The Most Unsportsmanlike Things Pro Athletes Have Ever Done

Growing up, we were always told to be good sports, because it's not about winning or losing, but how you play the game. Then, of course, we turned on our TVs and saw rich, successful, hyper-competitive professional athletes act like poor sports but still get paid, which was mighty confusing to say the least.

But some pro athletes go beyond the typical displays of poor sportsmanship — arguing with the referee, storming away, instigating a two-second brawl every other player breaks up immediately — and does something so egregious and ridiculous that fans can only shake their heads at the players' audacity. Some instances come immediately to mind, like Zinedine Zidane headbutting an opponent in the 2006 World Cup final because the opponent insulted Zidane's sister, or Mike Tyson chewing on Evander Holyfield's ear because, well, he's Mike Tyson. But those are already world-famous examples, so let's focus instead on other tales of historically unsportsmanlike conduct the offending athlete would likely want the world to forget about.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of accidental victory

You know how in football, you can get penalized for excessive celebration? That happens in the MMA, too, as Drew Chatman learned the hard way during a Legacy Fighting Alliance event he likely won't brag about on social media anytime soon.

On March 23, 2018, Chatman made his professional fighting debut against Irvins Ayala, who was also making his pro debut. The fight went as you'd expect a bout between two raw rookies might: just a couple minutes into Round 1, Ayala went for a hammerfist as Chatman was on the ground, which ended the fight. Unfortunately for Ayala, it didn't end in his favor — he actually whacked his chin on Chatman's knee and knocked himself out. The referee quickly waved the fight off and awarded it to Chatman.

Drew Chatman had just won his professional MMA debut ... or he would have, except he chose to show off in the dumbest manner imaginable: celebrating his victory by jumping onto Ayala's back and front-flipping off him. It was a move of complete disrespect, not to mention one that put Ayala's back at risk for no good reason, and the referee had no intention of letting him get away with it. Instead, he disqualified Chatman for the stunt, meaning the lucky duck who somehow managed to knock himself out was now the winner. As for Chatman, let's hope he sticks to post-match handshakes for the rest of his career, regardless of how he wins or loses.

All (hand)shook up

Usually, when a game ticks down to the final seconds and pro athletes stop playing and start shaking hands, that's a sign everybody's done. The LA Clippers' Caron Butler either didn't get that memo, or quickly skimmed it before crumpling it up and tossing it in the trash.

In February 2013, the Clippers were getting completely dismantled by the Toronto Raptors, losing 98-73 with just seconds to go. All the hustle in the universe couldn't get them back into contention, and everyone knew it. Everyone except Butler, who decided the time was right for a trick play that was equal parts disrespectful, juvenile, and completely meaningless.

He jogged up to the Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas, who had the ball, and offered a congratulatory handshake. Valanciunas, who had no reason to assume anything shady, stopped dribbling and extended his hand as well. Butler then executed his master plan: He stole the ball from Valanciunas and raced for a garbage-time layup that, if successful, would mean his team would only lose by 23. Unfortunately for him, his well-laid plans were thwarted by a quick-thinking Raptor who fouled him.

At that point, fouling Butler was probably less about momentum or the scoreboard and probably more about wanting to cancel his ridiculous, unsportsmanlike attempt at adding a couple points to his personal stats. The Clippers weren't winning either way, and now they had the added humiliation of one of their own looking selfish and childish in front of everyone.

The one time Dennis Rodman didn't like being on camera

Dennis Rodman is one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, though many fans remember him better as one of the league's all-time troublemakers. In his prime, it seemed he had more childish outbursts per game than rebounds. Never was this more evident than on January 17, 1997, when Rodman decided to take out his anger not on an opponent, teammate, or even a referee, but a defenseless cameraman.

During that day's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Rodman was going for a rebound when he fell out of bounds and tripped over a photographer. A nearby cameraman, Eugene Amos, took the opportunity to film a close-up of an NBA legend. Said NBA legend decided he didn't like Amos so blatantly doing his job, and kicked him in the groin. This caused a seven-minute delay, plus a hospital stay for poor Amos.

Obviously, the NBA didn't take kindly to Rodman throwing an abusive kicking tantrum on somebody so defenseless. They suspended him without pay for 11 games — the second-longest suspension in NBA history — and fined him an additional $25,000. What's more, Rodman wound up paying Amos $200,000, proof that when you're a world-famous celebrity and a professional photographer tries to film you while you're doing what makes you famous, you should let him do his job.

Rage vs. Age

Bench-clearing brawls are usually player vs. player, also known as a fair fight. Then there's the Yankees/Red Sox fight of 2003, where Sox ace Pedro Martinez threw around a non-player over twice his age, making him look bad in the eyes of basically everyone.

