Sports Trades And Signings That Made Fans Go Nuts

It probably won't surprise you that passionate sports fans are often the most irrational individuals. "This is just a game" is a mantra that does not apply to them. ESPN is the first channel that pops up when they turn the TV on, and the only radio stations they know of air sports talk 24 hours per day. These dedicated supporters feel personal connections to franchises, fellow fans, and athletes associated with their beloved teams. That's why certain trades, signings, and other transactions make them go nuts and react in ways unfathomable to those who are either casual fans or who don't care much about leagues and competitions. 

To be clear: "Go nuts" is a figurative term in this instance. A fan burning a jersey or taking to social media to vent frustrations over a sports trade or signing makes outsiders laugh, but such actions are, for the most part, relatively harmless. That said, there is the case of an entire fan base — or "nation," to use their term — believing one transaction cursed a franchise for roughly 85 years before that club finally won a championship. 

We'd recommend sticking with believing in video-game jinxes

Sol Campbell traded in Tottenham Lilywhite for Arsenal red

From 1992 through the spring of 2001, England defender Sol Campbell featured in the Tottenham Hotspur back line, and he became a national team mainstay during his stint with Spurs. As explained by The Telegraph, Campbell was out of contract following the 2000-01 campaign, and Tottenham offered him a new deal that would've kept him at White Hart Lane to the end of his physical prime. Instead, Campbell elected to make the switch to Arsenal, Tottenham's hated rivals. 

It was a betrayal that shocked and angered Tottenham supporters at the time, and that lingered in their minds and hearts for well over a decade. Fans referring to Campbell as "Judas" each time he touched the ball when facing Spurs was to be expected. Per The Express and The Guardian, multiple supporters received stadium bans for chanting and singing abusive sayings and words toward the player. 

Campbell called time on his career in May 2012, but that didn't stop Tottenham fans from opening their new stadium in 2019 with a NSFW tune related to the defender. 

Even police joked the 2017 trade of Paul George was "theft"

In the summer of 2017, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George was a four-time All-Star still on the right side of 30-years-old and capable of leading a club to an NBA Finals appearance. That's why so many Indiana fans were left flabbergasted that the team succumbed so quickly that July after George "essentially" forced the team to trade him, per the Indianapolis StarIndiana dealt George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, a trade that seemed rather one-sided at the time. 

Per Indiana television station WTHR, the news stunned players around the Association. Oklahoma City police had some fun on Twitter after news of the trade broke, saying they had investigated the "theft." Pacers fans weren't in a joking mood, though. The traditional burning of jerseys transpired, according to the Indianapolis Star. As explained by USA Today, local retailer The Shop discounted George merchandise from on sale to free of charge. 

Pacers fans had little to complain about after the 2018-19 NBA season. Both Oladipo (when healthy) and Sabonis impressed after the trade, and George left the Thunder to join Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers in July 2019. 

Terrell Owens was all smiles after going to the Cowboys

According to SB Nation, all-time great wide receiver Terrell Owens had to wait a couple of years before earning his spot in the Hall of Fame because, as general manager Bill Polian put it, T.O. was seen by voters as a locker room "cancer." By the start of 2006, Owens had a history of orchestrating exits from teams. It's how he moved from the San Francisco 49ers to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. Thus, Eagles fans shouldn't have been too surprised when Owens put pen to paper on a contract with division rivals the Dallas Cowboys shortly after Philadelphia released him in '06. 

"Get Your Owens Jersey to Burn," NBC Sports Philadelphia declared after the outspoken wideout joined "America's Team." Those who know anything about Philadelphia sports fans can probably guess they didn't disappoint. Owens jerseys were set aflame outside of Lincoln Financial Field that October before the Eagles hosted T.O. and the 'Boys. According to The Morning Call, certain Philadelphia-area retailers found they couldn't get rid of Owens gear fast enough. 

Hopefully, those who burned jerseys at least got them at a discount. 

Barcelona fans viewed Luis Figo as a mercenary when he moved to their rivals

To put the Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry in perspective for American sports fans who don't follow European football: Think the worst of Michigan versus Ohio State or New York Yankees versus Boston Red Sox, and then multiply it by about 10. Players moving from Barca to Real or vice-versa is an unspeakable sin. 

Yet, that's exactly what attacking midfielder Luis Figo did in July 2000. Even sources with no dog in the fight such as the Independent claimed Figo "defected" after five seasons at the Camp Nou. As explained by Barca Blaugranes, Barcelona supporters labeled Figo a liar and traitor, and they hung banners that claimed Figo was a "mercenary, not a Madridista" when the two sides faced off. One angry individual tossed a pig's head towards him. According to Goal.com, similar banners were visible when Figo featured for Inter Milan versus Barcelona in 2010. 

Such disdain didn't just exist among the fans. As explained by the Evening Standard, Barcelona petitioned UEFA to exclude Figo from a club's legends match in 2015. The footballing body acquiesced. 

