Sports Stars Who Are Currently Behind Bars

Usually, when a professional athlete walks away from sports, they either retire because that person can't dominate any longer, like Michael Jordan, or they leave after suffering a tragic injury like Bo Jackson, who retired from pro football after getting hit in a 1990 playoff game. Or maybe they just doesn't get enjoyment out of the game anymore, like former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck admitted when he retired at 29 years old.

There are other pro athletes, however, who were forced to stop playing their sport after committing a heinous crime, and then receiving a lengthy prison sentence for it. In many cases, athletes have committed crimes because of their finances, but others have gotten violent and even committed murder. 

Regardless of their offenses or why they committed them, these professional sports stars had the world in the palm of their hands, and they lost it all (or threw it all away) due to their own misdeeds.

Former sports star Eric Naposki was involved in a love triangle

If there's one thing that can be learned from former NFL player Eric Naposki's case, it's that time won't necessarily shield you from being held accountable for a past crime. On May 20, 2009, Naposki — who was a linebacker for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts — was arrested in Greenwich, Conn. for killing millionaire businessman Bill McLaughlin 15 years prior, as Oxygen describes. 

But let's back up. As police were conducting their initial investigation inside McLaughlin's Newport Beach, Calif. home in 1994, his girlfriend, Nanette Johnston, arrived and was emotionally distraught. Authorities didn't have any solid leads until they stopped Naposki's vehicle on a traffic warrant and found a notebook with McLaughlin's license plate number written inside of it. However, nothing came of the case at this point, and Naposki resumed his football career, playing for the Barcelona Dragons in Europe's World League, then settling down in Connecticut with a wife and two kids. Still, things eventually caught up to him. 

And remember Johnston? Per Oxygen, Police later said that she was romantically involved with Naposki while engaged to McLaughlin, and that they "conspired to kill McLaughlin for his money." In 2011, Naposki was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison, while Johnston received the same sentence one year later. He admitted to Sports Illustrated, "Since the early '90's, my decision-making has just been poor. Not violent, just impatient — bad choices and no threshold for certain behavior by others." Naposki denied his guilt to CBS News, referring to himself as "collateral damage" in the case.

Darren Sharper lived a dark life behind the scenes before landing in prison

Darren Sharper started his professional sports career as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Then he played for the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints, where he won a Super Bowl, before retiring in 2011 and becoming an analyst for the NFL Network. But these days, Sharper is most known for raping at least 16 women in four states, and in 2016 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

According to USA Today, Sharper was first indicted for rape in New Orleans in 2013, after it was said he drugged and raped two women with his friend, Erik Nunez. The New Orleans Advocate reports that Sharper plied women with drugs like Valium, Ambien, Xanax, and ecstasy before sexually assaulting them. He was also accused of drugging and raping women in California, Arizona, as well as Las Vegas. Besides Nunez, former police officer Brandon Licciardi was also named as an accomplice, as he reportedly supplied the drugs, as well. Licciardi was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2016, while Nunez received 10 years. In addition to his 20-year sentence, Sharper was also sentenced to 18 years and 4 months by a Louisiana state judge, and his sentences will run concurrently. 

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit for additional resources.

Randall Woodfield became known as the I-5 killer

Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Woodfield eventually developed a nickname that made headlines, per Sports Illustrated. But the name had zero to do with being a member of the Packers, because he was cut in training camp. Instead, Woodfield was dubbed the "I-5 Killer" for committing several murders in Oregon, Washington, and California, because I-5 is the name of the highway that connects all three states. 

Woodfield began committing crimes early on and was arrested in high school for "exposing himself in public," according to The Bozho. After being cut by the Packers, he worked for a truck company in Wisconsin, before returning to his home state of Oregon where his I-5 crimes began. By the time Woodfield was convicted of shooting and killing 20-year-old Shari Hull in an office building in 1981, he was linked to five additional murders through DNA, per Oregon Live. However, it's suspected that he may have killed many more. 

At 30 years old, Woodfield was sentenced to life in prison, plus 90 years, which he's been serving out in the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Dave Meggett went from a Super Bowl champ to a prison inmate

In November 2010, Dave Meggett, who was a running back and punt returner for the New York Giants, New England Patriots, and New York Jets, was sentenced to 30 years for first-degree criminal sexual conduct and first-degree burglary after raping a female college student in South Carolina, per ESPN. However, legal problems for Meggett began shortly after he stopped playing in the NFL: In 1998, he was arrested in Toronto for assaulting an escort, but the trial ended in a hung jury. He was later accused of sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend in North Carolina and received two years of probation for it in 2007.

According to The Post and Courier, the aforementioned college student, who gave testimony during the 2010 trial, said that she and Meggett had consensual sex eight months before the assault, and that he had also loaned her $200. But on Jan. 13, 2009, he asked her to return the money, but she couldn't afford it. According to the victim, "He told me he was going to take a down payment now," before attacking her.