The October 11, 2003, Sox/Yankees game was getting increasingly heated. At one point, Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens threw one too close to the head of Boston's Manny Ramirez. Ramirez had some presumably naughty words for Clemens, and the benches did clear. Martinez came out and Don Zimmer, the Yankees' 72-year-old bench coach, confronted him. Martinez, despite being 40 years Zimmer's junior, tossed him to the ground, an action endorsed by literally nobody. A slew of Yankees descended on Zimmer to get him to safety, seemingly forgetting about the fracas that sent them out to begin with.

Though he was never punished, Martinez recognizes how bad the incident looked. In 2009, he called it "a disgrace for baseball," and in 2015 told Sports Illustrated, "In my entire baseball career, my reaction to Zimmer's charge is my only regret." Zimmer, for his part, alternates between condemning and forgiving Martinez. In 2009 he told the St. Petersburg Times, "Pedro is full of crap" (in response to Pedro saying Zimmer had insulted his mom and tried to punch him), but that same year he told the New York Daily News, "I was definitely wrong and Pedro didn't do nothing." At least both sides can agree on wishing the fracas never happened.

Give the assist to the Sun

It's an unwritten rule (because it's so obvious it shouldn't require writing down) that if a player collapses on the field, play stops. (Every sport except hockey.) Based on Peruvian soccer star Piero Alva's actions, though, maybe we really do need to write that down.

In February 2013, Alva's Cesar Vallejo club faced off against Club Unión Comercio. After 71 minutes, Comercio goalkeeper Juan Flores went to grab the ball, but collapsed from heat exhaustion, a common risk when standing out in the hot Peruvian sun for over an hour. Most players paused what they were doing, even though the clock never stopped (few things short of a tsunami can stop a soccer clock from ticking on), meaning the ball was technically in play. Once Flores let go of the ball due to, well, losing consciousness, Alva took advantage by rushing in, stealing the ball, and scoring the cheapest goal imaginable. It wasn't just cheap, either; it was nearly pointless, as Vallejo was already up 3-1. So now his club was winning 4-1, at the low cost of throwing sportsmanship and basic human respect completely out the window.

You might expect Alva to show regret after the fact, perhaps chalking it up to the emotion of the moment before apologizing profusely. If so, you'd be totally wrong. According to the Independent, Alva didn't apologize, and even taunted his fallen opponent: "Football is for the living." That's a fairly ironic statement coming from someone who's clearly dead inside.

Roger the Codger makes Piazza a wood dodger

On October 22, 2000, during Game 2 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Also New York Mets, the Mets' Mike Piazza hit a Roger Clemens pitch hard enough to break his bat. That happens a lot, so it should be no big deal. Well, Yankees pitcher Clemens seemed to think it was a huge honking deal, as a large, sharp, jagged piece of bat flew at him, slightly striking him in the chest. Irrationally offended over the unintentional non-injury, Clemens grabbed the wood and threw it back at Piazza. While the wood didn't fly far, as it is not an aerodynamic ball specifically designed to fly far, the action was enough to anger Piazza. He stepped up to confront Clemens, prompting the dugouts to empty until order was restored.

Even though Clemens wasn't ejected, the league later fined him $50,000 for "inappropriate conduct," which is official-sounding speak for "being a butthead." Clemens insists he didn't throw it on purpose, but was simply caught up in emotion and reacted on instinct. That instinct being to bean his opponent with the nearest heavy object, apparently. As he commented after the game, "This is the World Series, it shouldn't overshadow what we're trying to do." Perhaps it shouldn't, and yet it did. And that's all on Roger.

A hockey goon, fully evolved

It takes a lot for a brutal hockey goon to jump over the line separating typical hockey-goon behavior from unacceptable, unsportsmanlike conduct, but Chris Simon pulled it off pretty easily. His actions got him into the record books, too, though not likely in the way he would've wanted.

On December 15, 2007, Simon's New York Islanders were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Late in the game, he found Jarkko Ruutu of the Penguins, confronted him near the boards, knocked him down by hooking their skates together, then proceeded to stomp on his ankle. With a regular shoe, that would be dangerous enough, but remember these are super-sharp skates. Blood could've been drawn, bones could've been shattered, and arteries could've been slashed, all over seemingly nothing at all.

Luckily, Ruutu escaped any serious injury. Simon's career, meanwhile, wasn't so lucky. Due to a combination of this action and past actions (he'd already been suspended seven times), Simon got slapped with a 30-game suspension, a record at the time. He never really recovered from that punishment, as he returned for the Islanders for exactly one game before being traded to Minnesota. After ten games with them, he was gone from the NHL completely, riding out the rest of his career in the Eurasia-based Kontinental Hockey League. The moral of this story really applies to everyone, hockey player or not: Never try to play guillotine with another person's ankle, no matter how much you think they deserve it.

Taekwondon't come back

No matter what sport you're in, no matter what happens, you never strike an official. It's a one-way ticket to Punishment Land, and if you strike as harshly as Angel Matos did, they might just upgrade your ticket to the even less fun World of Banishment.

