The shady side of Cris Carter

Cris Carter never did get that Super Bowl ring, but he ended up adding an even better item to his wardrobe — a gold jacket. The fact that the Ohio-born wide receiver was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite the fact that he never won a championship is a testament to his skill as a player. He had a whopping 130 career touchdowns to his name when he hung up his helmet for the last time in 2002, putting him in the top ten touchdown leaders in NFL history. He's without a doubt one of the all time greats, but his journey to "football heaven," as he called it during his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech, wasn't exactly a smooth one.

Carter almost blew his career on a number of occasions over the years. The gifted wide receiver made some pretty poor decisions during his early days in the game, and his sketchy behavior seems to have resurfaced in recent times, too. It's time to examine the shady side of Cris Carter.

Cris Carter punched a girl when he was in school

Cris Carter didn't have it easy growing up in a housing project in Middletown, Ohio. When he sat down with Pioneer Press sports columnist Bob Sansevere after his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2013, the retired wide receiver revealed that he and his six siblings often went hungry. "Man, we were so poor," Carter said. "Whatever was there we ate for breakfast. We had school breakfast. For 10 cents, you'd get a doughnut and a cup of milk at school. I didn't have no standard breakfast at my house." Being hangry is no excuse for what he did to a fellow student, however.

When Carter was asked about the worst thing he did as a child, he admitted that he lashed out at a female classmate after she accidentally bumped into him. "I punched a girl in the third grade," the former Minnesota Vikings man revealed. "I had a broken leg at the time, and she kind of knocked me off my crutches trying to get to the cafeteria." As Carter himself would say: C'mon, man!

Did Cris Carter get his Ohio State coach fired?

Cris Carter could have chosen to follow in his big brother Clarence "Butch" Carter's footsteps. According to CantonRep.com, the elder Carter was a star player for Indiana University Bloomington before playing and coaching in the NBA. Cris chose football and attended Ohio State where he made a big impact on the field during his first season in a Buckeyes jersey. His potential didn't go unnoticed by sketchy agents Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who signed Carter to a contract before his senior season, breaking NCAA rules. Carter was ruled ineligible after news of secret payments from Walters and his associates came to light, and the Buckeyes suffered as a result.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, this was the beginning of the end for coach Earle Bruce. With his star player out of the picture, Bruce couldn't deliver the results, and the respected coach was let go. "Ohio State, first of all, to all the Buckeyes fans, from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely apologize for me signing with a sports agent and losing my eligibility my senior year," Carter said during his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech. "That is the only regret I have in my athletic career — is that I couldn't play for the Buckeyes as a senior. Buckeyes fans, Cris Carter says 'I'm sorry.'"

Cris Carter lied to a grand jury

Cris Carter went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, who picked the wide receiver up in the 4th round of the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft. He was hoping to put the college contract scandal behind him when he arrived at his new team, but he was dragged back into it when Norby Walters and his partner Lloyd Bloom were investigated over racketeering and mail fraud. The opportunistic pair made under the table contracts with a number of college athletes, and were both jailed as a result, but Carter was the only player who wound up getting charged.

Carter initially denied that he'd signed on the dotted line with Walters while he was still playing college football, but after his big brother and role model Clarence "Butch" Carter convinced him to come clean, he confessed to obstruction of justice and mail fraud. According to the Los Angeles Times, the star wide receiver was "fined $15,000 and ordered to complete 600 hours of community service" for lying to a grand jury over illegal payments he'd received from Bloom and Walters via another agent, Dave Lueddeke, who was also indicted in the scheme. At the time of the investigation, Carter claimed in a statement that he was "cooperating fully," and "could only say that I regret my past mistakes."

Addiction tainted Cris Carter's early NFL days

Cris Carter delivered on the field during his three seasons with The Philadelphia Eagles, but off the field, he was spiraling out of control. He later admitted that he was "regularly abusing alcohol and cocaine" during the late 1980s, but he managed to keep his destructive lifestyle hidden from public view. He couldn't hide his drug abuse from his team, however. "In the summer of 1990, cocaine caused me to fail my third drug test," he said in a piece he penned for the Ambrosia Treatment Center. "Buddy Ryan, the coach of the Eagles at the time, had enough. I was released from the team after just three seasons."

Carter wasn't willing to admit that he had a problem before this point, but word of his drug abuse was starting to spread to other teams, and Carter was forced to face his demons head on. It turned out that being dropped from the Eagles was the wake up call that he sorely needed. "What Buddy Ryan did was the best thing that ever happened for me when he cut me and told me I couldn't play for his football team," Carter said when he took the stage during his Hall of Fame enshrinement. When Ryan passed in 2016, Carter tweeted that his former coach had "saved [his] life with tough love."

