Whenever Scandals in Sports happen, they have the potential to become huge due to professional athletes’ place in society and the fact that they are role models for young kids. How magnified these scandals in sports are also depends on the severity of whatever it is happened.
Scandals in Sports range from cheating, doping, match-fixing, gambling, and controversial calls by officials, to name few. Some of the most controversial events in Sports History can even make waves for things to happen in the personal lives of famous sports figures too.
Please note that the placement for all of the Scandals in Sports is not a ranking of the least controversial to the most controversial. These 15 big Scandals in Sports History are listed in no particular order.
Now, with all of that being said, take a look down below and check out 15 of the Biggest Scandals in Sports History:
1. The 1919 Black Sox Scandal:
Although this controversy happened a little over 100 years ago, The 1919 Black Sox Scandal is still considered by many as one of the biggest Scandals in Sports History. This scandal took place during the 1919 World Series, which was played between The Chicago White Sox and The Cincinnati Reds.
Eight members of The White Sox (see the photo below) were charged with intentionally losing the 1919 World Series against The Reds in exchange for money from the famous New York City mobster Arnold Rothstein. All eight White Sox Players were permanently banned from the sport, a ruling that disqualifies them for consideration for the MLB Hall of Fame. Despite this ruling, another issue that many debate about The 1919 Black Sox Scandal is the extent of Joe “Shoeless” Jackson’s involvement.
2. The Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics Sex Abuse Scandal:
One of the more recent Scandals in Sports History, the Larry Nassar (see the photo below) and USA Gymnastics Sex Abuse Scandal is one that horrified people around the world. Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics Women’s National Team Doctor who also practiced medicine at Michigan State, sexually abused more than 250 women and at least one man under the guise of “medical treatment”. The majority of his victims were minors and included many Olympic and United States National Women’s Gymnastics Team Gymnasts, as well as several Michigan State Student-Athletes.
During his infamous trial, where more than 150 of his victims, including Olympic Gold Winning Gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman, read their powerful victim impact statements, Nassar received several life sentences. Nassar had been sexually abusing athletes for decades and his trial shined a light on how USA Gymnastics prioritized medals over morals. Given that 2020 is an Olympic Year, the USA Gymnastics Sex Abuse Scandal will be one of the most discussed subjects during the 2020 Summer Games.
The first of two huge Scandals in Sports involving the New England Patriots to be featured in this article, the New York Jets filed a complaint to the NFL stating that the Patriots had filmed their defensive coordinators’ signals during a game from an unauthorized location. An NFL Investigation revealed that Patriots indeed filmed the Jets’ defensive signals.
Despite Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick’s (see the photo below) claims of misinterpreting the rules, NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell fined Belichick $500,000 and stripped the team’s first-round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. However, Spygate wouldn’t be the last time that the Patriots would be involved in one of the most talked-about Scandals in Sports History.
4. The Houston Astros Sign Stealing Scandal:
Of all the Biggest Scandals in Sports History to be featured on this list, The Houston Astros Sign Stealing Scandal is the most recent one to occur. An MLB Investigation released in January 2020 (after years of complaints from other MLB teams) revealed that The Astros used technology to steal signs from opposing teams and had an elaborate system (the photo below is a visual image of how the system worked) set up to alert Astros hitters what kind of pitch was coming from the pitchers of opposing teams during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Cheating in all regards is a disgrace and what makes The Houston Astros Sign Stealing Scandal one of the largest Scandals in Sports History is the fact that The Astros were able to cheat their way to winning the 2017 World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a result of the MLB’s findings, several people have lost their jobs and some of the apologies made by members of the Astros’ 2017 World Series Winning Team were panned by many on other MLB teams.
The scandal dominated the 2019–2020 offseason and the start of 2020 spring training as players and managers of other MLB Teams openly expressed their anger about the whole ordeal. MLB Fans even called for The Astros to be stripped of their 2017 World Series Title and for it to be given to the Dodgers. The fallout of the Houston Astros Sign Stealing Scandal is still brewing and even being compared to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal (See #1 Above) as one of the worst scandals in sports history and the worst in baseball history.
5. Penn State Child-Abuse Scandal:
The Penn State Child-Abuse Scandal involved former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (Center in the photo below), who was charged and eventually convicted on 45 of 52 accounts of sexual abuse of male children for 15 years. Sandusky groomed his victims through his charity, The Second Mile and ultimately received a jail sentence for 30-60 years. Several Penn State officials were involved in covering up the crimes and the university was fined $60 million.
6. The Disgrace of Gijón:
One of the most controversial Scandals in Sports and FIFA World Cup History took place during the group stage game between West Germany and Austria during the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. The match was the last one of Group 2, and since Algeria already beat Chile 3-2 in their game the day before, both European teams knew what result they each needed in order to qualify for the next round: A West German win by one or two goals would see both West Germany and Austria advance, a West German win by three goals or more would see West Germany and Algeria advance, and a draw or an Austrian win would eliminate West Germany.
