Famous Athletes Who’ve Had Gun Trouble

Source: Pool / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Gun violence is the scourge of modern American society, and sports is by no means excluded from its life-altering consequences. For reasons only known by those who possess them, many sports figures feel the need to carry firearms – sometimes into their locker rooms – and it often ends badly, sometimes even tragically, for them when they do.

To compile a list of sports figures who’ve had gun trouble, 24/7 Tempo consulted sources including Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, ABC News, and CBS News. We tried to diversify the list to include figures from as many major sports and leagues as possible, covering incidents both decades old and from this year.

One of the big reasons athletes carry weapons is for their own protection, although that can get complicated when their gun permits are honored in one state and not another, since most professional athletes travel constantly for games. (See the law for carrying firearms in public in every state.)

Sports figures who run afoul with the law because of weapons possession violations are sometimes also in trouble at the same time for possessing narcotics or intending to distribute them.

NFL players Aaron Hernandez and Anthony Wayne Smith and NBA guard Jarvis Crittenton all chose a criminal path and all were jailed for their involvement with murder – and Hernandez died behind bars, an apparent suicide. (In sports and otherwise, these are some celebrities who are currently in or have been to prison.)

The promising careers of NFL player Mark Walton, basketball players Delonte West and Keon Clark, and baseball player Darryl Strawberry were all scuttled in some way by weapons possession arrests.

Jose Canseco and Plaxico Burress were injured mishandling firearms. Baseball slugger Canseco accidentally shot off his middle finger while cleaning his weapon. Burress, coming off a Super Bowl victory, accidentally shot himself in the leg at a New York City nightclub. On a recent sports radio show in New York, Burress used his unfortunate incident as a cautionary tale relayed to NBA star Ja Morant, who was suspended in March for displaying a firearm at a Denver nightspot.

Source: Andrew Burton / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Aaron Hernandez
> Sport: Football
> Team: New England Patriots

Aaron Hernandez was a tight end with the New England Patriots who caught a Super Bowl touchdown pass when the Pats lost to the New York Giants in 2011. His life off the field was problematic, however. He had a difficult childhood and was constantly in trouble during his years at the University of Miami. In 2015, he was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Two years later, he was found not guilty in the shooting deaths of two Massachusetts men. Five days after he was cleared of the double homicide, he was found hanged in his jail cell.

Source: Cooper Neill / Contributor / Getty Images Sport

Anthony Rose, Monteque Rhames II, Cameron Upshaw
> Sport: College football
> Team: University of South Carolina

The Greenville News obtained records of University of South Carolina freshman football players Anthony Rose, Monteque Rhames II, Cameron Upshaw in early March that indicate the three were suspended for illegal possession of an AR-15 rifle. A warrant for Rose’s arrest issued in February stated that in late January, university housing staff “observed and photographed an AR-15 rifle” in his campus apartment during a health and safety check. The weapon was reported to university police. When they arrived at Rose’s room, he tossed the gun out the window, where the other two players picked it up. All three were arrested for possessing a weapon on school grounds and obstructing justice.

Source: Cooper Neill / Contributor / Getty Images Sport

Anthony Wayne Smith
> Sport: Football
> Team: Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos

Anthony Wayne Smith was a defensive end who played for the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders in the 1990s. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole after being convicted in November 2015 for the 1999 torture and shooting deaths of brothers Kevin and Ricky Nettles, who he kidnapped from a Los Angeles car wash, and the 2001murder by stabbing of Dennis Henderson. He was also accused, along with two others, of the beating and shooting of another man in 2008, but the jury deadlocked, and he wasn’t convicted of that offense.

Source: Mike Zarrilli / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Chris Henry
> Sport: Football
> Team: Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receiver Chris Henry pled guilty to possessing a concealed weapon in Orlando, Florida, in 2006. A contrite Henry admitted that he made a mistake as he was sentenced to two years’ probation and 100 hours of community service and socked with court fees and investigative costs. Henry resumed his NFL career but in 2009, he died at age 26 after falling off the back of a pickup truck his fiancée was driving after he’d had a domestic dispute with her.

Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Damien Robinson
> Sport: Football
> Team: New York Jets

The New York Jets picked up free safety Damien Robinson from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 after he had made six interceptions the previous year. In October 2001, a month after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. – with security on high alert – Robinson was fined by the NFL after Giants Stadium security found a semiautomatic rifle with 200 rounds of ammunition in his car in the stadium parking lot, with his wife and two small children inside the vehicle.

Source: Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Darius Miles
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: University of Alabama

A grand jury indicted former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and another man on capital murder charges in March 2023 for the January shooting death of a 23-year-old woman near campus in Tuscaloosa. A police investigator testified in February that Miles provided the handgun allegedly used in the shooting to triggerman Michael Davis. Miles had been a bench player for Alabama, but was sidelined for the season because of an ankle injury. He was removed from campus and kicked off the team after he was charged in January. Miles and Davis are in jail without bond, with a hearing scheduled for May 24.

Source: Al Bello / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Darryl Strawberry
> Sport: Baseball
> Team: New York Mets

Drug abuse and a history of domestic violence scuttled the possible Hall of Fame career of former MLB player Darryl Strawberry. The ex-Met, -Dodger, and -Yankee was arrested in January 1990 for assault after an argument with his then-wife Lisa. She claimed he had hit her in the face and threatened her with a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun during the altercation. Strawberry entered rehab a month later and in March, Los Angeles city lawyers announced that no charges would be filed. The couple divorced in 1993. Strawberry was in later trouble with the law for refusing to pay child support and other debts and for offenses related to substance abuse.

Source: Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Delonte West
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Delonte West was a point guard who played for the Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, and Dallas Mavericks, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was never an All-Star, but he was an effective player in the postseason, averaging more than nine points per game. Off the court, however, trouble lurked for West. In 2009, he was pulled over for a traffic violation while riding a motorcycle in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and police found a 9mm Beretta pistol in his waistband, a Ruger .357 Magnum revolver strapped to his leg, and a Remington 870 shotgun in a guitar case. West pleaded guilty to the traffic and weapons charges and was sentenced to electronic monitoring, unsupervised probation, and 40 hours of community service as well as psychological counseling.

Source: David Eulitt / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Frank Clark
> Sport: Football
> Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Defensive end Frank Clark has had a very good career with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was named to the Pro Bowl three times and has won the Super Bowl twice. But his on-field accomplishments have not obscured problems off the field. He spent three days in jail in 2014 after a domestic abuse arrest. In March 2021, Clark and another man were arrested by the California Highway Patrol after two loaded firearms were found in their car during a traffic stop. He was released on bond, but in June that year, Clark was arrested again in Los Angeles when officers allegedly saw a submachine gun in his Lamborghini SUV during another traffic stop. (The gun belonged to Clark’s bodyguard, according to his attorney.) In September 2022 he was sentenced to a year’s probation and 40 hours of community service on two counts.

Source: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Gilbert Arenas
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Washington Wizards

Three-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-NBA guard Gilbert Arenas had trouble with a teammate that almost turned lethal. Following a game against the Philadelphia 76ers in 2009, he allegedly brought as many as four handguns into the Washington Wizards locker room to help settle a gambling debt with teammate Jarvis Crittenton (see below). Crittenton brandished a loaded gun of his own. Arenas was suspended for the remainder of the 2009-10 season and sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house and two years’ probation. His last season in the NBA was for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012.

