On the field, athletes are masters of physical prowess and strategy. However, when they are off the field, what do they do? Us fans rarely get a glimpse into the secret life of our favorite sports stars. While many lead normal (albeit wealthy) lives, there is a select few that fail to separate their game behavior from reality.
In the game, it’s acceptable to act in ways one would never even think of out of the streets yet, it still happens. Hence, we have numerous cases of the criminal athlete. There are plenty of them to go over but for the sake of efficiency, let’s just go over the top 7.
7. CRIMINAL ATHLETES: MICHAEL VICK
Michael Vick burst onto the scene with his unique style as a quarterback. He had a cannon for an arm and could outrun most running backs. However, one thing Vick couldn’t outrun was the law. Many athletes have their vices outside the game but perhaps none are as cruel as Vick’s. According to federal agents, Vick not only sponsored a dog fighting ring but even hanged dogs. Yes, hanged them. If that’s not enough to make you squirm, Vick even lied about his involvement. Justice finally reared its triumphant head though and stuck Vick behind bars for two years. That didn’t seem to slow his career down, though. After jail, Vick signed a $100 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles just three years after his release from prison.
6. CRIMINAL ATHLETES: RAY LEWIS
We get it, athletes get mad. In fact, athletes get paid for anger. Sort of. However, most athletes can leave that anger behind on the field, court, ice or whatever. Not Ray Lewis, though. The famous Baltimore Ravens linebacker always is emotional and that goes for his time off as well. One fateful night in January 2000, Ray Lews was out with some friends at an Atlanta night club. According to sources, Lewis got into a scuffle with someone which led to a few punches being thrown. Fists eventually turned to weapons which left two 20-year-olds from Akron dead.
Ray Lews and his posse escaped in a stretch limo, Hollywood style. Furthermore, they got rid of the blood-stained evidence in a fast food dumpster and even lied to officials following the incident. Any murder charges were eventually reduced to a mere misdemeanor once Lewis agreed to testify.
5. CRIMINAL ATHLETES: MIKE TYSON
While not as popular as their NFL friends, boxers are athletes too. Mike Tyson is one of the most famous of these athletes and for many reasons, some of which involve crimes. Tyson committed several crimes throughout his youth like pickpocketing, robbery, and mugging. In September 1991, Tyson was indicted one account or rape, two counts of criminal behaviors and one count of confinement. The judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. However, they released Tyson after three short years. Crime followed Tyson all the way to 1997 when the boxer famously bit off a piece of an opponent’s ear.
4. CRIMINAL ATHLETES: AARON HERNANDEZ
NFL fans love to hate all athletes on the New England Patriots but perhaps the most hated is Aaron Hernandez. The former tight end was convicted of first-degree murder after a mysterious shooting of Odin Lloyd. Lloyd apparently dated Hernandez fiancee’s sister. One day, someone found Lloyd in a parking lot near the Hernandez home, shot six times. There is plenty of evidence suggesting Hernandez committed the crime such as video footage, cell phone records and his past criminal history. Unlike most athletes, Hernadez actually has to pay his due. The former star was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
3. CRIMINAL ATHLETES: O.J. SIMPSON
It’s been one heck of a year for O.J. Simpson. Numerous television’s series reminded the world of this criminal athlete and now, we’re doing it again. In 1995, O.J. Simpson went on trial for murdering two people but famously got off “clean.” Since then, he spent a decade hunting the really “killer” and playing rounds of golf. However, this athlete still founded avoid the law. Simpson is constantly in some sort of trouble like tax issues, road rage, and violent behavior. Now, O.J. serves time for an armed robbery. In this tragic tale, Simpson and friends broke into a Las Vegas hotel room to steal a famous piece of sports memorabilia. Oh yeah, he had a gun too. Not many athletes have this kind of track record. It’s amazing he’s still alive.
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2. CRIMINAL ATHLETES: ALLEN IVERSON
Allen Iverson is certainly one of the most famous athletes out there but even that didn’t keep him away from trouble. Iverson happened to find his trouble early on in life. During his senior year of high school, Allen Iverson flipped over a few chairs and took part in his fair share of bowling alley brawls. It doesn’t seem like much compared to other professional athletes but remember, A.I. was just a kid. For these incidents, he received a five-year prison sentence. However, the scandal caught the attention of Governer Douglas Wilder. Wilder gave A.I. a full pardon and a second chance at the game of life. As many know, he went on to become one of the best NBA players out there. Furthermore, he kept his arrests to a bare minimum throughout his career. Hardly a role model but at least he’s better than Lionel Messi.
1. CRIMINAL ATHLETES: LIONEL MESSI
Speaking of Lionel Messi, he is the number one subject on our list of criminal athletes. When it comes to athletes, Messi is by far one of the best known around the world. However, fame doesn’t make one immune to tax fraud. Unlike other athletes, Messi didn’t mess around with drugs or violence. Instead, he thought he could pull a fast one with money. Messi and his dad Jorge were sentenced to 21 months in prison due to tax fraud. In typical athlete fashion, though, Messi might not spend a single day of that behind bars.
In July, the court of Catalonia found Messi had evaded tax on his image rights. This totaled more than 4 million in back payments. However, there is a minor loophole. The court’s sentence was less than two years and neither Lionel or Jorge has a criminal record. Hence, neither will go to prison. According to the prosecution, the Messi’s used tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to hide their earnings from the image rights. And, of course, in typical fashion, Messi claimed to know nothing. Why do celebrities never know anything? Also like other athletes, this will not hurt Messi’s football career. The 29-year-old superstar will continue to attend Barcelona’s pre-season training.
These disputed tax payments date back to a certain period from 2007-2009. In this time, Messi dominated the game and took Barcelona to a world’s top team. While he avoided prison time (for now) Messi will pay 1.7 million Euro in fines for these three counts of tax fraud. Furthermore, his father faces a 1.3 million Euro fine. That just goes to show that athletes, as famous as they may be are not entirely invincible. It seems that more and more are beginning to pay for their criminal actions. However, they are still long ways away from facing real time like the less privileged of this world.