The Stories Behind These Mug Shots From Once-Legendary Athletes

Sports fans seem to operate with a bit of a double standard: We expect our athletes to be squeaky-clean, upright citizens, yet we seem to love it when they get into trouble. We eat up the details of their indiscretions, and gossip with our buddies about which pro was idiot enough to get a sixth DUI or go on a prostitute-soliciting spree after the big game. And if said idiot can be kind enough to look like a total jackass in the mugshot that's plastered all over our news feed, so much the better. 

These guys were happy to oblige. Legends all, they let their unvarnished humanity shine through for the police cameras, and they have the ridiculous stories to go along with their glamour shots. 

Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders is best known for his stints with the Falcons, 49ers, and Cowboys, not to mention his second pro-sports career as an outfielder on five different Major League Baseball teams. 

It was during the summer of 1996 that Sanders had this vacation photo taken while on a fishing trip in Florida. You can tell he was having a really great time — so good that he missed all of the NO FISHING and NO TRESPASSING signs posted around the private lake where the cops had found him merrily casting his lines, according to AP News. Sanders said he'd been on the lake for less than 10 minutes when police showed up. 

"The only defense I have," he said, "is that I'm sorry, but they were biting." Sanders was slapped with a fine for misdemeanor trespassing, but they did let him keep the fish (via the Chicago Tribune).

Ryan Leaf

During the 1998 NFL draft, Peyton Manning was the number one pick. Ryan Leaf was number two (via Pro Football Reference). And while Manning became the first starting QB to win a Super Bowl with two different teams (per Fox Sports), Leaf went 4-17 as a starter during a four-year career that has earned him a permanent place in the discussion of Biggest Busts in NFL History. 

ESPN reports that Leaf became West Texas A&M's quarterback coach after retiring from the NFL, but he was placed on leave after asking a student for a pill — which did not bode well for Leaf's future. Leaf had been nursing a private painkiller problem for years, and it became even more public in 2009 when he was arrested on burglary and narcotics charges in Texas, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Then, in 2012, he was arrested on very similar charges not once, but twice in the span of just a few days (per ESPN). This mugshot was taken after the second arrest.

The New York Daily News reported that Leaf had cleaned up his act as of 2016 and was devoting his time to talking to students and others about the dangers of drug abuse. Unfortunately, Leaf was arrested again in 2020, this time on domestic battery charges, according to NBC Palm Springs. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods was the number one-ranked golfer in the world for five straight years ... twice (per Golf Today). No other golfer has come remotely close to either of those runs. There will probably never be another golfer quite like him. But he didn't just fall from grace, he belly-flopped from grace so super-hard that it could actually be heard if you listened hard enough.

It happened all at once on Thanksgiving 2009, when Woods crashed his car while allegedly being chased by his golf club-wielding wife, according to the New York Post. In short order, he admitted to cheating on said wife with pretty much everybody, his golf game turned to complete crap, and he got a divorce. Neither golf nor life has been kind to Tiger since, and in May 2017, he was arrested after being found unconscious in his car on the side of the road in Jupiter, Florida. The incident resulted in an automatic suspension, and you can tell what he thinks all of it is in his deadpan mugshot. Not long after the arrest, Woods announced that he'd completed a "private intensive program" to deal with his ongoing issues (per Twitter).

Plaxico Burress

Plaxico Burress seemed destined for success in the NFL. The wide receiver was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000, giving them several productive seasons before signing a free agent contract with the Giants in 2005. In New York he approached superstardom, playing on the 2007 squad that downed the mighty Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (per The Guardian) and even making the game-winning catch. But unfortunately, that highlight would be among his last due to a 2008 incident that would be tragic if it weren't so ridiculous.

While in a crowded nightclub, Burress managed to shoot himself in the right thigh while fiddling with a gun in his pocket, according to ESPN. To add insult to literal injury, the gun was illegal, which meant a potential 15-year prison sentence. The Giants immediately suspended Burress without pay for the boneheaded move, and he wouldn't play another down for the team. 

The New York Times reports that he ended up serving 20 months, eventually finishing out his career with the New York Jets and back with the Steelers. But he found himself in hot water once more in 2015 for failure to pay over $50,000 in taxes (per ESPN). This earned him five years' probation, with the possibility of going back to jail if he fails to pay up — but that would really be shooting himself in the, er, foot.

