Athlete Relationships That Nearly Ruined Their Careers

This article contains references to domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual coercion. 

When a celebrity gets into a relationship, it can often raise their profile and help their career. Take Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, for example. Sure, they were mega famous before they began dating. But afterward, their fame reached much higher levels. The same thing might happen again since they tied the knot in July 2022.

However, other times a celebrity's relationship can hurt their career. In the case of Whitney Houston, the late singer married New Edition member Bobby Brown in 1992, and he was almost immediately accused of bringing her life and career down. That's mainly because he had a strong bad boy rep, as opposed to Houston's wholesome public persona. This misconception has been strongly challenged since.  

Sometimes it isn't a romantic relationship that puts a black eye on a famous person's career. In the professional relationship between Mike Tyson and boxing promoter Don King, the former undisputed World Heavyweight Boxing Champion accused King of stealing $100 million from him during the time they worked together. Tyson had fallen into major debt around this time. 

Of course, Houston and Tyson isn't the only athlete relationship where a sports star's career was negatively affected by the connection. The following athletes all found their careers floundering thanks to the people they were romantically involved with.

Chad Johnson and Evelyn Lozada

In 2020, former NFL star Chad Johnson wrote on Twitter, "I lost my temper for once in life for 3 seconds & it cost me a lifetimes worth of work, I got it all back plus some after getting a 2nd chance & NOTHING will ever get me out of that happy space again." Eight years earlier, he'd been arrested for a domestic violence charge. Per TMZ, everything changed for him on August 11, 2012, when he and his ex-wife Evelyn Lozada had an argument over a box of condoms that she found in their vehicle. 

The outlet reported that at some point Johnson headbutted Lozada, leaving her with a bloody three-inch gash. A neighbor called the police during the fight and Johnson was arrested. The Miami Dolphins cut him from the team soon after, as captured on the HBO docuseries, "Hard Knocks." As of July 2022, Johnson hasn't played in the NFL since being let go.

In court, the Florida native pleaded no contest and instead of jail time, he was put on probation, took anger management classes, and was legally required not to contact Lozada, per The Washington Post. The argument and assault happened less than a month into the former couple's marriage, and their divorce was finalized in September of 2012. As for that tweet Johnson sent about losing his temper for just three seconds? Lozada blasted him for it, telling TMZ that he abused her multiple times — an allegation that Johnson didn't respond to. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Tiger Woods and Rachel Uchitel

On November 27, 2009, one day after Thanksgiving, reports came from everywhere that Tiger Woods had crashed his SUV outside of his Florida mansion. Was there alcohol involved? Did another vehicle cut the pro golfer off? Or was it something else entirely? There was certainly a lot of mystery surrounding the crash. More questions emerged considering the timing of the story — just two days earlier, the National Enquirer had alleged that Woods was cheating on his then-wife Elin Nordegren with a woman named Rachel Uchitel.

Eventually, the New York Post explained what happened: Nordegren had caught wind of the cheating rumors. Although her husband denied the affair, the jig was up when she contacted Uchitel after finding her number on Woods' unattended phone. Nordegren then chased her ex out of their house with a golf club, he got into his SUV to flee, and that's when the accident occurred. 

But Uchitel wasn't the only woman Woods was cheating with. His then-wife also discovered he was involved with someone called Jaimee Grubbs — reportedly along with several other women. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times about the tabloid fallout from the affair, Uchitel griped, "The whole world made a mockery of me." Meanwhile, Grubbs told KTLA her own side of the story. "I asked him at some point 'When you go somewhere else, do you have another girl?'" she claimed to have asked Woods. "He's like, 'No I'm too busy.'" And yes, busy he was.

Hulk Hogan and Bubba 'the Love Sponge' Clem

Hulk Hogan used to be best buds with Bubba "the Love Sponge" Clem, but a little something changed that. So what happened, you ask? Oh, nothing much — except in 2006 Clem allowed his now ex-wife, Heather Cole, to sleep with the wrestling legend. The tryst went down in Clem and Cole's bedroom and was filmed. The footage was later published by Gawker in 2012. 

At first, Clem claimed that Hogan — who was married at the time — knew he was being recorded. "You know I have surveillance. You knew of everything going on," Clem claimed on his radio show (via Daily News). "But now that your feelings are hurt ... you're trying to cover your a**." He later changed his mind to state that, after further investigation, Hogan knew nothing about being filmed. 

