10 Most-Disliked Athletes of 2011

Michael Vick after being released from prison. Photo by Gary Cope

In sports, most of the time, athletes aren’t just recognized by their league or team, but are often times seen as individuals. Is this a good or bad thing? That’s up for interpretation and also dependant on who you are and what you have done to effectively build or destroy your personal brand.

All sports fans can name athletes who they both respect and detest and most of the time; it’s not because of their actions associated with the team or league but is due to their behavior both on and off the field.

In a recent survey conducted by Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research, they measured the public’s opinions on professional athletes. Participants described particular athletes as people they “dislike”; “dislike somewhat” or “dislike a lot.” The list isn’t surprising for the average sports fan. Some of them have been on the list for multiple years. ESPN discusses the list and voices their opinions on the newest disliked athletes.

Among the list include, in order:

  1. Michael Vick
  2. Tiger Woods
  3. Plaxico Burress
  4. Ndamukong Suh
  5. Kris Humphries
  6. LeBron James
  7. Kobe Bryant
  8. Terrell Owens
  9. Alex Rodriguez
  10. Kurt Bush

You don’t have to be an avid sports fan to understand a lot of the names on the list. I will briefly discuss the top 5 and give a brief description as to why they made the list and how their actions have brought them into the list of most-disliked athletes.

Michael Vick is still trying to recover from his dog-fighting scandal. Despite his return to the NFL and consistent play, he still hasn’t recovered fans that he lost because of that incident. Vick lost fans not because of his actions on the field, but the way America saw his true character off the field. His decision to conduct and promote dogfights has created damage not only to his personal brand but has affected his team and their owners for being willing to take him back.

Tiger Woods, I think this one speaks for itself. His decision to cheat on his wife has angered everyone, not just sports fans. Similar to Vick, Woods had forgotten that he is always being watched and completely ruined his image because of it. People say that “you shouldn’t care what others think,” in Tiger’s case, how could you not? Since the scandal, his performance has dramatically decreased because of his actions. His decisions off the course have ultimately led to his demise on the course.

Plaxico Burress, a receiver for the New York Jets, spent 20 months in prison for illegal gun possession. This is clearly something that fans haven’t forgiven him for. It’s not simply the illegal gun possession that fans are upset about, but the way he treats his team and NFL officials. His decisions resulted in jail time, which fans rarely support. It will take time, recognition of his mistakes and solid play for him to be removed from this list.

The shocker on the list comes in at number 4, Ndamukong Suh. A new player for the NFL, who has been praised for increasing the Detroit Lions play and who, only four months ago, was on Forbes list of most-liked players in the NFL. His $2.6 million dollar donation to Nebraska, where he attended college, definitely helped to elevate his status as well. So what happened?  During a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving, Suh intentionally stomped on the head of one of Green Bay’s offensive linemen that resulted in his suspension of two games by the NFL. It took one bad decision on the field to outweigh all of his other accomplishments, both on and off the field. In a single second, he took moved himself from the list of most-liked to the list of most-disliked athletes.

Lastly, there’s Kris Humphries. The reason why Humphries made this list is due to his marriage, if you can even call it that, to Kim Kardashian. This decision has led to loss of respect from sports fans. I imagine this is something that will be forgotten with time. Humphries is on the list simply for his stupidity and being naive. I don’t think this is a mistake he’ll make again and has learned the hard way.

Notice that the majority of the top 5 athletes are on the list because of decisions they made in their personal life. Is it fair to judge an athlete based off of their off-the-field actions? I think so. They are always in the public eye, which means that people are watching their every move on the court, and especially how they compose themselves off the court. Athletes are role models and need to recognize that their actions and decisions not only affect them personally, but others on their team, organization and fans too.


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