During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Cuba's Angel Matos faced Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov in the Bronze Medal match of their Taekwondo tournament. Mato was leading when he suffered an apparent foot injury. He received treatment, but the referee decided he was too hurt to continue, and so he stopped the bout and awarded the victory and the medal to Chilmanov.

While getting disqualified when he was winning must have stung, Matos' actions after the decision completely killed any sympathy anyone might've had for him. Enraged, he confronted the referee, yelling at him and shoving him around. That would've been bad enough, but Matos then turned his rage to one of the match judges, brutally kicking him in the head before spitting on the mat.

The judge and referee were fine, but Matos' career was not. World Taekwondo Federation officials, after approximately one second of uttering the group's own initials in disbelief, banned Matos from any of its competitions for life. What's more, according to official Olympics stats, Matos wasn't even there in 2008. The International Olympic Committee scrubbed his fourth-place performance from the books, the clearest sign possible that his actions can't be realistically justified by anybody.

222 points fueled by pure pettiness

This story doesn't involve any violence, angry outbursts, or disrespectful showmanship. It does, however, involve sheer unadulterated pettiness on a level the sports world rarely sees, and that's just as good. Or bad, if you were rooting for (or were playing for) the losing team.

In 1916, Tennessee's Cumberland University defunded all its sporting programs, something virtually no college could get away with today. There was only one problem: Rival school Georgia Tech had no interest in letting Cumberland go gently into that good, ball-free night. See, Cumberland's baseball team had obliterated Georgia Tech 22-0 the year prior, and Georgia was out for revenge.

Georgia Tech had an upcoming football game with Cumberland that the sports-free school had neglected to officially cancel. GT pounced on that oopsie and forced Cumberland to play or fork over $3,000 (almost $72,000 in 2018 money) in cancellation fees. Cumberland couldn't afford that, so a ragtag bunch of frat boys suited up. Unfortunately, they didn't so much "play" as "get comically obliterated." Georgia Tech toyed with them the entire game, as the actual football players ran up the score to a nearly supernatural (and brutally poetic) 222-0.

Though many at Cumberland feel (according to CBS Sports) those fraternity members saved the school by playing, rather than allowing their school to go broke by paying, that doesn't change how the school is known primarily as the 0 in 220-0. Maybe they should challenge Georgia's basketball squad and shoot for 2,222-0.

The Noisy Cricket

In countries like Australia and New Zealand, cricket is a huge deal. In fact, when one team decided to win in the cheapest, most infuriating manner imaginable, even prime ministers felt compelled to chime in and condemn him.

On February 1, 1981, Australia was playing New Zealand. They were leading 2-1 with New Zealand's final batsman coming up. The Aussies had a good chance of winning, but their captain wanted to make absolutely sure they got it. He ordered his bowler (pitcher) to literally bowl, throwing underarm and letting the ball drag across the ground. Virtually nobody can hit a bowl that low — imagine a baseball player chopping at a rolling ball like he was golfing — and the New Zealand batsman was no exception. Australia won 2-1.

Australia's underarm stunt was technically legal at the time (though the International Cricket Council banned it shortly thereafter). That didn't mean anyone had to like it, though. Regular fans, TV commentators, and even both countries' prime ministers let the Aussies have it. Australia's head honcho, Malcolm Fraser, called the play "contrary to the traditions of the game." New Zealand's PM, Robert Muldoon, was far less diplomatic, calling it "the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket." Tell us how you really feel, friend.

When trees attack

Basketball in the '80s was far rougher and tougher than it is today. Still, what "professional" athlete Wayne "Tree" Rollins did on April 24, 1983, went way beyond physicality and simply became violently, dangerously unsporting.

During a game between Rollins' Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics, Rollins and the Celtics' Danny Ainge were increasingly becoming enemies. Taunts, pushing, shoving, and even punches were commonplace between the two, and then Rollins went overboard. In the third quarter, Rollins scored on a dunk, then celebrated by elbowing Ainge right in the face. That was one step too far, and Aigne responded by tackling Rollins and triggering a bench-clearing brawl. Rollins eventually fought off Ainge, not with more punches or elbows, but by biting one of Ainge's fingers. He actually bit it so hard, there was initial fear Ainge had suffered ligament damage. While he didn't, he still needed five stitches, which is five more than anyone should get after being bitten by another human being.

The NBA came down hard on Rollins, as you might expect. As the New York Times recalls, not only was he fined $5,000 ($12,700 in today's money), he was suspended for the first five games of the following season. That suspension cost him roughly $25,000, or almost $64,000 in 2018 bucks. At least we got a fun "Tree Bites Man" headline in the Boston Herald the next day. That's worth jeopardizing another man's health and making your sport look absurdly barbaric, right?