. Scandals and controversies are almost guaranteed to spring up, and modern technology makes the news of them spread instantly around the world.

The year 2022 in sports was particularly captivating, with some of the weirdest controversies in recent memory making headlines. Here are all the weirdest and most scandalous stories coming out of the world of sports in 2022.

Ben Simmons refused to play in the NBA for a whole season

Ben Simmons made an explosive debut in the NBA in 2017, and his star only rose. Named Rookie of the Year in 2018, Simmons led the Philadelphia 76ers to the second round of the 2021 NBA playoffs, according to ESPN. At that point, his usually exemplary game fell off — he shot 33% from the free throw line and didn't attempt shots in the fourth quarter of five games. In the decisive seventh game of the series against the Atlanta Hawks, he blew off an easy dunk in favor of a pass, sealing the Sixers' loss. Simmons took the blame from the sports media and teammates for the Sixers' collapse, leading him to request a trade. 

He didn't report to training camp, and as the 2021-22 season wore on, Simmons continued to be dormant, incurring fines for his refusal to play, citing mental health issues. In February 2022, the Sixers dealt Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, but he continued to sit on the sidelines, once more citing back issues and mental health difficulties, according to NBC Sports, and a herniated disc. In August 2022, Simmons reached a settlement with the Sixers in which he received part of the $20 million in salary he lost during his off year, per Yahoo!

LeBron James was sued over a hockey movie

Beyond his celebrated career in the NBA — four MVP awards, four championships, 18 All-Star selections (via Basketball Reference) — LeBron James makes movies. One project, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was "Black Ice," a 2022 documentary produced by James, his business partner Maverick Carter, and Drake, about the history of racism in hockey, and how overlooked Black players formed the Colored Hockey League in 1895. Directed by Academy Award-nominated documentarian Hubert Davis, "Black Ice" won the People's Choice Award at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, giving James some movie-making accolades to go with his numerous sports achievements.

The movie about hockey also led to a lawsuit involving basketball figures on both sides. According to the New York Post, former NBA Players Association leader and one-time federal prosecutor Billy Hunter filed documents in New York alleging that he, and only he, holds the rights to make a movie about the Colored Hockey League. Hunter alleged in his suit that James, Carter, and Drake, among others, secretly made a deal with George and Darril Fosty, authors of "Black Ice: the Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895 to 1925," the book upon which "Black Ice" was based. Hunter held the film's movie rights and planned to make a film, only for James and company to get to it first. Hunter asked for a cut of the documentary's profits and $10 million in damages.

Ringworm ensnared Fernando Tatis Jr. in a drug scandal

The San Diego Padres reached the Major League Baseball postseason for only the second time in 16 years in 2022, as per Basketball Reference, and they did it without its superstar in the making: Fernando Tatis, Jr., a perennial MVP candidate and two-time Silver Slugger winner in only his fourth year in the big leagues. In 2021, he led the National League with his 42 home runs and made the All-star team; in 2022 he didn't play at all. In March 2022, the Padres announced (via Sports Illustrated) that Tatis had fractured his wrist in a non-baseball occurrence. A reporter at a press conference asked if the injury had anything to do with Tatis' documented motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic — the player quipped, "Which one?" 

Expected to miss as many as three months of the 2022 season for surgery and recuperation, Tatis never took the field. In August 2022, Tatis earned an 80-game suspension — stretching across the 2022 and 2023 seasons — after he tested positive for Clostebol, an anabolic steroid and a substance banned by Major League Baseball because of its performance-enhancing properties, according to the New York Times. Tatis claimed that he'd used a medication to treat ringworm and failed to see if it was clear of forbidden chemicals.

MMA fighter Jorge Masvidal attacked an opponent outside the octagon

Between 2007 and 2022, Jorge Masvidal amassed a stellar 35-16 record as a UFC contender. As of October 2022, his last fight came seven months earlier, when at the UFC 272 event in Las Vegas, Colby Covington defeated him by unanimous decision in their welterweight class division, as per UFC Stats. But that wasn't the last time Masvidal would throw punches in 2022, nor even the last time he'd fight Covington.

