Athletes Who Treat Their Fans Like Trash

Is the life of professional athletes not glorious? According to U.S. News, one of the highest paying professions, a surgeon, makes about $208,000 per year. Compare that to Irish UFC superstar Conor McGregor, who topped Forbes' 2021 list of highest-paid athletes with a total earning of $180 million, and what do you get? But beyond the money, pro athletes are often privileged to notoriety, fame, and adulation. When you look up "dream jobs" in the dictionary, "pro-athlete" should absolutely be at the top of the list. So why is it that athletes, retired and active, have a nasty track record of being unappreciative to their fans?

For the record straight, It's the fans — not owners or commissioners — who run the money show in sports. From merchandise to ticket sales, its fandom and loyalty of the consumers that drives the industry. Just peep what happened in 2020 when the pandemic hit, forcing a U.S. lockdown that had fans at home: according to Forbes, the estimated revenue loss of the four major American professional sports leagues and the NCAA's March Madness was north of $14 billion. Sports teams' value estimates dipped too. Forbes estimated that NHL franchises values fell 2% on average, and NBA values rose only 4% — its smallest on average increase since 2010.

So, who are these culprits, and what is their deal? We're happy to spill: here are 13 athletes who treat fans poorly.

Michael Jordan's competitiveness gets the best of him

Michael Jordan is one of the sports G.O.A.T's. Not only does his Airness top almost every list as the greatest basketball player to have ever laced them up (unless they're a Lebron James purist), you can also catch the six-time champion, billionaire and owner of the Charlotte Hornets atop almost any list ranking the best to ever do it across any field of play.

So what's his beef with fans? It's not like they haven't been supportive. MJ still holds both the record for biggest NBA contract ever, including the best-selling NBA jersey of all time, yet hates taking pictures and has a history of being ruthless to fans just as he was to competitors back when he was in the league.

On the one hand, it's his competitiveness, as showcased in his "The Last Dance" documentary, where he infamously took everything personally. A group of kids at a Chris Paul camp witnessed this after the Phoenix Suns point guard bet Jordan that the entire basketball camp would get free Jordans if he missed three shots. Like a menace, Jordan sinks all the shots in a now-viral video that has even evolved into its own meme. The other part is, well, Jordan just doesn't seem to care. According to Boombox, Jordan responded, "I ain't taking pictures with no n***a," when platinum-recording rapper Chamillionaire asked for a picture.

Cam Newton's signature costs

Cam Newton, at one point, was one of the brightest NFL stars to grace the gridiron. We're talking about an athlete who went from playing junior college at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas and backing up Tim Tebow at the University of Florida to winning a Heisman and a national championship at the University of Auburn and taking the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. Given his down-to-earth underdog story, one would think Newton would be relatable to the average citizen. Well, whoever did think of such, thought so incorrectly.

It appears "Superman," as he's been affectionately nicknamed, truly doesn't believe he's from this earth, as there have been several instances the NFL career leader in quarterback rushing touchdowns has treated his supporters unfairly, from allegedly charging fans to sign photographs to getting into altercations with fans of opposing teams.

The photo incident, per ProFootballTalk, happened at a North Carolina mall where fans were charged $125 for a signed photograph, $150 for a football, and $175 for a jersey. Oh, and if you wanted a personal message, that was another $50. Mind you; this is a man with a net worth of $75 million. But wait, there's more: Flag & Cross reports that the former New England Patriot acted as if he was going to sign a young fan's item before faking them out and throwing it in the garbage can. Pure savagery.

Brian Urlacher says it plainly

"Two of the people I don't care about: fans or media," former Chicago Bears linebacker and NFL Hall-of-Famer Brian Urlacher reportedly said to the Chicago Tribune. He added that "criticism from fans" is known to annoy him "because those people don't know what they're talking about, obviously." Per ProFootBallTalk, the reaction was prompted after he was asked if fans and media would be critical of his then-head coach Lovie Smith following a 21-13 loss to the Packers.

Urlacher went on to say he was upset that the Bears were the "only team in our division that gets booed at home." It was "incredible" to him, he noted. But considering that some of the people who make up his fanbase make a fraction of what he makes as an NFL pro, it's a little confusing where Urlacher, who was the highest-paid player in Bears history at one point, gets his gumption from. We're not saying he's not allowed to be frustrated — we're all human at the end of the day, no matter how much we pull in — but publicly coming at your fanbase is another thing.

Rob Ray hates bets

Although research has shown different, people seem to still believe Canadians to be the nicest human beings on earth. Well, if more people knew about Former NHL star Rob Ray, that perception could possibly change rather quickly.