In 2013, it was reported that Meggett wanted the conviction in his 2009 rape case to either be thrown out or to have a new trial, per The Post and Courier. The disgraced football player claimed that his attorney didn't properly prepare during the trial, thus making him ineffective counsel. However, Meggett's request was shot down.

Sports star Oscar Pistorius admitted to shooting his girlfriend

It seems like sprinter Oscar Pistorius destroyed his career in an instant, as he was surrounded in success one second, and the next, he was sobbing in South Africa's Pretoria High Court. On Feb. 14, 2013, Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in his Pretoria home, but claimed that he thought she was a criminal intruder. There was a media frenzy surrounding his trial, which makes sense since Pistorius, who's a double-amputee, was a decorated athlete who wowed crowds at both the Paralympic and Olympic Games.

At the end of his trial, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide and was initially given a five-year prison sentence, per Reuters. After serving just 10 months, he was given permission to serve the rest of his time on house arrest. However, Justice Minister Michael Masutha eventually blocked his release, saying there was "no legal basis" for the parole board to free Pistorius. In 2016, after prosecutors claimed that the initial sentence was too lenient, the Supreme Court of Appeal upgraded the sports star's charge from culpable homicide to murder, and a judge sentenced him to six years

But that wouldn't be the last time Pistorius would be sentenced for shooting Steenkamp, because the Supreme Court of Appeal handed him a sentence of 13 years and five months after the government contested his six-year sentence, according to NPR. Pistorius was released from prison in January of 2024.

Hardbody Harrison was convicted of sex trafficking

When former pro wrestler Hardbody Harrison's career didn't work out as planned, he allegedly became a pimp, got into sex trafficking, and is now serving a life sentence in prison. After getting an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in 1995, the Georgia native became a jobber — a person who often loses matches to a wrestler who's a main draw — in World Championship Wrestling, per IGN. Unfortunately, despite winning the heavyweight championship in 2000 on FX's "Toughman," Harrison wasn't offered a new contract when the WCW was bought by the WWE's Vince McMahon the following year. 

Eventually, Harrison turned to a life of crime to make ends meet. At the time of his arrest, it was said that several women lived in his home against their will and were forced to do sex acts in addition to doing household chores. Pro Wrestling Stories reports that the former sports star created a debt system to keep them under his reign. 

Harrison served as his own lawyer during his trial and claimed the women lived with him because they were training to be wrestlers. But his argument didn't sway the jurors, who found him guilty of several charges, including sex trafficking, aggravated sexual abuse, and forced labor in 2007.

Jon 'War Machine' Koppenhaver was sentenced to life behind bars

Although Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver made a name for himself as a mixed martial artist in Bellator and the UFC, he'll probably forever be associated with severely beating his ex-girlfriend, Christine Mackinday (professionally known as Christy Mack), and the man she was dating at the time, Corey Thomas, on Aug. 8th, 2014. Rolling Stone reports that Koppenhaver and Mack dated for years before the vicious crime was committed, but things ended because the ex-fighter allegedly had a bad temper and was physically abusive. 

On the night of the attack, it's said that Koppenhaver entered Mackinday's Las Vegas home without permission and beat up Thomas, leaving him with several injuries, including a broken nose and dislocated shoulder. Koppenhaver then told Thomas — who was a castmate on VH1's "Megan Wants a Millionaire" — to leave, and he began savagely beating Mack, leaving her with a badly ruptured liver, fractured rib, broken nose, broken teeth, and 10 broken bones, as HuffPost reported. 

The fallen fighter was eventually arrested in a hotel room in Simi Valley, Calif., and is now serving his life sentence in Nevada's Ely State Prison.

Bertil Fox fell from bodybuilder grace to life in prison

Former bodybuilder Bertil Fox's fall was a major one, considering he had a 25-year career and won titles with the National Amateur Body-Builders' Association and Amateur Athletic Union, before being convicted of murder in 1998. It was reported that on Sep. 30, 1997, Fox shot and killed his former fiancée, Leyoca Browne, and her mother, Violet, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, where he was born. The shooting took place in Violet's dress shop, according to Sports Illustrated, but Fox claimed that his gun went off by mistake when he and Violet were fighting for it.

Fox was convicted of the double murder on May 22, 1998, and was sentenced to be hanged — but that was halted after a successful appeal was made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Instead, he was given a life sentence. "I've never been in prison before," the former Mr. Universe told Sports Illustrated. "I'm locked up all day. I come out to shower in the morning and come out to shower at night. I work out in the cell. That's all there is to do. I've never been in trouble in my life. Overnight, I'm a monster."

