Most Unpopular Athletes In History


It wasn’t meant to happen like this.

Usain Bolt has dominated Men’s Sprinting for a decade and was set to retire on the back of yet another World Title in the 100 Metre’s Sprint at the 2017 World Championships in London, but he could finish no better than third behind Americans Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman.

Gatlin’s upset win over Bolt stamped himself as one of the most unpopular athletes in the history of sport and he joins this select group that we definitely love to hate.

Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin really does represent everything that is negative about athletics.

Gatlin has twice been banned for doping and really should have been banned for life following his four-year ban in 2006.

The fact that it was Gatlin that beat Usain Bolt at the World Championships leaves a particularly bitter taste in the mouth and it was no surprise that he was heavily booed by the London crowd.

Lance Armstrong

No athlete has had a steeper fall from grace than Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong was one of the most popular athletes in the world when he recovered from cancer to win seven consecutive editions of the Tour de France from 1999 until 2005, but it was all built on a lie.

USADA was eventually able to prove that Armstrong led one of ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen’ and Armstrong later confessed that the majority of the allegations were true.

Tonya Harding

The Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan story is so memorable that it is currently being made into a feature film that stars Margot Robbie as Harding.

Harding was one of the top figure skaters in the world, but her results had started to wane ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.

Standing in her way at the Olympics would be teammate Nancy Kerrigan, but Kerrigan’s Olympic dream was left in tatters after she was struck above the knee with a baton following a training session.

It was quickly revealed that Kerrigan’s attacker had been hired by Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt to break her leg to keep her out of the Olympics.

Harding was eventually found guilty of conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers and was banned for life from competitive figure-skating.

Nick Kyrgios/Bernard Tomic

It is impossible to split Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, so we elected to put them in here together.

Tomic has probably overtaken Kyrgios in the unpopularity stakes following his press conference and subsequent interviews following his disgraceful effort at Wimbledon, but Kyrgios is always only one meltdown away!

Floyd Mayweather

He may be an excellent boxer, but there is plenty to dislike about Floyd Mayweather.

There is the obvious arrogance, the obsession with money and the boring fighting style, but what really makes him a genuine disgrace to his sport is the multiple domestic violence charges.

Barry Bonds

The majority of the big-name baseball players from the sports steroid era are deserving of a place on this list, but none are as unlikeable as Barry Bonds.

It isn’t just the performance enhancing drugs issue that make Bonds such a pariah – he was rude to his own fans, hated by just about every single one of his teammates and incredibly unfriendly with the media.

Joey Barton

Joey Barton’s long-list of controversial moments have made him something of a cult figure, but he still remains one of the most unpopular athletes in history.

Barton’s most controversial moments include:

  • Stubbing out a lit cigar in the eye of Jamie Tandy during his time at Manchester City
  • Breaking the leg of a pedestrian while driving through Liverpool
  • Assaulting a 15-year-old Everton supporter during a pre-season tournament in Thailand
  • Mooning Everton fans following a late goal for Manchester City
  • A violent assault of teammate Ousmane Dabo
  • A host of ugly challenges on the pitch – most notably his vicious tackle on Sergio Aguero on the final day of the 2011/2012 English Premier League season.

James Hird

James Hird was never the most popular player – outside of Essendon fans – but it is fairly to say that it was his actions as coach of the Essendon Football club that earn him his place on this list.

There is no point rehashing the entire supplements controversy again, but there is no doubt that Hird was probably the biggest loser of the whole saga and his name is now mud with the majority of AFL fans.

John Hopoate

John Hopoate will always be famous for ‘that incident’ while playing for the Wests Tigers against the North Queensland Cowboys in 2001, but his entire career was full of controversy.

Hopoate finished his NRL career as the most suspended player of the modern era and was eventually giving his marching orders by the Manly Sea Eagles after he received a 17-game suspension for viciously elbowing Keith Galloway.

Anthony Mundine

Throughout both his rugby league and boxing career, Anthony Mundine has been a detested figure.

Everytime you find yourself coming around to Mundine, he goes out of his way to become involved in a new controversy and it is his incredible arrogance that has generally turned off the majority of the Australian sporting community.

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