The Most Disrespectful Sports Moments Of All Time

One of the central tenets underlying any sport is the concept of good sportsmanship. A win should be treated with humility, while a loss should be accepted gracefully, without rancor or spite. Cheating, obviously, is a big no-no, while demonstrating respect for opponents and teammates is a given.

That's the ideal, but human nature being what it is, things haven't always turned out that way. In fact, examples of bad sportsmanship have plagued professional sports since the beginning; who can forget the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, made famous in the movie "Field of Dreams," in which the Chicago White Sox deliberately lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Meanwhile, some sports tend to encourage unsportsmanlike behavior; crowds tend to cheer, not boo, when hockey players throw down their gloves and launch into a bench-clearing brawl. 

With that in mind, read on for a rundown of some of the most disrespectful sports moments of all time.

Michael Jordan punched Steve Kerr in the face

During the 1995-'96 NBA season, Michael Jordan's temper flared during a Chicago Bulls practice when he an on-court exchange with Steve Kerr left the latter with a black eye. At the time, Kerr wasn't even sure that Jordan — already an NBA superstar — knew who he was. As Kerr told Vice, he felt Jordan was testing his fellow players, getting unnecessarily rough and trash-talking his teammates. Kerr finally had enough, and mouthed off to Jordan. Jordan's response was a forearm shiver, with Kerr responding in kind. "And he basically ... came after me," Kerr recalled. "I was like the kid in 'Jurassic Park' who got attacked by the velociraptor. I had no chance. It was just mayhem. We were screaming at each other."

Bulls coach Phil Jackson recalled the incident in his book, "Eleven Rings," revealing it served as a wakeup call for Jordan. "It made me look at myself and say, 'You know what? You're really being an idiot about this whole process,'" Jordan said. "I knew I had to be more respectful of my teammates."

Despite the disrespectful display, Kerr revealed the whole thing had a positive outcome. "It was one of the best things that ever happened for me, I needed to stand up and go back at him, I think I earned some respect," Kerr said during a 2012 appearance on"The Dan Patrick Show" (as reported by NBC Sports). "But we have a great relationship ever since ..."

Roger Clemons flung a splintered bat at Mike Piazza

During Game 2 of the 2000 World Series (a.k.a. the "Subway Series" pitting the New York Yankees against the New York Mets), Mets catcher Mike Piazza was at bat when Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens threw him the ball; Clemons and Piazza had some history, reportedly feuding during the months leading up to the series. Piazza hit a foul, but slamming the baseball with such force that his bat smashed into bits. Clemons proceeded to pick up the barrel of the splintered bat, then threw the jagged hunk of wood in Piazza's direction.

While umpires concluded Clemens hadn't deliberately tried to hit Piazza, the pitcher was nonetheless fined $50,000 over the incident. "He just picked up the bat and winged it," umpire Ed Montague said, as reported by ABC News. "It was just an emotional deal that built over the months." Clemens claimed it was an accident, insisting he was caught up in the moment and let his emotions overtake him. "This is the World Series, it shouldn't overshadow what we're trying to do," Clemens said.

According to Yankee player Joe Torre, Clemens was so upset about what he'd done that he broke into tears while talking with coach Mel Stottlemyre after the game. "[Clemens] went in there and he was devastated with the result of what had happened and was crying," Torre said during an appearance on SNY's "Like We Never Left."

Rosie Ruiz cheated the Boston Marathon

Rosie Ruiz was the first woman to complete the 1980 Boston Marathon, with the third-fastest finish ever attained by a woman in any marathon. During a post-race interview, Ruiz revealed she'd only ever competed in one previous marathon, the New York City Marathon — in which she'd finished 23rd, with a significantly longer finish time. "So you improved from 2 hours and 56 minutes to 2 hours and 31 minutes?" TV interviewer Kathrine Switzer, one of the first women to ever run the Boston marathon, asked her (via the New York Times). "I trained myself," Ruiz responded, offering no further explanation. "Rosie Ruiz, the mystery woman winner — we missed her at all our checkpoints," Switzer told viewers.

The reason nobody had seen Ruiz at those checkpoints became clear after marathon officials examined photo and video footage of the race, and found no trace of her. Officials then investigated her performance at the New York marathon, where they tracked down people who'd spoken with Ruiz during the race — while she was riding on the subway, on her way to the finish line. 

Ruiz's time was subsequently invalidated when officials later determined that she'd snuck into the race about a mile before the end. Ruiz, however, was truculent, refusing to hand back her medal and continuing to insist she'd won the marathon fair and square, despite the mountains of evidence that she'd cheated. Ruiz died in 2019 at age 66. 

