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5 Most Infamous Sports Criminals

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 22, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sports, like any other profession or pastime, has had its share of lawbreakers. From your petty shoplifters to your international conspirators, athletes are just as likely to wind up on the wrong side of the law as the rest of us. The only difference is there's normally a much bigger spotlight on Pacman Jones than your Average Joe.

Here are five of the most infamous criminals from the wide world of sports:

5. The Black Sox

Not many of us were around in 1919, but the accusations surrounding eight Chicago White Sox players -- dubbed "The Black Sox" -- rocked baseball to its core. Eddie Cicotte, Oscar "Happy" Felsch, Arnold "Chick" Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles "Swede" Risberg, George "Buck" Weaver, Claude "Lefty" Williams, and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson were all charged with intentionally losing games against the Cincinnati Reds in that year's World Series.

4. Tonya Harding

Hiring a goon club your rival while competing in the Olympics is bad enough, and Miss Harding hasn't covered herself in glory since. After her role in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 Winter Games, Harding has gone on to an ignominious boxing career and arrests for DUI and domestic violence.

3. Jerry Sandusky

It was the scandal that brought down one of the most beloved college football coaches of all time. The revelation that former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused dozens of children, some at the team's on-campus facilities was shocking enough -- that Penn State administrators and revered head coach Joe Paterno knew, and did nothing, was even more abhorrent.

2. O.J.

A name and story so infamous you don't even need his last name. The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman reverberates decades later, spawning a new television series as well as new evidence. While O.J. Simpson may have been acquitted on murder charges in The Trial of the Century, he couldn't escape jail a second time and remains there on unrelated robbery and kidnapping charges.


The endemic corruption in the world governing body of the world's most popular sport had to take the top spot. While rumors, innuendo, and outright accusations swarmed around FIFA and ex-President Sepp Blatter for years, it took a dogged U.S Attorney from North Carolina to bring the organization to its knees.

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