Cris Carter gave some truly terrible advice to rookies

Cris Carter was a speaker at the 2014 NFL rookie symposium, an event that was set up to offer valuable advice about off-field issues to drafted players. Carter did the exact opposite of that. The Hall of Famer's comments caused outrage in the football community — he told the impressionable young players in attendance that they needed to get themselves a "fall guy" so they could avoid any legal troubles. "Ya'll not going to all do the right stuff now, so I've got to teach ya'll how to get around all this stuff," Carter said. "If you're going to have a crew, one of them fools got to know he going to jail. ... If you're going to have a crew, make sure they understand, can't nothing happen to you. Your name can't be in lights, under no circumstances. Alright? You all understand that?"

Chris Borland, who famously retired from the NFL after his rookie season over fears he would end up with brain damage and mental health issues in later life, was in the audience that day. According to ESPN, the former San Francisco 49ers linebacker was appalled by what he was hearing. "I was just sitting there thinking, 'Should I walk out? What am I supposed to do?'" the third round draft pick said.

The NFL distanced itself from Cris Carter

When the video of Cris Carter advising rookies to get a "fall guy" circulated online in 2015, the NFL was put in a difficult position. Carter has been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame the year before he made these comments, and yet here he was offering up some truly terrible advice to freshly drafted players. The league decided to distance itself from the Hall of Famer, calling his words "unfortunate and inappropriate" in a statement.

"The comment was not representative of the message of the symposium or any other league program," the statement read (via Pro Football Talk). "The league's player engagement staff immediately expressed concern about the comment to Cris. The comment was not repeated in the 2014 AFC session or this year's symposium." Speaking on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown, Carter said that his "heart was in the right place" when he said what he said, but he admitted that his words were wholly inappropriate and apologized for them.

"I didn't use words that I was very, very proud of," he said. "It's not the type of advice I would offer young people. I would never tell young people to break the law to avoid prosecution. It was bad advice. I really, really regret my words when I heard them come back to me." ESPNCarter's then-employer, also condemned its analyst's remarks, telling ABC News that it "completely disagrees" with them.

Did Cris Carter dump the Vikings for selfish reasons?

After Cris Carter was cut by The Philadelphia Eagles he was picked up by The Minnesota Vikings, who helped the troubled wide receiver get his personal and professional life back on track. He thanked the team profusely during his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech, telling Vikings fans that "there was never a time in Minnesota [he] felt uncomfortable." But if that was really the case, would he have voided his contract the way he did? The truth (according to Associated Press writer John Krawczynski) is that he dumped the Vikings in 2002, because he was more interested in winning a Super Bowl than he was about ending his career with the team that made him a legend.

"It appeared Carter was going to sign with the St. Louis Rams in early March, but that ended when he had to delay an appointment with Rams coaches and players because he was in Cleveland trying to reach a deal with the Browns," Krawczynski claimed, per the Arizona Daily Sun. "The Cleveland deal fell through, the Rams said no thanks, and so did the Miami Dolphins. Suddenly, a likely Hall of Famer was left without a team." Carter decided to join HBO as a pundit, but (just like he did with the Vikings), he left the network in the lurch when Miami finally tabled an offer. He played one season at the Dolphins before retiring — without his Super Bowl ring — for good.

What happened with Cris Carter's job at Fox Sports?

In November 2019, Cris Carter was fired from his job on Fox Sports' morning debate show First Things First, which he had co-hosted with Jenna Wolfe and Nick Wright since 2017. The Big Lead was the first to break the news that things had become strained between the Hall of Famer and the network, revealing that Carter had been suspended pending an investigation. The catalyst of that investigation was unclear, but we now know that his suspension became permanent. "Cris Carter is no longer with Fox Sports," the network said in a statement, relayed by reporter John Ourand in a tweet. "There is no further comment at this time."

Two separate sources confirmed to The Big Lead that Carter "cleaned out his desk at Fox Sports" under the watchful eye of security. According to Front Office Sports, the former Eagles and Vikings receiver was upset about not being offered a role on Fox's Thursday Night Football, and he ended up losing his temper with network bosses about it. "I was told it was bad," an insider said. The New York Post later reported that sources said "the matter at hand is more serious" than just Fox's Thursday Night Football snub. 

As of this writing, the full story is yet to emerge, but it appears as though Carter got too big for his boots and took on the big wigs and Fox — and, evidently, lost.