The wrestling star filed a hefty invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker while filing a civil suit against Clem and Cole. Based on the 6'7" wrestler's belief, his former bestie leaked the sex tape to Gawker, which the radio personality denied. Hogan was also canned by the WWE for using a racial slur in the footage when discussing his daughter, Brooke Hogan, having a Black boyfriend. In 2016, a Florida jury awarded Hogan $115 million in his suit against Gawker, which shut the site down. It returned under different ownership in 2021. The "Mr Nanny" star also settled with Clem for $5,000, per CNN

Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly

If it wasn't the biggest sports scandal in history, it was certainly one of the most bizarre. We're talking about the peculiar events that took place between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. In January of that year, a man named Shane Stant hit Kerrigan slightly above her right kneecap in Detroit after she practiced. Both Harding and Kerrigan were vying for spots on the Olympic team, which they made. That's despite Kerrigan not being able to skate in the U.S. National Championships because of the injury.

Per Cosmopolitan, the FBI later determined that the assault was organized by Harding's former bodyguard Shawn Eckhard and her then-husband Jeff Gillooly, who were both arrested. Stant was also booked and all three served prison time. As for Harding, she was accused of being in on the attack and addressed everything at a press conference in Portland, Oregon. "I had no prior knowledge of the planned assault on Nancy Kerrigan. I am responsible, however, for failing to report things I learned about the assault when I returned home from nationals," she explained. 

In March 1994, Harding won herself three years of probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit hindering prosecution. She also received a $100,000 fine, 500 hours of community service, and a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. But more than that, a dark cloud has hovered over Harding's career ever since, one that may never fully brighten.

Matt Barnes and Gloria Govan

In many professional sports, it's not uncommon for a fight to break out among players. Still, it's usually in the course of a game, not inside someone's home. But in 2015 that's what went down between former NBA players Matt Barnes and Derek Fisher, who reportedly got into a scuffle in the house of Barnes' ex-wife, Gloria Govan. The former couple split in 2014 after being together for nearly two years. Govan then started dating Fisher. The two men were Los Angeles Lakers teammates from 2010 to 2012, which added another level of scandal to the incident. 

The fight took place in October, 2015, when Barnes reportedly drove almost 100 miles from Santa Barbara, California to Redondo Beach, California to fight Fisher, who was coaching the New York Knicks at the time. Cops were called to Govan's house, so it's obvious that more than a verbal altercation took place. Later, however, Barnes denied driving a great distance to brawl. Instead, the retired hooper said that he drove just 15 minutes to check on his sons because on FaceTime, they looked uncomfortable with Fisher being at their mom's house.

Barnes played for the Memphis Grizzlies back then and received a two-game suspension because of the fight. At the time, he told ESPN about his fractured friendship, "We were close ... some things have happened to change that." In 2018, Fisher told Fair Game that they were now civil and that he didn't feel bad about dating Barnes' ex.

James Harden and Khloé Kardashian

There can often be a cost involved in dating any high-profile celebrity — something that James Harden learned when he became romantically involved with Khloé Kardashian in June 2015. The couple only dated for eight months, but within that short period, the former Houston Rocket went from having articles written about his impressive hoop play to having pieces written about his personal life. When Harden's NBA performance started slipping, Kardashian got the blame

"I didn't like all the attention," Harden told Sports Illustrated. "I feel like it was for no reason. I wasn't getting anything out of it except my name out there and my face out there ... It wasn't me. I don't need pictures of myself when I'm driving my car. Who cares? ... It was unnecessary stuff that I think trickled down to my teammates. I had to eliminate that."

Harden and Khloé reportedly met at a basketball-themed birthday party that Kim Kardashian threw for her then-husband, Kanye West at Staples Center. The way Khloé described it, the two had an open relationship and he messed it up. "I've always said, 'We don't need to be monogamous,'" she explained on "Kocktails With Khloe" (via TMZ). "'You live in Houston, I live in L.A. Let's just see each other when we see each other' ... He sought me out, wanted to be committed, then wasn't committed ... [I] found out he wasn't, and I got the receipts to prove it."

Stephon Marbury and Kathleen Decker

One second your name is mostly associated with basketball, the next it's tied up in a scandal. In 2007, a former intern for the New York Knicks named Kathleen Decker said that she slept with the then-Knicks player, Stephon Marbury, two years prior. The story came out during a lawsuit that was filed by Decker's ex-boss Anucha Browne Sanders, who was fired from her role as vice president of marketing and business operations. The former NBA executive then filed a $10 million sexual harassment suit against Madison Square Garden as well as the former Knicks president and coach, Isiah Thomas, and the arena's Executive Chairman and CEO, James Dolan.

