You’d think with all the fame and glory that comes with being a sports celebrity, high rolling athletes wouldn’t need to resort to crime, but we often see our favorite sports stars spending time in jail rather than on the field, where they certainly can’t do any winning. Perhaps the high levels of adrenaline and testosterone that led to fame in the first place also causes successful athletes to commit high-profile crimes. Or maybe the short span of a professional athlete’s career leaves an empty hole they need to fill with risky activities. Whatever the cause, it’s not uncommon to see sports stars taint their name with truly unfortunate and often serious arrests. While not all athletes with arrest records face a bleak life behind bars, here are 5 of the most infamous sports criminals in history, who are all serving their time now.
Clifford “Black Rhino” Etienne
It might not be too surprising that a heavyweight boxing champion who learned to fight in prison would go on to face additional run-ins with the law. Clifford Etienne, professional boxer dubbed the “Black Rhino,” served 10 years for armed robbery early in life, during which time he gained acclaim for himself as a 30-0 boxing champion for the Louisiana prison “Gunslingers.” Once released on good behavior, he entered the professional boxing arena and enjoyed 29 wins out of 35 fights. His boxing career famously ended when Mike Tyson knocked him out in 49 seconds in 2003, but that wasn’t the end of his prison career. Three years later, he attempted to rob a check cashing business, opened fire, stole $1,900, then hijacked a car with children inside and shot at police officers during the chase. This little escapade landed him a 150-year prison sentence with no chance of parole. Do you think he’ll be able to box his way through the doldrums this time around?
Evangelos “Ange” Goussis
There may be a link here between fighting sports and crime, because next on our list is Evangelos Goussis, professional boxer and WFA kickboxing champion, gang member and murderer. Australian-born, he ended up with blood on his hands both inside the ring and outside of it. While he enjoyed renown for his fighting skills, he also suffered infamy for his role in the 1983 Melbourne gangland killings. Implicated for two murders during a high-intensity underground mafia killing spree that ended with 40 dead, he’s now serving a life sentence for drug trafficking, attempted murder, possession of firearms and two murders. How did a boxer with so much potential get wrangled up in the web of the mob? His family members can only lament.
“Fast” Eddie Johnson
Drugs were the culprit behind the downfall of one of basketball’s most troubled celebrities, “Fast” Eddie Johnson. Notable for being a two-time NBA All-Star and playing for the Atlanta Hawks for most of his career during the 1980s, Johnson couldn’t overcome his inner demons. As soon as his basketball career ended in 1987, a long-standing relationship with cocaine took its place. Touting arrest records with more than 100 accounts of burglary, robbery, theft, forgery, battery, resisting arrest and selling drugs, this once-agile athlete now spends his time shooting hoops in an orange jumpsuit rather than on his own private celebrity ranch. In 2006, he received a life sentence for molesting an 8-year old girl, while also in the midst of a separate case for the rape of a woman, two accounts that he still denies. From his jail cell window, he recently told a reporter he regrets the mistakes the white powder led him to make, but he’s paying his dues now.
Drugs are not the only temptation that leads famous athletes astray. In Robert Rozier’s case, it was the appeal of the Promised Land. Though a professional football player for the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL, Rozier is most prominently remembered as the athlete-turned-cult-leader. He only played 6 games for the Cardinals before succumbing to petty crime and drugs, and then in 1982 he found Black Supremacist group the “Temple of Love,” led by Yahweh ben Yahweh. After worshipping here for a few years, he joined the secret inner circle of “The Brotherhood” and changed his name to “Neariah Izrael,” or “child of God.” The dark side to this spiritual loving was that he was required to kill a “white devil” and bring a body part back as proof to enter this “holy” circle. In 1986, Rozier admitted to 7 murders to please Yahweh, and served 10 years of a 22-year sentence.
So now he’s free and reformed, right? Wrong. After being released and placed in the witness protection program, he was picked up for writing a series of bad checks totaling over $2,000, the most recent for a car repair. Under the third strike law, Rozier was sentenced to an additional 25 years in prison, which he is serving now. For this NFL-star-turned-spiritual-servant, the Promised Land doesn’t seem anywhere near.
Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson, aka “The Juice”
No list of infamous sports crimes would be complete without mention of the longest and most televised sports trial ever, featuring none other than the famously acquitted O.J. Simpson. As most people who were sentient during the 1990s know, O.J. Simpson, famous football star turned actor, faced a year-long public trial for the alleged murder of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. U.S. audiences followed the “Trial of the Century” closely as it unfolded on public TV. The eventual acquittal, based on some mishandled evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department, resulted in widespread controversy over O.J.’s guilt. Whether you agree with the decision or not, it’s interesting to note that Simpson enjoyed thirteen years of freedom before getting arrested in Las Vegas in 2008 on 12 different charges, including kidnapping and armed robbery. Shortly after, the court found him guilty and sentenced him to 33 years in prison, without possibility of parole for 9 of them.
This NFL All-Star, most notable for alleged murder, but also for his time as running back with the Buffalo Bills, is now locked up the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada. An appropriate end to a long and messy story? Some, like Goldman’s father, think so. Either way, O.J. Simpson’s arrest records will go down in history as the most publicly debated sports trial in the world. There’s no topping this one.