Scottie Pippen benched himself

When the Chicago Bulls faced the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1994 NBA playoffs, the score was tied with just 1.8 seconds left. Coach Phil Jackson called the team in for a huddle, devising a quick play in which star player Scottie Pippen would pass the ball to Toni Kukoc, who'd take the shot. As the team headed to the court, Pippen walked in the other direction and took a seat at the bench. Jackson and Pippen exchanged some heated words, but Pippen stayed put. Jackson had no choice but to call another huddle, swapping in Pete Myers for Pippen. Kukoc hit the shot and won the game. "Scottie chose not to go on the court last night for his own specific reason," Jackson diplomatically told reporters after the game

To fans — and also, reportedly, his teammates — Pippen's act of defiance was seen as childish petulance, earning him the nickname "Quittin' Pippen."  Nearly three decades later, Pippen addressed the controversy in the documentary "The Last Dance." "I felt like it was an insult coming from Phil," he said, as reported by the Washington Post. "I was the most dangerous guy on our team. Why are you asking me to take the ball out?" Looking back, Pippen admitted he wished the whole thing had never taken place, but remained stubbornly defiant. "But if I had a chance to do it over again, I probably wouldn't change it," he added. 

Sammy Sosa's corked bat

During a baseball career spanning 18 years, Sammy Sosa hit an astonishing 609 home runs, placing him in ninth place for more most MLB career home runs. That record became tarnished due to allegations (which he's denied) of steroid use throughout his career, reportedly the reason why he's not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Another controversy came to light during a 2003 matchup between the Cubs and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. At bat, Sosa took a mighty swing and connected with the ball — so mighty, in fact, that the bat cracked clean in half. Officials gathered up the bat's pieces for examination, confirming their suspicions: Sosa had used a corked bat, specially modified with a core of cork instead of solid wood, resulting in a lighter bat and a quicker swing that send a baseball traveling further upon impact. Given that corked bats are illegal in Major League Baseball, the run was disallowed, and Sosa was ejected from the game.

After the game, Sosa apologized. ”What happened today was something that wasn't meant to have happened," he said, while pointedly refusing to admit he cheated. "I took the wrong bat and I went up there and it happened. It's a bat I used for batting practice. It's a mistake," he claimed, as reported by the New York Times. ”I guarantee to you, I never used anything illegal. I feel bad and I take the blame for it, and I have to move on.”

Claude Lemieux's brutal hit on Kris Draper

Playing in the NHL has always been a rough-and-tumble enterprise, sometimes rougher than others. Such was the case during the 1996 NHL Western Conference Finals, when the Detroit Red Wings faced off against the Colorado Avalanche. As Detroit's Kris Draper scooped up a puck, Avalanche player Claude Lemieux came at him from behind, blindsiding Draper and causing his face to slam into boards. This was not a love tap; Draper wound up with a concussion, while also breaking his nose, jaw and cheekbone. In fact, the injuries from Lemieux's sneak attack were so severe that he was forced to sit out the rest of the season to accommodate his months-long recovery.

Draper's teammates did not let Lemieux's hit go unpunished. The next time the two teams met up on the ice, there were two fights within the first 11 minutes, while another erupted toward the end of the first period that led several other players to join in. During the melee, Detroit's Darren McCarty managed to get in a solid punch, smacking Lemieux in the face, then hammering him with a few more before dragging him along the ice and sending him face-first into the boards.

As Draper told the Detroit Free Press, he didn't realize how severely he'd been hurt until the Red Wings' trainer detailed all his injuries. "I'd been injured before — broke a wrist, dislocated a thumb, knees — you feel that," Draper recalled. "I didn't feel that hit."

Dennis Rodman kneed a cameraman in the groin

Controversy and Dennis Rodman were constant companions during his tenure with Chicago Bulls, and that was just the way he wanted it. That was evident in his ever-changing hair color, his off-court attire (often wearing full makeup while sporting a feather boa), and his deliberately outrageous behavior (remember when he wore a white wedding gown in order to marry himself while promoting his book).

There were also controversies on the court. In 1996, he head-butted a referee (possibly accidentally), resulting in a $20,000 fine and a six-game suspension. That disrespectful act, however, was just the warmup for his most infamous on-court incident the following year. During a 1997 game between the Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves, Rodman lost his balance and fell out of bounds, landing next to cameraman Eugene Amos. When Amos quickly aimed his camera at Rodman, the ticked-off athlete responded by kicking Amos right in the groin, causing Amos to writhe around on the floor in apparent pain. Amos was taken away on a stretcher and brought to a hospital. He subsequently filed an assault charge against Rodman.

The repercussions were steep. Not only was Rodman fined $25,000, he was also suspended without pay for 11 games — a slap on the wrist that reportedly cost Rodman more than $1 million in lost wages. That wasn't all; Rodman also paid a cash settlement to Amos, reportedly shelling out $200,000 in an out-of-court arrangement.

Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear off

When it comes to disrespectful, unsportsmanlike conduct, it's kind of tough to top biting an opponent's ear off. Arguably one of the most scandalous sports moments of the 20th century took place during Mike Tyson's 1997 bout against Evander Holyfield, originally billed as "The Sound and the Fury," but later dubbed "The Bite Fight." In the third round, Tyson bit a chunk out of Holyfield's ear and spat out the bloody cartilage. Tyson later said the bite came out of frustration over Holyfield continually head-butting him throughout the match. "I cannot tell why exactly I acted like I did, other than to say when the butting occurred and I thought I might lose because of a severely — of a cut above my eye, I just snapped," Tyson said afterwards, as recalled by NPR.

Tyson was eventually fined $3 million — about one-tenth of his total earnings from the fight — and was also stripped of his Nevada boxing licence (which he regained just a year later).

It took a few decades, but Tyson and Holyfield eventually buried the hatchet. In 2022, the pair went into business together to sell their own branded line of cannabis edibles, hilariously called Holy Ears. Tyson, who already launched his own line of THC-infused edibles called Mike Bites, said in a statement, "From Mike Bites to Holy Ears, now cannabis fans around the world can experience the same wellness benefits that plant-based products have brought me."

Tie Domi beat up a fan — inside the penalty box

During his 16-year hockey career (playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers and the Winnipeg Jets) Tie Domi earned a reputation as one of the NHL's most brutally effective enforcers, spending 3,515 minutes in the penalty box — the third-highest time in league history. In fact, one of Domi's most notorious moments occurred while he was sitting in the box, during a 2001 game between the Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers. While serving his time in the box during the third period, Philly fans taunted him relentlessly, even throwing objects at him. Domi responded by spraying water at them from his water battle, over the glass partition separating them. One angry fan, Chris Falcone, lunged into the box and took a swing at Domi. As he kept swinging while leaning on the glass, the partition shattered and he fell into the penalty box. 

Domi proceeded to do what he did best, leaving Falcone requiring stitches. He was also issued a police citation. "They threw stuff at me. Once was enough," Domi said afterwards, as reported by Leafs Nation. "After the second one, I told the guy in the penalty box that after one more I was going to squirt water. So I squirted water. I didn't plan on fighting anybody." The way Domi saw it, Falcone discovered the consequences of figuratively poking the bear. "Hey, he comes into my territory that's what happens," Domi explained.

Former teammates Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson start a brawl

Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning had been teammates when they both played for the Charlotte Hornets, where they reportedly established something of a rivalry. When the two subsequently went to other teams — Johnson to the Miami Heat and Mourning to the New York Knicks — that rivalry heated up considerably then their teams faced off against each other during the 1998 NBA Finals. In the final moments of Game 4, the two got into a tussle on the court, leading to shoves and then punches being thrown. 

Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and player Charles Oakely jumped into the fracas to try to break up the fight, with Oakley trying to restrain Mourning's arms while Van Gundy doggedly grabbed onto Mourning's leg. When the dust settled, both players were suspended for two games. In addition, Johnson was hit with a $10,000 fine, with Mourning fined double that amount, his punishment for punching first.

Years later, Mourning looked back on the incident and expressed his admiration for Van Gundy's tenacity at breaking up the brawl. "When Jeff came out to protect his players, I admired that. At that time, he felt like a piece of gum on my shoe but I was trying to shake him off. He was wrapped around [my leg] and holding on for dear life," Mourning said during an appearance on "NBA on ESPN."

Tree Rollins nearly chomped off Danny Ainge's finger

Mike Tyson isn't the only professional athlete to be busted for biting an opponent. During a 1983 game between the NBA's Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks, Celtics player Danny Ainge was talking trash and getting physical with Atlanta's Tree Rollins. Rollins eventually had enough, and expressed his annoyance with a stiff elbow to Ainge's skull. Ainge responded by tackling Rollins to the ground, where the two engaged in a vicious fistfight.  During the fracas, Rollins bit Ainge's finger (he later claimed he thought Ainge was trying to jab him in the eye with it). Ainge was fined $1,000, while Rollins' fine was $5,000. 

Looking back at the incident nearly 30 years later, Ainge jokingly told the Boston Herald, "The best part of it was my tackle. It was good. I'm seriously surprised that, after watching me tackle Tree, [New England Patriots head coach Bill] Belichick hasn't called me to come in and teach his defensive backs how to make tackles." 

According to Ainge, he still has a scar on his finger from Rollins' teeth, but insisted that the whole thing has long since become water under the bridge for both of them. "I mean, I hold zero grudges. I don't care about all that," said Ainge. "I don't have any issues with him. It's just something that happened in the heat of the moment."

Todd Bertuzzi attacked an opponent so viciously he was charged with assault

Hockey brawls are hardly uncommon — heck, Canadian hockey commentator Don Cherry created his own cottage industry with his "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Hockey" highlight videos — yet there are some that stand out for their sheer brutality and viciousness. 