Decker and Marbury's names came up due to Sanders alleging that Madison Square Garden execs turned a blind eye to inappropriate behavior. Browne Sanders also suggested the ex-intern was coerced into sleeping with Marbury. During her witness testimony, Decker stated this wasn't the case. Describing how the pair had sex in his van after attending a strip club for her 22nd birthday, she explained, "I was in control ... It was consensual ... I agreed to get in the car. I wasn't forced to do anything." Per Daily News, other employees suggested that Decker had told them a different story, suggesting she felt pressured to sleep with Marbury due to his position in the team. 

As stated by Bleacher Report, the incident was a public relations catastrophe for Marbury, and it may forever be part of his legacy.

Dorothy Hamill and Kenneth Forsythe

After her 1976 Winter Olympics gold medal win in Innsbruck, Austria, Dorothy Hamill became known as a skater extraordinaire and was even nicknamed "America's Sweetheart." While she became a bankable star, her marriage to now ex-husband Kenneth Forsythe may have led to her eventual financial troubles. In 1996, the figure skating champion filed for bankruptcy after falling into debt to the tune of $1.6 million. 

Per People, one of the former couple's investments was buying the Ice Capades in 1993 after the skate show's popularity began to dwindle. "Under Dr. Forsythe's direction, [skating] business ventures in which Ms. Hamill became involved proved to be financial disasters," read her 1996 bankruptcy petition, according to the outlet. Hamill also issued a statement that read, "I am now confident ... I will be able to satisfactorily resolve my financial difficulties, thereby allowing me to focus on my skating." She had separated from Forsythe a year earlier, a few months after selling the Ice Capades for an undisclosed amount.

In 2018, she spoke to CNBC about her past money woes and explained what she's learned since then. "I thought I knew and trusted some of my peeps ... You live and you learn," she explained. "... The good news is that I finally found people that are trustworthy and I'm a little smarter." Hamill followed up by saying that for much of her life she only focused on training, not her finances — something that obviously hurt her as time went on.

Steve Nash and Alejandra Amarilla

In November 2010, former NBA player Steve Nash had a joyful announcement to make: He and his spouse at the time, Alejandra Amarilla, had welcomed a son named Matteo Nash to the world. However, on the same day as the birth, the former Phoenix Suns member also announced that he and Amarilla were divorcing. Of course, there's nothing scandalous about divorce since it's a fairly common thing, right? The scandal came later when rumors spread that Matteo wasn't Nash's child but Jason Richardson's, his Phoenix Suns teammate. Making the gossip gain weight online was Richardson being traded to the Orlando Magic just a few weeks after the divorce announcement. 

Amarilla said nothing about the scandal and Nash didn't address it either. However, his ex suggested the baby didn't just come by chance. "Having two girls we really wanted a son," she told Arizona Foothills Magazine. "We planned Matteo for an entire year, and we are both so excited to have him in our lives." Unfortunately for both players, the scandal followed them for a long while after the whole thing went down. In 2012, for instance, when Nash was on the Los Angeles Lakers team, it was rumored they passed on Richardson because he had a problem with him. The NBA reporter Sam Amico tweeted, "Lakers will not take Jason Richardson. He supposedly has personal issue with Steve Nash." Boy, what a mess all of that was, wouldn't you say?

Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson

In 2007, Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo, was probably thrilled to discover he had a connection with Jessica Simpson. Understandably, he began dating her. But some Dallas Cowboys fans didn't like the relationship at all. A Boston Herald report bearing the insulting headline, "Dumb blonde may be damn blonde for Romo," reported that some fans blamed the singer for Romo's poor performance against the Philadelphia eagles. Simpson had been spotted in the stands wearing a pink number nine jersey in support of her man. When the quarterback had a bad game against the New York Giants, fans dubbed it the result of a "Jessica Jinx."

But Romo was really slammed for the relationship when he and the star took a trip to a Mexican resort shortly before the Cowboys were going to face the Giants in a conference semifinal. "If only Tony had called me and said, 'Terry, Jessica [Simpson] and I are going to go to Mexico,' I would've told him: 'You crazy? Don't do that! The paparazzi is going to find you, man. You're a star. She's a star. It's just going to happen," said retired and legendary quarterback Terry Bradshaw in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via ESPN). "... I like the heck out of Tony Romo. I just wouldn't have done what he did ... I couldn't allow my mind to go there."

The couple broke up in 2009 — and Cowboys fans everywhere likely breathed a sigh of relief.