Scandals That Rocked the Sports World

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

11. Pete Rose betting
> Sport: MLB
> When it happened: 1989-1990
> Who was involved: Pete Rose

Pete Rose, MLB’s all-time hit leader and a shoo-in for baseball’s Hall of Fame, was permanently banned from baseball by then-league president Bart Giamatti for betting on baseball games. Rose never admitted his guilt until 2010, on the 25th anniversary of his breaking Ty Cobb’s hit record.

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12. Steinbrenner seeks dirt on Winfield
> Sport: MLB
> When it happened: 1990
> Who was involved: George Steinbrenner, Dave Winfield

One of MLB’s more sordid chapters involved New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, player Dave Winfield, and gambler Howard Spira. Steinbrenner, who wanted to get rid of Winfield, a free agent, hired Spira to dig up dirt on the player in January of 1990. Eventually, MLB found out and Steinbrenner was banned from the game for consorting with a known gambler, though he was allowed to return. Winfield would be traded to the California Angels, and Spira would serve 22 months in jail.

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13. Attack on Nancy Kerrigan
> Sport: Figure skating
> When it happened: 1994
> Who was involved: Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding, Jeff Gillooly

Figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tony Harding were competing for spots on the American Olympic team in 1994 in Detroit when a man hit Kerrigan in the back of her knee with a club, sidelining the Olympic hopeful with an injury. That helped Harding make the Olympic team. Later it was discovered that Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly hired the man who hit Kerrigan. Harding initially denied her involvement, then changed her story, saying she learned about Gillooly’s involvement in the bizarre incident after the Olympic trials but did not tell the authorities.

The U.S. Olympic Committee tried to keep Harding off the team but failed, and both she and Kerrigan competed. Kerrigan won a silver medal and Harding finished eighth. Harding eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy. She was fined $100,000 and performed community service.

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14. Simpson homicide, memorabilia theft
> Sport: NFL
> When it happened: 1994-1995, 2007
> Who was involved: O.J. Simpson, Nicole Simpson, Ron Goldman

In 1995, football and movie star O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, a friend of Nicole Simpson, in a verdict that divided the nation along racial lines. Though Simpson was acquitted, his image and career were permanently damaged. He would run afoul of the law in 2007 when he was convicted of robbery and kidnapping following an incident in a Las Vegas hotel in which he tried to retrieve personal sports memorabilia.

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15. Sandusky sexual assault
> Sport: College football
> When it happened: 1994-2012
> Who was involved: Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, underage boys

One of college football’s worst scandals exploded in 2011, when it was revealed that Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually molested 10 underage boys over a period of at least 15 years. The culpability of the university was called into question. Storied head football coach Joe Paterno was fired and died in disgrace in January 2012. Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of child abuse and other charges and was sentenced to no fewer than 30 years in prison. In July 2012, the NCAA announces a $60 million fine against Penn State and banned the team from the postseason for four years.