The last month has been filled with stories of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and the murder charges against him. This story will rock the league and the Patriots for years to come but really, it’s just one chapter in NFL scandals. They have been happening for years with some of the biggest names and teams. And it will likely continue in the future.
Here’s a look down memory lane at some of the biggest scandals in NFL history.
Spygate (Patriots) – I put this at the top just as a reminder that the Patriots have fallen on hard times before. In 2007, they had been disciplined after they had been accused of cheating. The team had allegedly violated league rules for videotaping an opponents’ defensive hand signals on the sidelines. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he saw never saw the tape; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t the buy the story and slapped the team with a total of $750,000 in fines ($250,000 against the Patriots and $500,000 against coach Belichick); the Patriots also lost their 2008 first-round selection.
Bountygate (New Orleans Saints) – A few years later, Goodell again had no tolerance for bad behavior and went down hard on the Saints. They had allegedly been offering cash payments to its players for intentionally inflicting injuries on their opponents. This time the punishments were more severe and widespread. Coach Sean Payton had been suspended for a year; the team’s former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams received an indefinite suspension and general manager Mickey Loomis had an eight-game regular season suspension. There was also the $500,000 team fine and the loss of two second-round draft picks (2012 and 2013).
Michael Vick Goes to Prison (Atlanta Falcons/Philadelphia Eagles) – Early in his career, then Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was a very dynamic signal caller but his involvement in a dogfighting ring put this on pause in 2007. The Falcons released him and after being found guilty on federal changes, Vick spent 21 months in prison. The convicted felon lost endorsements and salary, causing Vick to file for bankruptcy back in 2008.
Hornung/Karras Gambling (Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers) – The NFL suspended Pro Bowlers Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions Alex Karras for the 1963 season after they had admitted to betting on league games. This set a new precedence with the punishment. The players were reinstated by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle for the 1964 season. Hornung landed in the Hall of Fame and Karras tried his hand at acting, including his popular role on Webster.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Suspension (San Francisco 49ers) – Former 49ers’ beloved owner had been convicted in 1998 for felony after he did not report an extortion from a Louisiana casino project and the governor. This resulted in a $1 million fine and a one-year league suspension. DeBartolo ended up selling the team and the team has finally recovered.
Rae Carruth Murder (Carolina Panthers)
No Hernandez is not the first murder charge to hit the league.
In 2001, former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth, who had been in the NFL for three years, had been accused of conspiring to murder the woman pregnant with his child in a drive-by shooting. He is currently in prison and has a 2018 release date. The baby lived and it is a 12-year-old boy, Chancellor Lee Adams; he is predominately confined to a wheelchair; he doesn’t really speak and is unable to feed himself.
And perhaps one of the most infamous NFL scandals is the one with O.J. Simpson and his white Bronco chase. The jury acquitted him for possibly murdering his wife, Nicole and her male friend, Ron Lyle Goldman. Simpson’s life continued going downhill after this incident. He is currently in a Nevada jail for kidnapping, armed robbery as well as other changes.