For starters, the Stirling, Ontario native used to get it in on the ice. Before entering the NHL, Ray racked up 700 penalty minutes in 125 games playing two full seasons with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League (AHL), according to Celebrity Hockey Classics. Then, once making his ​​NHL debut with the Sabres, his enforcer style continued, amassing a career of 2,687 penalty minutes — the most in NHL history for a player with one team. Overall, Ray would end his NHL career with 3,207 career penalty minutes, a feat marking him 6th overall in NHL history. Look, there's even a rule named after this man because he was beating players so badly.

If you're unfamiliar, and to get a sense of how ... not nice Ray was as a player, penalties in hockey could include anything from tripping, slashing, roughing, holding and high sticking, to fighting and making the other player bleed. Well, Ray took his enforcer role seriously (even with fans), as he once viciously beat a guy who approached him from the stands, while acting strangely. While reports say the fan's actions were due to a wager, Ray obviously didn't find it funny, hitting the fan a reported 17 to 18 times before the cops finally got there.

Ty Cobb is a Hall-of-Hater

The late great Hall of Famer, Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb, while great at the sport, was vile both on and off the field. Cobb played with the Detroit Tigers from 1905 to 1926 and earned a reputation as a "bigot with a short temper and a penchant for sadism," as the Detroit Metro Times once described. The same publication actually gathered statements from other local publications and former teammates, who described his style of play as "daring to the point of dementia" and "something like a war."

Some of his antics include sharpening his cleats then sliding feet-first into bases with his heel high — a feat that, to no surprise, gave him a career record for stealing home (54 times) — and attacking a Black groundskeeper because he thought his greeting was allegedly "too familiar."

If you get the sense that Cobb is racist, you're absolutely right. Arguably, his worse offense of all time came after a heckling fan who reportedly called him a "half-n****r" (via The Hardball Times). According to reports, an infuriated Cobb then took his sharpened cleats and proceeded to stomp the fan out. What makes it worse is that the fan in question had previously lost most of his fingers in an industrial accident and couldn't defend himself. But when dismayed fans tried to tell Cobb, he reportedly yelled that "he didn't care if the man had no feet."

Lance Armstrong is not sorry

Is there a clearer message to a fanbase that they're unappreciated — or hated, even — than an athlete's non-remorseful admission to cheating the sport they all are supposed to collectively love? Despite the pay and privilege disparity, doesn't it all come down to the love of the game at the end of the day? Or is that just a cheesy ​American sports drama? While, yes, Hollywood is mostly make-believe, wasn't the overall consensus not that Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston were portraying something real about sports culture? If so, it's certainly not the case for Lance Armstrong.

Forget the fact that Armstrong won seven straight Tour De France championships from 1999 through 2005 (the record is five); more importantly, the American cyclist had become a hero, as fans rallied around his story of beating an advanced testicular cancer. He even sold 100 million "LiveStrong" bracelets in eight years

And it's that kind of support that makes Armstrong's lack of remorse about using steroids that more shocking. In a sit-down with Oprah, he was anything but apologetic, saying, "Everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught" (via HuffPost). When asked how he handled a teammate's wife's doping accusations (Armstrong had called her a "fat, crazy b***h"), his response was: "I called you crazy. I called you a b**h. I called you all these things, but I never called you fat" (via ESPN). What a stand-up guy. 

Tiger Woods Is uptight

Unlike football, hockey, or even soccer, the sport of golf demands a certain type of respect from its fans. There aren't any "boos," screams come few and far between, and you certainly won't catch a section conducting "The Wave." The rolling green hills of a golf course is a quiet scene — a sacred environment of respect and silence. Similar to the game of tennis, pro golfers need concentration, whether it be a long drive or a put, and, over the decades, the game's fans have grown to respect this heritage.

So why is Tiger Woods, arguably golf's biggest figure over the past decade-plus, unappreciative of his loyal and disciplined fanbase? There have been several examples of how the man with 15 major championship victories has treated his fans poorly, from being rude to airport employees to ignoring former presidents. 

The airport incident resulted in a letter from a dentist in Providence, Rhode Island, who, according to GNN, "was offended by the behavior" of Woods' team. "We were quite a distance from your aircraft and the fact someone in your party had to admonish the airport workers for our presence is disgraceful!" the dentist wrote. Reportedly, someone on Woods' team told airport employees that they weren't supposed to be there when the golfer's plane touched down, presumably so Woods could arrive without running into a crowd of onlookers/fans. Another report says that Woods blew off Bill Clinton for the longest time after the president requested an autographed picture of them playing golf together, per Showbiz CheatSheet.