Clifford Etienne lost his freedom after going on a crime spree

For a while there, former boxer Clifford Etienne turned his life around after being sent to prison for armed robbery and being paroled in 1998. While he was locked up, he took up boxing and got pretty darn good at it. In time, Etienne won the state prison boxing championship, according to WAFB 9, and his success continued after he was released because he fought professionally. Eventually, he racked up an impressive record of 29 wins, four losses, and two draws. He even fought Mike Tyson on Feb. 22, 2003, but got knocked out.

Despite the loss, Etienne would probably refer to that time of his life as the good old days, because just three years later, he was convicted of several charges, including attempted second-degree murder, after stealing nearly $2,000 from a check cashing business in Baton Rouge, La. ESPN reports that he also stole a couple of cars that were occupied by children at the time, and he tried to shoot two police officers, but his gun jammed. 

During his trial, Etienne's legal team claimed that he was high on drugs while committing those crimes and couldn't discern right from wrong due to having brain trauma from boxing. The jury didn't buy it, however, and he was sentenced to 150 years behind bars. This sentence later got reduced to 105 years, per The Advocate.

Sports star Gavin Grant was said to be involved in gang activity

Gavin Grant overcame a lot, he grew up in a tough part of London's Harlesden section and went on to play professional soccer for Millwall, Wycombe Wanderers, and Bradford City. But everything came crashing down for the rising sports star, who many said had loads of potential, because he was convicted of murder in 2010 for shooting 21-year-old Leon Labastide, per Brent & Kilburn Times. Grant was given a sentence that has a minimum of 25 years, while two others, Gareth Downie and Damian Williams, were also convicted for the shooting and given the same amount of time.

The Guardian reports that Labastide was killed in "a series of tit-for-tat shootings," as the neighborhood used to be a hotbed for gang activity. Labastide and a group of others reportedly stormed into the house of Grant's best friend, Romain Whyte, and stole £20,000. Grant, Downie, and Williams then went looking for Labastide, and when they found him, he was shot six times. 

"Leon was a keen footballer who shared his passion for the game with all who knew him. He loved life," said Labastide's mother in a statement that was published by BBC News. "His senseless killing by so-called friends who grew up with him has left it hard for me to understand the futility of snatching Leon's future whilst, in the same breath, destroying their own."

Keith Wright found himself behind bars after getting into home invasions

When Keith Wright was selected by the Houston Texans in 2003 as the NFL's final pick of the sixth round, per ESPN, there probably weren't a lot of people who suspected he'd take such a long downfall, but that's exactly what happened. He'd been a standout defensive lineman at the University of Missouri before being drafted to the NFL. After his run with the Texans, he played for the Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Arizona Cardinals. He ended his career in 2006 with the Detroit Lions.

In 2013, Wright received a prison sentence of 234 years and 8 months after committing three home robberies in Sacramento while armed. In addition to stealing money and people's belongings, according to CBS Sacramento, Wright reportedly sexually assaulted one of his victims after making her drive him to two ATMs to get money. Thankfully, he was caught after trying to exchange some foreign currency he took from one of the residences. There were also stolen items found in his home. 

In the end, Wright was charged with armed robbery, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, false imprisonment, and forcible oral copulation.

Sports star Craig Titus and his wife became fugitives

In 2008, bodybuilder Craig Titus was given a prison sentence of between 21 and 55 years for killing his personal assistant in Las Vegas. His wife, former Ms. Fitness America Kelly Ryan, was also arrested. That's because in 2005, the couple's 28-year-old assistant, Melissa James, was found killed and burned inside of Ryan's Jaguar. According to True Crime Daily, James had also been injected with a fatal dose of morphine. Meanwhile, Oxygen reports that a taser was used on her, and she was beaten. 

Titus later claimed to police that his assistant injected herself with morphine, and the couple played dumb when they learned she was found inside the Jaguar. But surveillance footage caught Ryan buying "seven bottles of lighter fluid" at a Walmart not far from the murder scene. The couple then left Las Vegas for Boston, and it took authorities nine days to track the duo down. They admitted to burning her body. And their reasoning? They didn't want the body to be found or identified because it would sully their careers. Prior to the gruesome crime, Titus and Ryan were a power couple — and not just because they both had bulging muscles — who were well-known in the fitness world, often landing in magazines together. 

For her role, Ryan was sentenced to between six and 26 years behind bars, but was released on parole in 2017. Her husband will be eligible for parole in December 2026.

Henry Ruggs killed someone in a car crash

Henry Ruggs III was bound for greatness in the NFL. He was the first wide receiver to be selected in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 12th overall pick. The rookie played in 13 games his first season and saw the football field for only seven games his second season after being involved in a deadly car crash that ultimately ruined his career.