Marian Hossa made the wrong call in 2008

The image of Pittsburgh Penguins winger Marian Hossa slumped along the boards as he watched the Detroit Red Wings celebrate their 2008 Stanley Cup Final victory over the Pens resonated with Yinzers. They shared that heartache. That sadness turned to anger and even hatred, though, after Hossa jumped ship from Pittsburgh to Detroit the subsequent summer because he felt he would "have a little better of a chance to win the Cup in Detroit," per ESPN

Hossa's decision didn't sit well with Pittsburgh fans. One created a "Marian Hossa is a Traitor" Facebook page that still existed in 2019. They chanted "traitor" and jeered him throughout his return to Western Pennsylvania in February 2009, as explained by Boston.com. Hossa jerseys became bonfire starters.  

Those who cheered Hossa when he donned the black and gold enjoyed the last laugh along with the Penguins organization. The Pens rallied from a 3-2 series deficit versus Detroit in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final to force a Game 7 in "Hockeytown," and the visitors hoisted Lord Stanley's famous cup after notching a 2-1 victory in the deciding contest. "OOPS!" was the headline of an NHL.com story about Hossa's decision following that fateful Final. Don't feel too sorry for him, though, as he went on to win the Cup three times with the Chicago Blackhawks after he had to shake the hands of his former teammates in June 2009. 

Washington Redskins fans deserved to burn Albert Haynesworth jerseys

Any list of the biggest free-agency busts in NFL history has defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth at or near the top. Haynesworth made Pro Bowl squads with the Tennessee Titans in 2007 and 2008, and he entered the 2009 free-agency period knowing he was going to get paid. Paid he got, indeed, as the Washington Redskins awarded him with a contract worth $41 million in guaranteed money and one that could have earned him up to $100 million, per ESPN

For that dough, the Redskins got all of 20 games out of Haynesworth. He reportedly was out of shape throughout his tenure with the organization, and he spent the final four games of the 2010 campaign suspended without pay for "conduct detrimental to the club," according to ESPN. The Redskins had enough. That July, the club traded him to the New England Patriots for a future fifth-round draft selection. Washington football fans who were fed up with Haynesworth even before the trade burned his jerseys, and they waited in anticipation for the December 11 home game between the Redskins and Patriots. 

They waited for nothing. New England released Haynesworth in November 2011, and he never faced his former employer before he was out of the league for good. 

Arsenal fans called Ashley Cole "Cashley" after he left for Chelsea

In reality, Arsenal supporters knew what to expect after fullback Ashley Cole signed an extension with the Gunners in July 2005. Cole had already attempted to make a move to Chelsea, so much so he, legendary Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, and Cole's agent Jonathan Barnett, were all punished for their roles in a tapping-up meeting that violated transfer protocol, per the BBC. As is often the case in these instances, the player eventually got his wish, and Arsenal sold Cole to Chelsea for a £5 million transfer fee and defender William Gallas in return. 

Arsenal fans didn't let their anger toward Cole waste the opportunity to utilize a clever pun. According to Metro and The Telegraph, supporters waved fake £20 notes and also inflatable phones at the player in regards to the transfer saga that soured his reputation. They also referred to Cole as "Cashley" and created some NSFW songs you shouldn't listen to at the office or anywhere else, for that matter. 

As explained by the Independent, Cole claimed in February 2019 he was still "hurt" by reactions he received from Arsenal supporters. Those fans can't locate violins small enough to play Mr. Cole off the stage. 

Kyrie Irving earned hatred from Cleveland fans

On July 1, 2017, the idea any Cleveland Cavaliers fan would dispose of a Kyrie Irving jersey via flame would've been downright ridiculous. In June 2016, Irving drained the most clutch three-pointer in franchise history that helped propel Cleveland to a championship, the city's first professional sports title since the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship (pre-Super Bowl) in 1964

Less than 14 months after that shot hit the back of the net, Irving was public enemy No. 1 among the Cleveland faithful. He requested a trade because he wanted to be a team's top guy and didn't want to be a sidekick to LeBron James another season, per ESPN. He mocked James alongside Stephen Curry, who downed Irving and the Cavs with the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. Later that summer, Irving offered his rendition of "Coming Home," a clear shot at King James

There's more. After Cleveland traded Irving to the Boston Celtics that August, he delivered a parting shot to Northeast Ohio. "I'm really playing in a real, live sports city?' And a great city," Irving gushed in October, per the Boston Globe. Of course, Cavs fans booed him when he returned to Quicken Loans Arena wearing Celtics green. 

OKC fans believed Kevin Durant took the easy way to a ring

It's probably the most famous NBA free-agency story of the second half of the 2010s (sorry, LeBron James, but everybody knew you were going to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018). After the Oklahoma City Thunder squandered a 3-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, the Warriors blew a 3-1 advantage of their own to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Golden State, which won the 2015 Finals and still had Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson on the roster, responded by signing free agent Kevin Durant, who left OKC for the two-time reigning conference champs. 