Source: Justin Ford / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Ja Morant
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant was suspended for eight games by the league in early March 2023 for what the NBA said was conduct detrimental to the league for displaying a firearm in a live stream video at a Denver nightclub. Morant appeared to be intoxicated during the video. Morant expressed contrition for his actions and became eligible to play again on March 20. The two-time All-Star and 2019-2020 rookie of the year has a career scoring average of 22.5 points per game. Morant was the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Source: Pool / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Javaris Crittenton
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Washington Wizards

Former shooting guard and point guard Javaris Crittenton had gained infamy in the NBA for pulling a gun in a locker room on his Washington Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas (see above) – who had drawn a weapon first – in 2009. He was suspended for the rest of the season, and never played in the NBA again. That would turn out to be the least of his problems. In August 2011, Crittenton was charged with the drive-by shooting of Jullian Jones, a 22-year-old mother of four in Atlanta. He pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter four years later and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Source: Pool / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Jayson Williams
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: New Jersey Nets

One-time All-Star forward and center Jayson Williams served more than a year in prison for the accidental shotgun death of his chauffeur, Costas Christofi. Williams killed Christofi in 2002 with a 12-gauge shotgun while showing it to friends at his New Jersey mansion, failing to check the weapon’s safety mechanism before snapping the gun closed. After the accident, Williams, who played nine seasons in the NBA, wiped down the weapon and put it in the chauffeur’s hands to suggest it was a suicide. In January 2003, Williams paid Christofi’s family $2.75 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.

Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Jeremy Mayfield
> Sport: Car racing

Jeremy Mayfield’s NASCAR career began in 1993 and spanned nearly two decades. That came to an end in 2009 when he received an indefinite suspension for violating the racing association’s substance abuse policy (he has been a habitual user of methamphetamine). Things only got worse for him. In November 2011, while exercising a search warrant on Mayfield’s property, police found not only meth but also around 40 guns (many of them assault rifles) and about $100,000 in stolen goods. After the informant whose information had prompted the original search died in an unrelated motorcycle crash, most charges against Mayfield were dropped. He was given a 45-day sentence for several misdemeanors – suspended when he underwent 18 months of unsupervised probation.

Source: Michael Buckner / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Jose Canseco
> Sport: Baseball
> Team: Oakland A’s

Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire formed the “Bash Brothers” home-run hitting tandem for the Oakland A’s in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the team reached the World Series three times and won the world title in 1989. But Canseco had trouble with guns off the field. In 1989, he was arrested in California when an employee at the University of California noticed a semi-automatic pistol on the floor of his car. After several arrests for aggravated assault and other crimes, another gun woe followed. In 2014, he shot off his middle finger while cleaning his gun in an accident at his home in Las Vegas.

Source: Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Keon Clark
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Toronto Raptors

Center/power forward Keon Clark was an individual shot-blocking highlight reel during his six-season career with the four NBA teams. The athletic big man and lottery pick held the Toronto Raptors’ shot-rejection record for a single game with 12 blocks. He also had alcohol problems, consuming massive amounts of liquor at halftime. His NBA career ended in 2004 and since he left the NBA, he’s served prison stints and faced a series of criminal charges. In 2012, an Illinois sheriff’s deputy found a loaded firearm in his house, which was a violation of Clark’s parole. He was sentenced in 2013 to eight years in an Illinois prison Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to weapons and DUI charges, but served only four years.

Source: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Lenny Dykstra
> Sport: Baseball
> Team: New York Mets/Philadelphia Phillies

Lenny Dykstra was an outfielder for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies who played in two World Series and won one with the Mets in 1986. He was known as a bit of a wild man during his playing days. Once his career ended in 1996, Dykstra had a series of domestic disputes and legal problems, including charges of sexual abuse, theft, and drug possession, and served six-and-a-half months of a three-year prison sentence for bankruptcy fraud and grand theft auto. In 2018, he was arrested in Linden, New Jersey, for making terroristic threats and drug possession. Dykstra allegedly pulled a gun on his Uber driver after the driver refused a request to change destinations. Police found no weapon but arrested Dykstra on drug charges, which were later dropped.

Source: Doug Pensinger / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Lonny Baxter
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Charlotte Bobcats

Itinerant power forward Lonny Baxter played for six teams in seven NBA seasons. The burly basketball player also has a history of possessing firearms. In August 2006, Baxter was involved in a weird incident when he fired a .40-caliber Glock into the air near the White House. The weapon was found in his white Range Rover. Baxter pleaded guilty to gun charges and was sentenced to two months in prison. In 2007, Baxter pleaded guilty to illegally shipping guns through Federal Express, admitting having sent three handguns and a rifle from Houston to College Park, Maryland, by FedEx in July 2006. Federal law requires senders to inform shippers if a delivery contains firearms, which he failed to do. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, two years of supervised release, and a $2,000 fine.