On November 21, 2021, Ruggs was driving his Chevy Corvette at speeds of over 150 mph when his vehicle slammed into another car outside of Las Vegas. The second car burst into flames, and the driver, 23-year-old Tina Tintor, along with her dog, Max, were burned to death in their vehicle. That same day, the Raiders released Ruggs. The former football star pled guilty to DUI, resulting in death, and was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. He is serving his sentence at the Stewart Conservation Camp in Carson City, Nevada. There, the athlete makes $2.50 an hour, nothing compared to the millions he made as an NFL star.

Kellen Winslow II is a serial sex offender

Professional athlete Kellen Winslow II bounced around the NFL as a tight end, having been drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2004. After four seasons with the team, he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, and New York Jets before being suspended in 2013 for performing-enhancing substances. Although he tried to make a comeback, no team wanted Winslow. In 2019, Winslow's depraved life was exposed after he was convicted of serious and heinous sex crimes.

That year, Winslow was convicted of rape, indecent exposure, and a lewd act against three women. The former NFL player received a sentence of 14 years. Winslow was also accused of and went to trial for two other crimes, which included the rape of a 17-year-old woman in 2003. Both trials resulted in a hung jury.

In 2023, Winslow, incarcerated in a state prison in Tehachapi, California, spoke to USA Today to state that he was trying to reduce his prison sentence. In his interview, the athlete stated that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (a brain disease found in athletes), which may have caused him to act out in the ways that he did. The disgraced athlete also felt that he was racially targeted. However, he has yet to express guilt for his actions.

Darryl Henley plotted murder in prison

Darryl Henley really could have had it all while playing in the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams selected the former cornerback in the 1989 NFL Draft, and he showed significant promise. The athlete signed a whopping $600,000 contract during his third season with the Rams, and his life (and bank account) only went up from there. But it all came crashing down in 1995 when he was arrested and convicted of drug conspiracy and possession charges. The former star cornerback was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Two years later, Henley was given an extra 21 years on top of his 20-year sentence. Bribing a prison guard to smuggle a phone for him in his cell, Henley plotted to kill the judge who presided over his case as well as a Rams cheerleader-turned-witness who was 19 when she helped Henley smuggle suitcases of cocaine across the country. Henley is serving out what's left of his 41-year sentence at The Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.

Henley has had a lot of time to think about his actions in prison. In a 2018 op-ed for Fox News, the former sports star shared that he had met with a reverend and rabbi who had "confirmed to me that I have worth and that there is a God who sees me, cares and doesn't hold me in a prison of eternal condemnation."

Mark Rogowski committed a horrific murder

Mark Rogowski was a skateboarding icon in the 1980s. He was 14 years old when he became a professional skateboarder, and by 17, Rogowski was earning $100,000 a year for his competition wins and endorsements, including having the bestselling "Gator" skateboard designed by Vision, who sponsored him. However, when the '90s rolled around and people were beginning to become more interested in street skating, Rogowski fell off the map.

Rogowski became self-destructive and pompous, and he got in trouble with the law. In addition, his girlfriend left him for a surfer. It all went downhill from there. The once-acclaimed skateboarder's life took a drastic turn when he was convicted of the rape and murder of his ex-girlfriend's friend, Jessica Bergsten, in March 1991. Rogowski was sentenced to 31 years to life for the gruesome murder.   

Rogowski was granted parole in 2019 and 2022, but it was reversed both times by California Governor Gavin Newsom. 

Sergio Mitre was convicted of killing a toddler

Sergio Mitre pitched for four MLB teams between 2003 and 2011, beginning his career with the Chicago Cubs and ending it with the New York Yankees. He later signed with the Mexican Baseball League and was an active player until 2019. The following year, Mitre was charged with a horrendous crime. 

According to Mexican magazine Proceso, in July 2020, Mitre was charged with the murder of the 22-month-old daughter of his former girlfriend. The child was rushed to Saltillo Children's Hospital in Mexico by her mother, with the report stating that the child was "in terrible health conditions," including having "a series of blows from different colorations all over the body; among them the so-called "raccoon eyes" that were formed by a severe blow that she received and caused a fracture at the base of her skull." She died at the hospital of hypovolemic shock.

Mitre was sentenced to 50 years in a Mexican prison for the crime. 

Brandon Browner attacked his ex-girlfriend

Ex-NFL player Brandon Browner may be best known as one of the founding members of the Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom defense of the early 2010s. Made up of powerhouse defensive linemen, including Browner, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, among others. The Seahawks looked to be one of the best teams in the league, which they would prove by winning Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos in 2013. The following year, Browner played for the New England Patriots and, again, took his team to the Super Bowl, winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy against his former team.

Browner ended his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints in 2015. In 2018, he was arrested for breaking and entering the home of his ex-girlfriend in California, where he "chased her, dragged her and then smothered her in a carpet," per TMZ. Browner was charged with attempted murder and two misdemeanor counts of child cruelty, as her two children were present when the horrific crime occurred. The former sports star pleaded no contest. In December 2018, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He is serving his sentence at Wasco State Prison near Bakersfield in California.