Ray Lewis

At the end of his fourth season in 1999, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was poised for greatness. Despite the Ravens going 8-8, they finished the season strong, and the 2000 season would see their ridiculously stingy defense — led by Lewis — hand the franchise its first Super Bowl victory. But on the way to championship glory, Lewis was charged with double murder (per the New York Daily News).

Lewis had been on his way out of a Super Bowl party in Atlanta when two men were stabbed to death during a huge brawl in his vicinity, and he and two acquaintances were put on trial for the crime. Despite evidence such as a victim's blood being present in Lewis' limo and the mysterious disappearance of the suit he had been wearing that night, nobody was convicted of the murders (per USA Today). Lewis accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to probation in exchange for testifying against his friends, who were acquitted. Lewis went on to a 17-year Hall of Fame career and has since become a respected broadcaster — well, mostly respected, except by those who still think he got away with it.

Darryl Strawberry

By sheer numbers, Darryl Strawberry's Major League Baseball career looks like one that any player would envy. He played 17 seasons beginning in 1983, was a member of four world championship teams, and logged 335 home runs and 1,000 RBIs. But as ESPN reports, there are other numbers as well. During those 17 seasons, there were two domestic violence arrests, three drug-related suspensions, and one tax evasion conviction. 

As if his personal problems weren't enough, Strawberry was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in 1998, which was removed. He was set to attempt a comeback in 1999, but The New York Times reports he was derailed by an incident of drug-fueled solicitation while training with the Yankees' AAA club in Tampa. Authorities said Strawberry yelled something unintelligible at an undercover officer before circling the block and approaching said officer to offer $50 for sex acts. Compounding his bad decision was his cocaine stash, which was cleverly wrapped up in a $20 bill. 

Despite his forlorn expression in his mugshot, he was given only a four-month suspension (per The New York Times), and returned to help the Yankees earn yet another championship. But that season would be his last, as during the offseason he tested positive for cocaine. Strawberry apparently finally learned his lesson, as today he runs a ministry dedicated to helping drug addicts.

John Daly

John Daly is a classic double threat — he's a legendary golfer, and also a legendary drinker, according to CBS Sports. He has claimed that being smashed made him a better golfer, and has admitted to drinking binges during PGA event play that would shame a frat boy. This explains the "yeah, this was bound to happen," look on his face in this mugshot, which was taken shortly after police were called to deal with a passed-out Daly outside a North Carolina Hooters restaurant (via ESPN). 

Police said Daly "appeared extremely intoxicated and uncooperative," which is just a given, but Golf Digest reports he was only taken into custody because he had no ride. He was released after sleeping it off in the drunk tank, free to go and do his thing. Amazingly, in 2017 Daly won his first championship since 2004 (per USA Today) and could absolutely still drink you under the table.

Randy Moss

Freakishly gifted wide receiver Randy Moss spent most of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, and though his physical gifts were obvious, he had a hard time shaking a reputation for being a bit of a pothead. SB Nation reports he'd been in trouble over the weed before entering the NFL in 1998, and it didn't help when cops found a joint in his car after an incident in 2002, according to The Washington Post. Of course, this was after he'd pushed a traffic officer a half block down the street with his car (per The New York Times), which was a bit more serious. 

He was eventually only charged with a pair of misdemeanors for the traffic incident (per Minnesota Public Radio) and another for the weed (per ESPN). However, the incident didn't keep him from continuing to partake of the ganja throughout his long career, which the NFL just kind of grudgingly tolerated as long as he kept making mind-bending catches.

Ricky Williams

Speaking of fans of weed, let's talk about star Saints and Dolphins running back Ricky Williams. He was so good that Saints coach Mike Ditka literally dealt away his entire draft to get him, according to Canal Street Chronicles. But the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that Williams was a shy guy with social anxiety disorder who wasn't ready for the bright lights of the NFL. He dealt with this by self-medicating with pot. Per ESPN, he would later become an advocate for medical marijuana, stating that it's "ten times better" for him than anti-anxiety medication — and as you can plainly see in his mugshot, he wasn't lying.