Floyd Mayweather might be tone-deaf

Floyd Mayweather is one of the highest-paid athletes of all time, having won over $1 billion in prize money over his career. "Money" Mayweather, as he's appropriately nicknamed, has, in his lifetime, purchased a $50,000 diamond iPod case, had a candy shop in his own house at one point, and, reportedly, buys underwear and sneakers every day (via Insider). To put it frankly, he's not hurting for loot.

So it was a surprise when talking to radio personality Kelly Mac, he confessed that he does not feel obligated to give to charities, specifically in Africa. "People say well, he got all this money, why is he not giving to Africa?" starts Mayweather. "Well, what has Africa given to us? What has Africa came and gave to my children and to my family? Things work two ways," he continued.

Floyd also might be tone-deaf, considering his stance on social issues. While people were boycotting Gucci due to blackface allegations over a controversial sweater, "Champ" (his other nickname) decided to buy them all up, telling TMZ, "I don't got nothing against nobody ... I support everybody. I like everybody. My thing is this, I like to live life and do what I like to do. I'm not no follower, I do what the f**k I wanna do. Because everybody says, "Wear this, or don't wear this.' I'm going to wear what the f**k I want to wear."

Kevin Durant claps back

"Spider-Man" has a famous line that transcends both comics and the silver screen into real life that goes: "With great power comes great responsibility." The phrase was spoken to Peter Parker by his Uncle Ben and works so well because it has a simple meaning: if you're in the position to do something, make sure that you do it for the good of others.

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, who averages about $40 million a year from basketball alone, has millions of followers both on Twitter and Instagram — something he doesn't particularly care for. To say the Maryland product is in a position of influence is an understatement, yet Durant shrugs off being a role model. In fact, the high road is a foreign land to the two-time champ, who will clap back at fans, former athletes and even kids, during games, on Twitter, Instagram, or wherever you come at him.

There's a video of the Brooklyn Nets star even telling one fan, after being told to "stop crying", to "shut yo a** up motherfu***r."

Barry Bonds was berserk

Barry Bonds doesn't really hide his disdain for fans, no matter how loyal and genuine of a supporter you are. According to Daily Camera, one fan, for example, once lamented to Bonds that he'd been trying to get his autograph for years only to get the response: "I want you to keep your streak active." In another instance, the San Francisco slugger ripped a 12-year-old fan's card that was given to him to sign.

Since retired, he's admitted to leaning into the villain role, revealing that he played a part in how he was perceived in an interview with Sports On Earth (via NBC Sports). "I mean, I was just flat-out dumb. What can I say? I'm not going to try to justify the way I acted toward people. I was stupid. It wasn't an image that I invented on purpose. It actually escalated into that, and then I maintained it. You know what I mean? It was never something that I really ever wanted. No one wants to be treated like that, because I was considered to be a terrible person. You'd have to be insane to want to be treated like that. That makes no sense," he said to the publication.

John McEnroe is not one to mess with

John McEnroe was as bright of a star as they came on the tennis floor back in the day. The Hall of Famer has 155 career titles, ranked No. 1 in singles and doubles, and has a career-winning percentage of 82.4 percent. A part of his success, however, was due to his ferocity. Nicknamed "beast" by Salon and "McBrat" by the media and peers, McEnroe was one to live through his temperament, not subdue, as evidenced in his interactions.

In one game in particular, for example, McEnroe snapped at a heckler who shouted, "C'mon, Mac, not already!" after the German native questioned a line call during a game. According to sources, the tennis legend quipped back, "You got an appointment to get to?" and then "What the f**k do you care?"

Then there was the incident where, after a loss to fellow German tennis player Boris Becker, he shouted at the linesman, "I didn't know they had Black Germans," then followed that up by telling a German fan to "go eat some Wiener schnitzel, pal," according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Jose Canseco will challenge you to a fight

Jose Canseco is probably most infamously known for his steroid use. The former Oakland Athletics slugger is even on record saying: "Steroids, used correctly, will not only make you stronger and sexier, they will also make you healthier," in his memoir, "Juiced." In the memoir (via Slate), he also said that "steroids will give you a better quality of life and also drastically slow down the aging process."

But beyond him taking steroids, which shows a disregard for the integrity of the game (and fans), Canseco simply wasn't nice. The New York Times reported that he once threatened to bash in a fan's head after incorrectly hearing the fan make a racial slur. Similarly, Canseco has been caught sending his twin brother in place of himself at autograph signings and, according to reports, challenged a fan to a fight once (via Chicago Tribune).