Source: Joel Auerbach / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Mark Walton
> Sport: Football
> Team: Cincinnati Bengals/Miami Dolphins

Running back Mark Walton played two seasons for the Bengals and Dolphins, but life off the field has proved difficult for him. During the 2019 off-season, he was arrested several times on misdemeanor charges, one of which involved possession of a concealed firearm. He pleaded no contest to the weapons charge and was given six months of probation. He was also required to relinquish all his guns and take an anger management course. The Dolphins cut him after he was accused of attacking a woman who was pregnant with his child. In 2022, Walton was picked up for an alleged armed robbery. According to a report from TMZ, Walton and an accomplice pulled a gun on a person and swiped a Rolex after a confrontation. Surveillance video recorded the incident. The disposition of the case is unknown.

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Marvin Harrison
> Sport: Football
> Team: Indianapolis Colts

Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison is one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, the target of many of quarterback Peyton Manning’s aerials. He is also an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion. Harrison was later accused in a 2008 non-fatal shooting in Philadelphia but the district attorney determined that there was no evidence that he had pulled the trigger. The victim was shot again, this time fatally, a year later and claimed on his deathbed that Harrison had hired a hitman to kill him. He wasn’t charged, nor were charges brought in 2010 when a gun was discovered in his car during a routine traffic stop.

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Maurice Clarett
> Sport: Football
> Team: Omaha Nighthawks

Maurice Clarett was a big-time star at Ohio State University, but he failed to translate that success in the NFL. Drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2005, he played only in the off-season or on the practice squad, and was subsequently on the field for only one season with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. In 2006, after his stint with the Broncos, he was charged with armed robbery and possession of a concealed weapon without a permit. Police in Columbus, Ohio, found four loaded guns in his sport utility vehicle when he was stopped near the house of a witness scheduled to testify against him in a robbery case. Officers failed to subdue him with a stun gun because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest and had to use pepper spray. Clarett was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years and served less than four.

Source: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Muhsin Muhammad
> Sport: Football
> Team: Carolina Panthers

Two-time Pro Bowl wideout Muhsin Muhammad led the NFL in receiving yards in 2004 and shared the lead in receptions with Marvin Harrison (see above) in 2000. He also played on two teams that reached the Super Bowl. In 2002 while he was on the Carolina Panthers, he was pulled over for speeding and police busted him with two 9mm handguns in his car. Under North Carolina, guns had to be in plain sight, and Muhammad;s were not. Muhammad received probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor weapon and drug charges. It was Muhammad’s second arrest on drug and weapon charges. As a student at Michigan State University in 1993, he was pulled over by campus police for having a broken side mirror. A search found a loaded .38-caliber gun in the glove compartment.

Source: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Plaxico Burress
> Sport: Football
> Team: New York Giants

Plaxico Burress, who caught the touchdown pass that gave the underdog New York Giants their victory over the undefeated New England Patriots in the 2007 Super Bowl, went from fame to ignominy in the Big Apple. Burress spent two years in prison on felony weapons charges after he accidentally shot himself in the leg in a New York nightclub in 2008. New York media said Burress had a concealed-weapon permit issued to him in Florida, but that it had expired. New York state, with some of the toughest gun regulations in the nation, does not recognize out-of-state permits.

Source: Courtesy of Robert The Ghost Guerrero via Facebook

Robert Guerrero
> Sport: Boxing

Welterweight boxer Robert Guerrero also ran afoul of New York gun laws on his way to fighting Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in May 2013. He was busted for possessing a .40 caliber handgun in his luggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was in New York to appear on a religious television program to discuss his Christian beliefs. At the airport, he told authorities that his luggage contained an unloaded .40 caliber handgun and ammunition. He was quickly arrested, but charges were dismissed – though he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $250.