Case in point: a 2004 game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche turned into utter mayhem after Canucks right winger Todd Bertuzzi threw a sucker punch at Avalanche player Steve Moore, kicking off a massive melee when players from both teams piled on and the referees struggled to break up the battle. Moore's injuries were so severe he was taken away on a stretcher and rushed to a hospital; the medical report detailed a lengthy list of injuries that included fractured vertebrae, a concussion, facial lacerations, and even amnesia. Not only was Bertuzzi suspended indefinitely (he was reinstated 17 months later), he was subsequently charged with assault. Bertuzzi pled gulity, and was sentenced to a year's probation, along with 80 hours performing community service. 

Meanwhile, Moore hit Bertuzzi with a civil suit, seeking a staggering $68 million in damages. Ten years after the incident, Bertuzzi reached an out-of-court settleent with Moore in 2014 for an undisclosed sum. "I lost my entire career in my rookie year," Moore told CBC News of why he chose to sue. "I think any player put in that situation would do the same thing."

Delmon Young hurled his bat at an umpire

In 2006, Delmon Young was considered a top prospect for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays while playing for the International League's Durham Bulls. However, that came into question after a shocking display of disrespectful conduct during a Bulls game against the Pawtucket Red Sox. After being struck out, Young disputed the umpire's call and refused to budge from the batter's box as he glared angrily at the ump. "He stood there, looking back for a long period of time, maybe 30 seconds," Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard told "I've learned since, from the Pawtucket catcher [Corky Miller], that the umpire told him to go back and he wouldn't go." Young finally began walking back to the Bulls dugout, then turned and threw his bat directly at the umpire, striking the official in the chest. 

Young received a 50-game suspension, without pay — the longest-ever suspension in league history, costing him about $145,000 in lost wages. Young issued a statement of apology for what he'd done. "I'd like to say I'm sorry for this incident," Young said, as reported by the New York Times. "I do regret this situation." Young insisted he didn't have issues related to anger management, but had simply become caught up in the heat of a moment over a strike call he thought was totally wrong. "I'm competitive," Young told ESPN. "I just let the emotions get a little better than me sometimes. I've got to control that."

Tonya Harding's husband hired a goon to kneecap Nancy Kerrigan

The story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan has become ingrained in the pop-culture consciousness, inspiring news reports, TV specials and even the Oscar-winning feature film "I, Tonya," starring Margot Robbie. Back in 1994, figure skater Tonya Harding and rival Nancy Kerrigan were slated to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team at the trials in Detroit. Prior to the competition, a man approached Kerrigan and smashed her in the knee with what was later proven to be a telescopic nightstick-style baton. 

The assailant was later identified as Shawn Eckhart, hired by Harding's husband, Jeff Gillooly, to injure Kerrigan in order to prevent her from competing at the Olympics in Lillehammer and thus clearing the path for Harding. Despite Kerrigan's injury, the plan failed; both skaters ended up on the U.S. team, with Kerrigan ultimately winning a silver medal and Harding coming in eighth.

After an FBI investigation, Gillooly and Eckhart entered guilty pleas to charges of racketeering, sentenced to two years and 18 months in prison, respectively. Harding claimed to have no knowledge of her husband's scheme, but wound up pleading guilty to a charge of conspiring to hinder prosecution; she was fined $160,000, placed on probation for three years, and sentenced to 500 hours of community service. Harding's skating career ended at age 24 when the United States Figure Skating Association issued a lifetime ban that prevented her from ever competing again.

The infamous Malice at the Palace

November 19, 2004 is a notorious date in basketball history, thanks to the series of events that took place during a Detroit Pistons home game against Indiana Pacers at the Palace of Auburn Hills. In the game's final seconds, with Indiana leading 97-82, Pacers star Ron Artest (who would later change his name to Metta World Peace) bumped Pistons player Ben Wallace, who retaliated by pushing Artest. Suddenly, players and coaching staff from both teams jumped up from the bench onto the court. The situation escalated when someone in the stands flung a cup of beer at Artest, who hightailed it into the crowd, followed by teammate Stephen Jackson. Pacers player Jermaine O'Neal began swinging at spectators who jumped on the court as a full-on battle between players and fans erupted, ending when police arrived to break things up.

Afterwards in the locker room, Artest asked Jackson if he thought they might be in trouble. "Jamaal Tinsley fell out laughing," Jackson recalled in a 2012 interview with Grantland. "I said, 'Are you serious, bro? Trouble? Ron, we'll be lucky if we have a freaking job.'"

Artest was suspended for the rest of the season's 73 games, without pay, the longest-ever suspension in NBA history and costing Artest $5 million in lost salary. The other players involved were also suspended with various levels of severity. The infamous brawl, dubbed Malice at the Palace, formed the basis of a 2021 Netflix documentary.