With the year 2015 almost coming to a close, one can reflect on many major events that have defined and redefined the direction of the United States moving forward. In the realm of professional sports, the events of Deflategate, wherein the New England Patriots were accused of tampering with footballs during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January, have dominated the national conversation about the state of modern sports. Deflategate may have rocked our world in 2015, but here are eight other notable professional sports scandals that have shaped sports history:
1. 1919 World Series
The 1919 World Series, otherwise known as the “Black Sox Scandal,” was characterized by the conspiring between members of the Chicago team franchise and gamblers to throw the World Series game. Following the scandal, every subsequent World Series required supervision by the Commissioner of Baseball. In 1921, eight White Sox players were banned from professional baseball for their involvement in the incident.
2. Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal
This scandal broke open in November of 2011 when Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, was indicted on 52 counts of child molestation. At least 20 of the reported abuse incidents occurred while Sandusky was a Penn State employee, but investigators believe that incidents of abuse began as early as the 1970s. Sandusky was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in federal prison.
3. Lance Armstrong’s Doping Investigation
Armstrong had faced a plethora of accusations of doping for a large part of his cycling career, but no official action was taken until federal prosecutors undertook an investigation in 2010. Investigations continued until January 13, 2013 when Armstrong revealed that he used performance-enhancing drugs during much of his career, including during his seven Tour de France victories, in an interview with Oprah. Because of the scandal, Armstrong went from being a leader in the world of cycling and philanthropy to being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
This 2011 scandal involved accusations of New Orleans Saints football players paying out financial bounties for injuring opposing team players. The ensuing investigation was a litigation nightmare that revealed activities such as players earning $1,500 for “knock-outs” of opposing players and players being fined for penalties and mistakes. In later interviews, Saints players Brett Favre and Kurt Warner supported bounties as being part of the game.
5. Pete Rose Allegations
Pete Rose had played for and managed the Cincinnati Reds baseball team from 1963-1989. After his retirement in 1989, he was accused of gambling on baseball games (including games his team participating in) while being a part of the Reds. Despite public denial for years, a June 2015 ESPN investigation concluded that Rose had indeed bet on baseball from 1984-1986 while he was still a player. The topic of Rose’s possible reinstatement to the Baseball Hall of Fame is one that has continued to cause controversy today.
6. January 1994 Attack on Nancy Kerrigan
On January 6, 1994, ice skater Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted with a police baton after a practice for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The assault was planned by the ex-husband and bodyguard of Kerrigan’s rival, Tonya Harding. The incident was recorded on camera and would eventually become known as “The Whack Heard Around the World.” Fortunately for Kerrigan, her professional career really took off from the publicity she gained after the attack.
7. 2002 Winter Olympic Bid Scandal
Prior to 1995, the city of Salt Lake City, Utah had unsuccessfully attempted to win the rights to host the Winter Olympic games four different times. In 1998, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee was accused of bribing members of the International Olympic Council (IOC) for the rights to host the Games. The aftermath of the scandal saw the removal of several IOC members and the appointment of Mitt Romney as head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
8. Jane Blalock Golf Scandal
From 1972-1975, golfer Jane Blalock was one of the top players for the LPGA Tours. She was eventually accused of illegally marking her ball on the course. Blalock was fined and suspended by the LPGA, but she fired back with a successful injunction that allowed her to keep playing after an out-of-court settlement was reached.