Top 10 Controversial Moments in Sports History

Michael Jordan’s jersey” by mark6mauno is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Controversy is inevitable in sport. There are times when passes are dropped, a player misses a simple catch, or the teams have a fight. However, nothing in sports history has created as much drama and criticism as the events we’re going to discuss in this article. Here are the top 10 controversial moments in sports history that have gone down in history, and continue to be hot topics of discussion today.

1. When Tyson Bit Holyfield

Even those who aren’t sports fans are familiar with the ugly fight between Tyson and Holyfield that took place in 1997. During the WBA World Heavyweight Championship, Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear, seeing him disqualified from boxing. 

He later said that he completely lost it since Holyfield had a great start with 11 wins. Not only did he lose the round, but he was charged a whopping $3 million fine and was disqualified from the sport.

2. When Ben Johnson Cheated in the Olympics

Ben Johnson won an Olympic gold medal in the 1998 Olympics only to have it taken away within three days. This happened because he tested positive for anabolic steroids, which explains his unbelievable performance in the games that year. 

This went on to become one of the most controversial moments in the history of the Olympics. Johnson might have broken his own record, becoming the fastest man on Earth, but his image was permanently tarnished by the incident.

3. The Black Sox Scandal

The Black Sox is infamous for the 1919 incident when eight of its team members were accused of accepting financial incentives to lose the game from the world’s most influential mobster. The team was initially called the White Sox, but this event made them famous as “The Black Sox Team”. All the players were disqualified from the game and were banned from the sport entirely.

4. Michael Jordan’s Sudden Retirement Announcement

Basketball star Michael Jordan’s retirement announcement was a huge shock to the NBA world. Having won the Most Valuable Player title three times in a row, Jordan was at the peak of his career in 1993. He attributed his early retirement to his father’s death as well as his growing interest in baseball. However, it didn’t stop many from assuming that his sudden retirement decision was down to his gambling debts.

5. Kobe Bryant’s 2003 Controversy

The American basketball star Kobe Bryant got himself into hot water in 2003 when he was accused of having sexually assaulting the 19-year-old employee of a hotel where he was staying. Bryant accepted that he had met the woman, but also claimed that the incident was with mutual consent. The case was later dropped, but the whole affair significantly damaged Bryant’s image. 

6. When Mike Denness Banned Indian Players

Referee Mike Denness faced serious criticism from Indian and global cricket fans after imposing a ban on six Indian cricketers. He claimed that the players were banned for their bad behavior in a Test match against South Africa. 

One of these players was legendary Indian cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar, who was accused of ball tampering. The event turned into a controversy when Mike Denness and ICC were criticized for their biased behavior towards India. Eventually, the Test match was declared unofficial.

7. Bounty Gate

American Football might be one of the most aggressive sports out there, but there are still certain rules the players are supposed to abide by. The New Orleans Saints were accused of breaking these rules by providing the players with rewards for injuring their opponents. 

The Saints ended up paying a fine of $500,000, and the team’s coach was suspended for the entire season. Some players believed that the punishment was overly severe, considering the fact that rewards are commonly used for motivating players in many teams.

8. Monkey Gate

Cricketers Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh got into a verbal dispute during a test match in Sydney in 2007, ending up with Singh calling Symonds “Monkey”. Harbhajan was banned for the following three matches, a decision that was later overturned by the ICC. 

9. Maradona’s Hand of God

The quarterfinal match between England and Argentina in the 1986 World Cup created a major controversy when Maradona hit the ball with his fist, instead of his head. He jumped and managed to get the ball past the goalkeeper. The referee gave the point to Argentina, even though many believed the goal was not valid. 

10. When Raina Announced his Retirement from IPL

Suresh Raina had announced his retirement from international cricket with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but later, he also confirmed that he wouldn’t be playing IPL. Rumors had it that a rift between MS Dhoni and Raina led to this decision.

Sometimes, the small issues in sports turn into big disputes that make fans infuriated. That’s when things take an ugly turn and the situation spins out of control, and these top 10 controversial moments in sport are cases in point. 

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