While one shouldn't expect much from someone who blatantly cheats without remorse, it's always surprising when the innocent fans get the short end of the stick.

Albert Belle the belligerent

Albert Belle was the John McEnroe of baseball (or maybe McEnroe was the Belle of Tennis, who knows?), in that he had a mean temper and didn't care who saw it. The '90s baseball star had tons of power and absolutely no clue on how to contain it, which, unfortunately, turned out bad for fans at times, as his reputation for losing it followed him on every level.

When Belle was at his college, for example, ESPN reports he was suspended for going after a heckling fan into the stands. Then, while in the minors, he was fined $5,000 for "making an obscene gesture" to fans. Similarly, when a fan was heckling Belle about his alcohol problem in the majors, they received a fastball to the chest.

Belle may have been bigger, stronger, and richer, but, hey, it appears drunk opposing fans jeering for the love of the game deserve a knuckle sandwich.

Conor McGregor has been violent towards fans

While Conor McGregor has endeared himself to fans who resonated with his blue collar plumber beginnings in Dublin that gave way to superstardom as a mixed martial arts fighter in the UFC, sometimes the humility that comes with such a past escapes his psyche. Those ingredients make for a potentially brutal scenario when factoring in the pugilist's strength and volatile temperament when he's demonstrated his contempt for fellow working stiffs. Rewind back to 2019, while swilling at a Dublin pub, the fighter offered a senior patron a shot of Proper Twelve whiskey he was promoting. When the man declined the offer, McGregor went ballistic and punched him in front of witnesses. "The man that was allegedly assaulted is from Ballyfermot and drinks in the pub a good bit," said one of them to Mirror.

That same year, he was arrested in Miami for destroying the cellphone owned by a man wanting to take the star athlete's picture. Authorities reported that McGregor slapped the phone out of the man's hand before stomping on the device, valued at $1,000. After being released on bail, McGregor posted a shot of him on Instagram leaving custody with a few reassuring words to his fans. "Patience in the world is a virtue I continue to work on," he wrote. "I love my fans dearly. Thank you all." The plaintiff, who lived outside the U.S., dropped charges after deciding against returning to the country to pursue legal action, per BBC.

Danica Patrick was rude while signing autographs

In the world of open-wheel racing, Danica Patrick stands out as being the only woman to win an Indy Racing League event as of this writing, and the only female to have led part of an Indianapolis 500 competition. But her fortunes later on in NASCAR hardly fired on all cylinders. Patrick's biggest NASCAR accomplishment remains grabbing pole position for the circuit's flagship Daytona 500 in 2013 although frequent crashes, zero wins, and countless altercations with rivals that included David Ragan and Denny Hamlin punctuated her dramatic eight years in the stocks. To her credit, she refused to play the sexism card as a factor in her career. "That's such a common question, especially being a girl in a guy's sport, but that is not what happened," she said in Miami Living.

Still, Patrick's been known to let her ego get in the way, much to the chagrin of fans who followed her career. During Patrick's waning days in the IRL, one fan, Jackson Trace waited in line for three hours at the Indianapolis 500 to get Patrick to sign his ball cap. When the big moment arrived, Patrick seemed inconvenienced by the presence of an autograph hound interrupting a chat with her minions. She looked sternly at Trace while she held his dark cap, asking, "You want me to sign it in the black?" Looking disgusted, she signed the hat before throwing the marker on the table and throwing the hat back as well.

Ronda Rousey said her fans were ungrateful

Not many grappling warriors brandish stats in hype sheets trotted out by both the UFC and WWE circuits. Scarcer still, are female crossovers between the two camps, which is why Ronda Rousey stands out. The mixed martial arts pugilist specializing in judo anecdotally surmised her intensity level in 2014 when chatting with The New Yorker. "I always think to myself, If I ran into them in a parking lot, and they slapped my little sister, would I be able to beat the hell out of them?" she said. "And the answer is always Yes, I would."

But she got an earful when she addressed the fiction surrounding wrestling, even doubling down on Twitter by declaring, "Anyone who is outraged by me calling pro wrestling 'fake fights for fun' has never been in a REAL fight." The reaction prompted Rousey to throw even her own fans under the bus, when she appeared on "Wild Ride with Steve-O," to offer her perspective to the former "Jackass" star. "So it's just like, what am I doing it for if I'm not being able to spend my time and energy on my family, but instead spending my time and my energy on a bunch of f***ing ungrateful fans that don't even appreciate me?" she said. "I love performing. I love the girls. I love being out there, but, at the end of the day, I was just like, 'F**k these fans, dude.'"