According to Miami's Local 10, Covington left the Papi Steak Restaurant in South Beach. Masvidal had been waiting for his fellow mixed martial artist — at one time also his friend and roommate — to emerge, and when he spotted him, he unleashed a torrent of punches. "The one guy clocked him three or four times in the face," a witness told reporters. Covington emerged with a chipped tooth and was able to recognize his assailant, whose face was obscured with a hood of a sweatshirt, by his voice and a lock of curly hair. Within the day, according to Local 10, Masvidal turned himself in to Miami Beach police and was freed after making bond; he awaits further developments on a charge of aggravated battery.

LIV tore the pro golf world in two

In January 2020, according to Golf Magazine, the organizers of the Premier Golf League announced plans to compete with the U.S.-based PGA and the European Tour. Among the financial backers: the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, leading several pro golfers to speak out in opposition. "I didn't really like where the money was coming from," top PGA player Rory McIlroy said, regarding Saudi Arabia's controversial and violent history of human rights abuses. In 2021, per The Telegraph, 11 top golfers received offers to join the upstart tour, renamed Super League Golf, including Phil Mickelson, who was looking at a payday worth as much as $100 million. The PGA responded by increasing its total purse winnings for the 2022 season from $367 million to $427 million, as per Gold Magazine. Mickelson then called out the PGA in February 2022 for overcharging outlets for usage of video clips, including his own. "That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious," he told Golf Digest.

After many top PGA golfers swore allegiance to the organization, Mickelson joined the again renamed LIV Golf League for a deal worth around $200 million right before the organization started staging tournaments. A collective of 11 PGA affiliated golfers jumped over to play on LIV events, per CBS Sports, earning them suspensions from the PGA. Then they filed an antitrust lawsuit, to which the PGA responded by extending the bans through 2023, per Golf Monthly.

Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka was banned for a year over a sex scandal

One of the NBA's biggest new stars of 2022 was Ime Udoka. A longtime assistant for multiple franchises, Udoka got his first job as a head coach with the Boston Celtics and promptly led the team to an appearance in the NBA Finals. But he wouldn't set foot on the sidelines for the Celtics at all in 2022-2023, earning a year-long suspension from the NBA in September 2022. According to the Associated Press (via, the Celtics had hired an independent law firm to conduct a months-long investigation of Udoka, which found that the coach violated multiple team policies. A team spokesperson told reporters that Udoka behaved inappropriately with a female staff member, while an anonymous source close to the situation specified that it was an inappropriate personal relationship.

Through all the reporting on the scandal, and its aftermath and meted out punishments, the exact nature of Udoka's actions never emerged. According to, ESPN basketball commentator and former NBA player Matt Barnes defended the coach but retracted his words less than a day later in an Instagram video after getting a full rundown from an insider familiar with the Udoka matter. "This situation in Boston is deep. It's messy. It's 100 times uglier than any of us thought," Barnes said. "It's not my place to tell you what happened."

Unvaccinated Novak Djokovic was banned from Australian and U.S. tournaments

Since joining the professional circuit in 2003, Novak Djokovic became one of the most accomplished tennis players of all time, winning more than 80 tournaments, including 17 majors. Among those titles, Djokovic took home top honors at the Australian Open nine times. He wouldn't make it four in a row in 2022, however, on account of how he wasn't allowed to compete. According to AS, Australia instituted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for travelers entering the country. Djokovic, unvaccinated against the coronavirus that caused a two-year-long global pandemic, was deported shortly after entering the country. The Australian government then canceled his visa, citing public health concerns, banning the tennis player from entering the country for three years.

Later in 2022, Djokovic won the major Wimbledon in England but didn't play in the U.S. Open. At the time, the U.S. also restricted unvaccinated travelers from coming into the country, and as Djokovic still wasn't vaccinated against COVD-19, he wasn't able to fly in or play at the U.S. Open, nor two other tournaments, per ESPN.

Draymond Green punched a teammate

In June 2022, the Golden State Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, according to CBS Sports, thanks in large part to the muscular defense of enforcing forward Draymond Green and the offensive prowess of rising star Jordan Poole. But when the Warriors convened in the fall of 2022 for training camp in advance of the next NBA season, Green and Poole were at odds. According to sources familiar with the team who spoke to TMZ, Poole had been acting arrogantly during the offseason, floating the idea of a contract renegotiation. Whatever Poole did, it got under Green's skin, and during a shoot-around and practice, Green reportedly and repeatedly called Poole a derogitory name. According to video footage of the incident obtained by TMZ, the dispute came to a head when Green sidled up to Poole and got in his face, prompting Poole to angrily and forcefully shove Green away. In turn, Green responded quickly and pointedly, punching Poole in the face with a blow so powerful it sent him to the ground and momentarily knocked him out.

