The NFL has seen some glorious moments, records broken, and legends made, but it has also had its share of humongous scandals that have tainted certain parts and people of the game. With the recent revelation that league officials tried to bully the National Institutes of Health and influence their research study on brain injuries, it’s yet another mark of shame has been added to the NFL’s roster of fails. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Here are 10 more of the biggest NFL scandals that have occurred throughout the league’s history (we haven’t included Deflategate because it’s still not over).
This is one of the most heartbreaking NFL scandals for fans, and its consequences still haven’t gone away. When it was first reported that the New England Patriots were spying on opposing teams, many people didn’t believe it. However once the NFL made it clear that the team was caught videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals, there was no doubt that the Patriots organization was full of straight up cheaters. Though the team was in the height of its dynasty and had gone to four Super Bowl games in just seven years, the Pats lost a lot of fans. Head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the Patriots were stripped of a first round draft pick and fined $250,000.
2. The Love Boat Scandal
What happens on the houseboat apparently doesn’t stay there. When 17 Minnesota Vikings players rented two houseboats, flew in prostitutes from Florida and Georgia, and invited 90 people to partake in the freaky festivities, trouble was bound to happen. After photos from the sordid party hit the Internet, the team was embarrassed, marriages were destroyed, players were fined, and criminal misdemeanor charges were handed down. Unfortunately, this is just one of many NFL scandals that revolved around illicit sex, and interestingly enough, not one player was suspended.
3. The Pottsville Maroons get Marooned
To understand this scandal, you have to go way back in NFL history to the early 1900s. Back then a team called the Pottsville Maroons defeated the Chicago Cardinals and technically won the league championship. However, their win was literally stripped from the team by former NFL commissioner Joseph Carr. Since the Maroons played an unsanctioned game that allegedly infringed on another team’s territory, Carr awarded the championship to the Cardinals. Even the Cardinals saw how ridiculous that was and many players on the team refused to accept the championship trophy. Meanwhile, the Pottsville Maroons fashioned their own trophy, proclaiming themselves to be the true champions. It was a much talked about mess during the time, and some people still get passionate about Carr’s decision. To this day, the NFL still officially recognizes the Chicago Cardinals as the 1925 league champion.
4. LT’s Underage Sex Scandal
Lawrence Taylor would have always been remembered as one of the NFL’s best defensive players of all time, in spite of his drug arrests and failed foray into acting after he retired from playing. However, his legacy was permanently sullied in 2011 when it was discovered that he’d sexually abused a minor. LT plead guilty, and any greatness that he had on the field was immediately trashed.
5. Eugene Robinson’s Solicitation at Super Bowl XXXIII
You’d think players would be smart enough not to cause a scene during the league’s biggest event of the year, but Eugene Robinson apparently didn’t get the memo to behave. Not even a day after receiving an award praising him for his high moral character, the Atlanta Falcons’ Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer. He ended up playing in Super Bowl XXXIII anyway, made costly errors, and the Denver Broncos ultimately won the championship.
From 2009 to 2011, it was found that New Orleans Saints defensive players and coaches had a bounty system in which the players received large bonuses outside of their contracts for knocking out star players of opposing teams. Once the bounty system was brought to light, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for an entire year and former defensive coordinator Greg Williams, the ringleader of the system, was suspended indefinitely. The team’s General Manager, Mickey Loomis, was suspended for eight games and the Saints were fined $500,000. If that wasn’t enough — and it truly wasn’t — the Saints lost two of their second round draft picks. A host of players were also fined and suspended in connection with Bountygate. It should be noted that though the New Orleans saints had a long run with their bounty system, they’re not at all the first team to do it. Fortunately, their dirty tricks being brought to light pretty much ended bounty hunting on other teams.
7. Extortion and Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
It’s not just the players and coaches that create NFL scandals. Back in 1998, San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. conspired with former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards to obtain a license for a river boat casino. This money making scheme doesn’t seem so bad on the surface, but the plot involved extortion and a felony crime. After this was revealed, NFL fans and many in the league developed a dislike for Eddie. Failing to report the extortion to authorities led to Eddie being fined $1 million and he was suspended from the NFL for a year. For the sake of the team’s image and to stem the horrible publicity that was being at launched the 49ers, Eddie DeBartolo Jr. gave control of the team to his sister, Marie Denise DeBartolo York.
8. Paul Hornung and Alex Karras Suspensions
Back in 1963, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras went from being well liked to most despised in the league. The Green Back Packers players were punished for betting on NFL games, and their violation of league rules was so flagrant that each player was suspended for a year. This was a big scandal at the time and really upset NFL fans, who were glad that the two were rightfully punished. Years later, former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle forgave the indiscretion and allowed Hornung to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
9. Ray Rice’s Domestic Abuse
When Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on tape dragging his then-fiancee’s unconscious body around a casino, it sparked outage around the nation. What made the situation worse was the Ravens’ and NFL’s reactions. They initially sided with Rice instead of his victim, and allowed Rice to parade the woman around defending her own abuser in front of the media. If that wasn’t bad enough, after finally banning Rice for a year from the league due to public pressure, his suspension was lessened after he appealed. The felony aggravated assault charges pending against Rice were eventually dropped, as prosecutors couldn’t force his victim to testify after she married him.
10. Super Bowl XXXVIII “Wardrobe Malfunction”
Technically, it wasn’t any player or coach’s fault that this happened, but there’s long been rumors that head honchos at the NFL went along with this infamous wardrobe malfunction. Everyone knows the story: Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed at the 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. The latter “accidentally” exposed the former’s breast, and people around the country were both intrigued and outraged. This halftime show scandal was talked about for years after it happened, and the network that aired the Super Bowl, CBS, was fined a big sum of money.
It’s still not over so we haven’t included it, but it’s WAY up there.