Outside of Golden State circles, Durant's move was widely criticized. Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said Durant jumped on a "gravy train," per The UndefeatedMultiple outlets accused KD of chasing a ring. Thunder fans left without their superstar burned jerseys and t-shirts, and also hilariously forgot to check their spelling while calling Durant a "trader." As explained by NBC Sports, somebody even created a Durant-themed "Snake" video game. That's dedication. 

As you probably know, Durant had little to regret about his decision. He won two championships and a pair of NBA Finals MVP awards before he joined the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019. 

Richard Sherman quickly joined the 49ers after being cut by the Seahawks

From 2011 through the 2017 season, cornerback Richard Sherman starred for the Seattle Seahawks secondary unit that became known among fans as the "Legion of Boom." Over that period, Sherman won a Super Bowl, and he probably would've earned a second ring had Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll run the ball with 26 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIX. The shutdown corner was also named to the Pro Bowl on four occasions. 

In March 2018, Seattle was headed in a different direction financially and on defense, and the team parted ways with the All-Pro. Less than 48 hours after Sherman hit free agency, he signed with the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle's division rivals. While Seahawks fans understood Sherman and the Seahawks parting ways was the inevitable conclusion to his time with the club, they couldn't stand the thought of him facing Seattle twice per season. 

David Fucillo of Niners Nation nevertheless couldn't understand why any Seattle fan would burn a Sherman jersey. Some expressed their emotions differently. Not one to remain quiet when something is on his mind, Sherman took to The Players' Tribune to respond: "You got fans calling me a traitor and burning my jersey when they probably know that if they got fired from their job tomorrow, and a competitor offered them more money, they'd take it in a heartbeat."

Brett Favre joining the Vikings was unthinkable for Green Bay fans

Green Bay Packers fans understood when Brett Favre wanted to continue playing after the club decided to go with Aaron Rodgers as its starting quarterback for the 2008 regular season. Rodgers was Green Bay's future, but Favre had every right to extend his career with a non-rival such as the New York Jets. "The Gunslinger" may have even received a standing ovation at Lambeau Field had he returned to the stadium wearing Gang Green colors that season

The story changed, though, once Favre and the Jets parted ways in 2009. Favre signed with the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay's despised NFC North foe, that August, and fans were left incensed. "Brett Favre could play anywhere but Minnesota," one local news report explained before a No. 4 Green Bay jersey was set on fire. Others followed suitparticularly after Favre led the Vikings into Lambeau in November. Fans at the stadium greeted the "Silver Fox" with boos, while those at a Milwaukee establishment hosted a jersey burning party, per TwinCities.com

A few years after Favre's (last) retirement from the NFL, Andrew G. Davy of Lombardi Avenue wrote why he still viewed the one-time Super Bowl champion as "an egotistical traitor." The Total Packers website shared that opinion in January 2018.  

LeBron James broke Cleveland hearts with "The Decision"

Much was made about the emotional reactions of Cleveland Cavaliers fans after LeBron James announced, during the television special "The Decision," he was leaving Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. More than a few Cleveland fans burned jerseys and shirts. Others yelled into television cameras and microphones. Some merely sat in silence and stared as James spoke on the ESPN broadcast. 

As the Associated Press (h/t ESPN) eloquently put it, those individuals were left "humiliated and heartbroken" that James, the "kid from Northeast Ohio," chose to exit the region while rubbing his departure in their faces via a program aired around the world. Whether or not James should've handled the matter differently doesn't need to be debated. According to ESPN, James admitted, "If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different," when reflecting upon "The Decision" in the fall of 2010.  

James returned to the Cavs in July 2014, and he guided the club to its first championship two seasons later. In the summer of 2018, he informed the world he was again switching basketball homes, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers. That news broke via a brief and understated press release

"The Curse of the Bambino" haunted Red Sox fans for nearly a century

Books and movies have been dedicated to the legend of Babe Ruth, and that will probably continue to be the case as long as the sport of baseball is played at any level. Before he became "The Sultan of Swat" with the New York Yankees, Ruth was an accomplished pitcher and hitter with the Boston Red Sox. He helped the club win three World Series titles between 1915 and 1918, but the Red Sox then sold Ruth to the Yankees following the 1919 campaign because Boston owner Harry Frazee "needed the funds," per The Society for American Baseball Research. Whether or not Frazee used that money to fund a play, specifically No, No, Nanettemay never be known

What followed for the two clubs isn't up for debate. The Yankees became the MLB dynasty of the 1920s, and Ruth evolved into the greatest player who ever lived. Boston, meanwhile, went decades without winning a World Series, and Red Sox fans blamed "The Curse of the Bambino" for their team's repeated failures. For the Ken Burns Baseball documentary, former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee suggested the club needed to dig Ruth's body out of the ground and apologize for the trade to reserve the jinx.

Fortunately, that wasn't necessary, as Boston won the 2004 World Series to put the idea of any curse to bed once and for all.