"These things happen. Nobody likes it," Warriors general manager Bob Myers said, attempting to downplay the matter. Green later apologized at a press conference (per the Washington Post), and according to ESPN, Green was subject to a fine, but not a suspension, and then took a self-imposed leave of absence of a few days from the Warriors.

Deshaun Watson was accused of assault by more than 25 women

In March 2022, the Cleveland Browns acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans, according to the NFL. He hadn't taken a snap since the 2020 season, inactive for the entirety of 2021 after asking for trade, and then accused of crimes and misbehavior of a sexual nature by multiple massage therapists. Per the NFL, a Texas grand jury decided to not charge Watson, citing a lack of evidence, but he would still face as many as 22 civil lawsuits for the actions he's alleged to have committed. That number grew to 24 suits, according to the New York Times, all of which alleged some form of misconduct, if not assault, during massage sessions.

Watson denied any wrongdoing and settled 23 of the suits, while Sue L. Robinson, the retired judge selected by the NFL and its Players Association to rule on player discipline matters, issued a suspension of six games. The NFL appealed that, and weeks later, Watson's suspension grew to 11 games without pay and a fine of $5 million.

Brett Favre helped misappropriate millions in public funding

In 2022, 12 years after he retired from football, Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Brett Favre was implicated in a financial misappropriation scandal, allegedly convincing powerful people to spend money they shouldn't have on something that would benefit his family. According to tax records published by ESPN and The Athletic in 2022 (via CBS Sports), Favre 4 Hope, the QB's charity ostensibly founded to help children with disabilities and people with breast cancer, sent $130,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation between 2018 and 2020. That money came from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federal welfare program doled out to states to help underserved and financially disadvantaged communities.

In September 2022, former Mississippi Department of Human Services Executive Director John Davis entered a guilty plea to conspiracy and theft charges for his role in misdirecting those federal funds. One recipient was the Mississippi Community Education Center, and in 2017, Favre sent text messages to that organization's director, Nancy New, seemingly trying to obtain some of that money. "If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?" Favre wrote. That was around the same time that Favre began petitioning Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to fund a volleyball building at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre's daughter was on the volleyball team.

Pro chess player Hans Niemann may be a serial cheater

Yes, chess is a sport, a high-stakes and highly competitive game that involves the brain as much as athletic leagues involve the body. Until 2022, Hans Niemann was a major star in the chess world, just 19 years old and already a grandmaster of the game. But he was still an underdog going into the Sinquefield Cup in September 2022, a competition with a $350,000 prize, according to BuzzFeed.News. And yet Niemann won, beating world champion Magnus Carlsen in a stunning upset. It was such an unlikely victory that grandmaster Eric Hansen joked on Twitch's Chessbrah channel that Niemann must have cheated, specifically with the aid of an adult toy inserted in his rectum that an accomplice would make vibrate to direct the player into making the right moves. The story went viral on Reddit, and then Twitter, to the point where the arbiter of the Sinquefield Cup released a statement affirming that there was no evidence of cheating in the tournament.

In a strange twist, Hansen may have been correct — about Niemann cheating but not the method. According to a 72-page report issued by in October 2022, there's evidence of Niemann cheating in more than 100 online chess matches.

Boxer Simiso Buthelezi died after a bizarre bout

On June 5, 2022, according to ESPN, South African born boxer Simiso Buthelezi engaged in the biggest bout of his career to that point, contending for the WBF All Africa lightweight title in Durban, South Africa. He fought hard for the entirety of the 10-round match, evading nearly every onslaught from opponent Siphesihle Mntungwa and likely on his way to a win. And then, with just one minute left to go in the 10th and final round, Buthelezi suddenly became visibly disoriented, lost his footing, and fell back into the ropes. Then, turning his back to Mntungwa, Buthelezi turned his attentions to the corner, where he began shadow boxing with nobody at all. 

Fight referee Eloy Marshall declared the match over and summoned a medic. Buthelezi was taken straight to a hospital's intensive care unit, where doctors placed the boxer into an induced coma to treat what was diagnosed as a dangerous brain bleed. As to what caused that injury was initially a mystery, as Buthelezi was medically cleared for the fight, during which he didn't endure any significant punches to the head. Two days later, Buthelezi died, according to ESPN. The boxer was 24.