The result of the match between West Germany and Austria resulted in a 1-0 win for the former and both teams advancing to the knockout stage at the expense of Algeria. Both West Germany and Austria were accused of match-fixing as the former scored the game’s only goal in the first ten minutes and the remaining 80 minutes featured few scoring attempts from both teams.
When fans of both teams attending the game realized what was going on, they starting jeering. An Austrian Soccer Commentator was so disgusted that he even advised live on the air for viewers to turn off their TVs. The match between West Germany and Austria is the reason why the final group stage match for all teams in each group at the FIFA World Cup are played simultaneously to ensure no repeat of The Disgrace of Dijón.
Along with Spygate, the New England Patriots are also involved in another one of the largest scandals in sports history, with this one being known as Deflategate. The Patriots were accused of deliberately under-inflating their footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship Game, which they won in a _ blowout win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots would end up being victorious in The 2015 Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks.
Following an NFL Investigation, The Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of their first-round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and their fourth-round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In addition, Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, whose knowledge of the footballs being deflated is constantly debated, was suspended for four games.
8. Pete Rose Betting Scandal:
Betting in Sports remains a controversial issue in the sports world today. However, betting against your own team is a disgrace. The Legendary Pete Rose was banned from baseball for gambling on baseball games, including on his own team while he served as a manager for The Cincinnati Reds. This created one of the most infamous Scandals in Sports History and there’s still tons of debate today on whether or not he should be reinstated and inducted into MLB Hall of Fame.
9. The Hand of God I:
The 1986 FIFA Quarterfinal Match between England and Argentina resulted in a 2-1 victory for the latter side. The legendary Diego Maradona scored both goals. However, he scored his first goal with his hand and it was allowed to stand by the referee.
Maradona later said that the goal was “A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” Thus, the goal was nicknamed the “Hand of God” and remains one of the most infamous scandals in sports and FIFA World Cup History.
10. The Hand of God II:
In the 2010 FIFA World Cup Quarterfinal between Uruguay and Ghana, the game was tied 1-1 and in the last minute of extra time, Uruguayan Forward Luis Suarez was sent off for blocking what would have been a game-winning goal for Ghana with his hands. After Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing penalty kick, the match went into a penalty shootout, which Uruguay won 4-2. After the match, Suarez infamously said, “I made the save of the tournament … The ‘Hand of God’ now belongs to me.”
11. Luiz Suarez’s Biting Incidents:
Along with his handball against Ghana, Suarez is notoriously known for biting opponents. Of his three biting incidents, the most infamous is his latest one, which occurred during Uruguay’s final group stage match against Italy when he bit Italian Defender Giorgio Chiellini.
As it was the third biting incident of his career, Suarez was banned for 10 international football matches (including the rest of the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America) and four months from all football activities.
12. Danny Almonte’s Age:
One of the most infamous scandals in sports history featured in this article took place during the 2001 Little League World Series. Bronx Native Danny Almonte was considered one of the breakout stars of that particular Little League World Series.
However, an investigation revealed that Almonte lied about his age and that he was in fact, two years older than he said he was (The max age in Little League is 12 years old). As a result, Almonte was declared ineligible and his Little League Team was stripped of all of their wins and records set during the 2001 Little League World Series.
13. The Ray Rice Domestic Violence Incident:
Of all the Scandals in Sports featured in this article, the one involving former NFL Running Back Ray Rice stands out because it involves domestic violence. In February 2014, Rice got into a domestic violence dispute with his then-fiancee (now wife) in an elevator at an Atlantic City Casino. The fight was so physical that Rice knocked his fiancee out after striking her in the head so hard.
After TMZ released the video (see below) of the disturbing punch, Rice was released by The Baltimore Ravens (the team he played his entire NFL Career for) and hasn’t been in the NFL since.
Rice might have won a Super Bowl with The Ravens in 2013, but he’s now one the most disgraced athletes across all sports. This Scandal in Sports is so infamous that it prompted the NFL to drastically change its policies on how domestic violence cases are handled in the league.
14. The 2012 Summer Olympics Women’s Badminton Matching Fixing Scandal:
Another one of the most notorious Scandals in Sports History centered around match-fixing happened during The 2012 Summer Olympics. During those Olympic Games, 4 pairs of teams (1 Chinese, 1 Indonesian, and 2 South Korean) were disqualified from the Women’s Badminton Doubles Competition for intentionally losing matches to allow better pairings in the knockout stages of the competition.
According to BBC, The World Badminton Association charged members of all four teams with “Not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “Conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”
15. The 2000 Paralympic Spanish Basketball Team:
Some of the most infamous Scandals in Sports have taken place in the Olympics and what makes the one listed at #15 shocking is that it happened during The 2000 Paralympics! The Spanish Basketball Team won the Gold Medal at those Paralympics but were later stripped of it after a Spanish Journalist revealed that most of the players hadn’t been checked for a mental disability.
A further investigation on the mater revealed two shocking things: 10 of the 12 players weren’t mentally disabled and that Spain did what they did to win a gold medal and gain more sponsorships.