According to CBS News, Williams was taken into custody in 1999 for refusing to sign a ticket after blowing across three lanes without signaling. The officer said Williams was upset about being stopped and wasn't particularly cooperative. He didn't want to sign the ticket for whatever reason, and if that meant he had to go to the pokey, well, that was totally cool with him. He faced no serious consequences from the incident, and went on to a spotty NFL career that showed flashes of brilliance.

Desmond Bryant

Ex-Raiders and current Browns tackle Desmond Bryant wasn't exactly a household name in 2013, and his arrest may have gone under the radar of the general public if not for one detail. Sure, it was a pretty funny story — Bryant randomly showed up at a neighbor's at the crack of dawn, shirtless and stinking drunk, and caused some kind of commotion. But it wasn't the details of the offense that the whole internet wanted to discuss — it was what the hell was going on in his mugshot.  

Speculation has been endless. Is he lying down? Being punched in the back of the neck? Turning into a walrus? The possibilities went on forever, and before the hapless Bryant knew it, Jimmy Kimmel was using him as a punchline (per Bleacher Report).

A mortified Bryant, who incidentally is a Harvard graduate with a major in psychology, quickly bolted from Oakland to sign a free agent contract with the Browns, which fortunately had been in the works anyway. At his introductory press conference, he said: "I think in time I'll be able to show you guys... that's really not indicative of me. It was an accident. I've moved beyond that and hopefully everybody else will be able to" (via the Akron Beacon Journal).

Wayne Rooney

On the field, English footballer Wayne Rooney was known for his tenacity and never-say-die attitude. It helped him build a formidable and championship-studded career for the likes of Manchester United, Everton, D.C. United, and the England national football team. In fact, Rooney is the Red Devils' all-time leading goal scorer, finding the back of the net over 250 times and becoming a club legend in the process, as per Manchester United's official website.

Off the field, Rooney experienced a few controversies as well. In 2017, he was arrested for driving under the influence, which resulted in him receiving a two-year ban from driving, as per CNN. He found himself back in the headlines for the wrong reasons in December 2018, when he was arrested for public intoxication at the Washington Dulles International Airport.

According to Rooney's agent Paul Stretford (via The Washington Post), Rooney "took a prescribed amount of sleeping tablets mixed with some alcohol consumption and consequently was disorientated on arrival. He was approached by police who arrested him on a minor misdemeanor charge. The matter is now at an end." The former player ended up paying a $25 fine, as well as $91 in costs.

Mike Tyson

"Iron" Mike Tyson was one of the most controversial and prized fighters the boxing world has ever seen. While his punch knocked many opponents out flat on their backs, he garnered plenty of public attention due to this personal life. At the peak of his career, he was convicted for the rape of Desiree Washington. Tyson served just over three years in prison, as per The New York Times. He was released in March 1995.

It wouldn't be his last run-in with the law, however, as he found himself arrested in 2007 for driving under the influence of drugs and being in the possession of cocaine, as per Reuters. Reportedly, Tyson was arrested in Scottsdale after his car almost crashed into a sheriff's vehicle. According to the arresting officer, Tyson admitted to having used cocaine that day and told police he struggled with addiction. The former boxer pled guilty to the charges and received a sentence of 24 hours in jail and 360 hours of community service after the judge seemed satisfied that Tyson had sought out rehabilitation and treatment, as per BBC News.

Jeff Hardy

Jeff Hardy is a living legend in pro wrestling. Not only is he a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion and TNA World Heavyweight Champion, but he's also one half of the successful Hardy Boys tag team with his brother, Matt. Hardy has won it all and done it all, becoming a beloved fan-favorite wrestler for his high-flying in-ring style and enigmatic personality. 

Unfortunately, Hardy does have a history of being on the wrong side of the law, as he has had several run-ins with the authorities over the years. In 2011, he even spent 10 days in jail, as per Wrestleview.

In June 2022, Hardy was arrested and charged for a DUI. As per Sky, the Florida Highway Patrol were called out after they received phone calls from concerned citizens about an erratic driver on the road. Hardy was stopped, then arrested by the police after they determined he was under the influence. He also faced additional charges for driving with a suspended license. AEW CEO Tony Khan suspended Hardy without pay for his actions and stated he would only be allowed to return to the promotion on the condition that he receives treatment and remains sober (per Twitter). Hardy pleaded not guilty, as per WrestleTalk.