Source: AlexanderJonesi / Wikimedia Commons

Sam Beal
> Sport: Football
> Team: New York Giants

Sam Beal, a cornerback for the New York Giants, pleaded guilty in 2021 to two gun-related charges in Ohio, stemming from an arrest that occurred in June 2020 when police pulled over him for a traffic violation. He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, improperly handling a firearm, and marijuana possession. Beal was placed on two years’ probation and ordered to pay court costs and court-appointed attorney fees.

Source: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Shi Smith
> Sport: Football
> Team: Carolina Panthers

Another Carolina Panthers wide receiver ran afoul with the law over guns. Shi Smith was arrested in November 2022 near his hometown of Union, South Carolina, on charges of possession of an unlawful handgun and intent to distribute a narcotic. After apologizing for his actions, Smith was given the opportunity to enter a diversion program as an alternative to sentencing, with his record to be cleared upon its completion.

Source: Rich Schultz / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Sonya Deville
> Sport: Wrestling and mixed martial arts

Sonya Deville, a star WWE performer, was arrested in New Jersey for gun possession without a permit in February 2023 after a valet at the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa in Atlantic City discovered the firearm in her glove compartment. Deville, born Daria Berenato, reportedly had a permit for her gun in Florida but didn’t have one in New Jersey. She was charged with one count of unlawful weapon possession and released on a summons for a later court date.

Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Stephen Jackson
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Indiana Pacers

NBA guard Stephen Jackson had a 17-year career and played for eight teams, including 2002-2003 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. On Oct. 6, 2006, while playing with the Indiana Pacers, Jackson got into an early-morning fight outside a strip club in Indianapolis. Police said he fired at least five shots in the air. Jackson pled guilty to a felony count of criminal recklessness, received one year of probation, and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. After Jackson was arrested, NBA commissioner David Stern said he would like players to leave their guns at home when they go out in public.

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Terry “Tank” Johnson
> Sport: Football
> Team: Chicago Bears

At 6’3″ and 320 pounds, the nose guard has earned the nickname “Tank.” The massive lineman has a long list of run-ins with the law. One was his arrest for possession of a firearm at a nightclub in 2005 when he was playing for the Chicago Bears, for which he was placed on probation. That misdemeanor charge preceded a more serious incident a year later. Johnson was arrested at his home in Gurnee, Illinois, following a police raid after which he was charged with parole violation and not having a gun owner identification card for six firearms found in his home. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail and fined for the parole violation, and later fined further and given a 45-day sentence – to be served concurrently with his earlier one – on the weapons charges.

Source: Jared Wickerham / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Terrence Williams
> Sport: Basketball
> Team: Boston Celtics

Terrence Williams was the first draft pick by the New Jersey Nets in 2009, but his career never truly blossomed, and he played on four different teams in four years. Williams was arrested in 2013, his last year in the NBA, for allegedly threatening the mother of his 10-year-old son with a gun. The incident occurred while exchanging custody of the child in Kent, Washington. Williams has had more recent legal troubles. Last year, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit healthcare fraud and identity theft in connection with a multimillion-dollar scam against the NBA’s health plan, according to authorities.

Source: Al Bello / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Tommy Morrison
> Sport: Boxing

Tommy Morrison, who In 1993 defeated George Foreman to win the WBO heavyweight title, also gained fame when he appeared opposite Sylvester Stallone in the 1990 film “Rocky V” as fighter Tommy “Machine” Gunn. His private life was complicated. Morrison had crossed paths with the law in 1993 after he assaulted a college student. And he got in trouble for weapons charges and multiple DUI incidents over the years. Among other things, he got a six-month suspended sentence for transporting a loaded firearm in Jay, Oklahoma, in 1996 – and charged with several drug and firearms offenses in the state in 1999. Morrison was finally sentenced to two years in prison in 2000, and another year was tacked on to his sentence in 2002 for violating parole.

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