Special Report

The Worst Suspensions in Sports History

Source: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

5. Aldon Smith
> Total suspensions: 80 games (5 seasons)
> Suspended in: 2014-2019
> Reason(s) for suspension: Substance abuse, personal conduct
> Team(s): San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders

Pro Bowl Linebacker Aldon Smith was a dominant force in 2012, recording 19.5 sacks for the San Francisco 49ers. The No. 7 overall draft pick in 2011 played a key role in helping the 49ers reach Super Bowl 47 in 2013. Since 2012, however, his has been a running timeline of arrests for weapons charges, making false bomb threats, driving under the influence, vandalism, and suspensions from the NFL because he violated the league’s substance abuse policy. Smith missed four entire seasons from 2016 through 2019.

Source: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

4. Roy Tarpley
> Total suspensions: 444 games (5.41 seasons)
> Suspended in: 1989, 1991-1994, 1995-1997
> Reason(s) for suspension: Substance abuse, personal conduct
> Team(s): Dallas Mavericks

Roy Tarpley’s is one of the saddest of sports stories. Tarpley was selected as the No. 7 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft from the University of Michigan by the Dallas Mavericks. He made the All-Rookie Team in 1986-87, and the next year the 6-11 Tarpley helped the Mavs push the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the NBA Western Conference Finals. Then it all came apart. He was arrested twice for DUI and was suspended for life from the NBA after the second violation. He was reinstated in 1994, but he was banned again for violating the league’s aftercare program. From 1991-92 to 1996-97, Tarpley missed five full NBA seasons. He died in 2015 at the age of 50.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. Billy Coutu
> Total suspensions: Life
> Suspended in: 1927
> Reason(s) for suspension: Attacking a referee
> Team(s): Boston Bruins

Hockey player Billy Coutu was known as a brawler. While playing for the Boston Bruins against the Ottawa Senators in the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals’ deciding game, Coutu and his teammates tangled with Ottawa players as time was ticking down and Ottawa ahead. As players left the ice, Boston coaches and players took out their ire on referee Billy Bell who tried to break up the fracas between the two teams. Coutu tackled the referee earning him a lifetime boot from the NHL. Just over two years later, Coutu was reinstated but he was no longer the player he was and settled for playing minor league hockey.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. CCNY Point Shavers
> Total suspensions: Life
> Suspended in: 1951
> Reason(s) for suspension: Fixing games
> Team(s): Various

The City College of New York is the only school to win both the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the National Invitation Tournament in the same year, 1950. Unfortunately for CCNY, the school holds another dubious distinction – its involvement in college basketball’s infamous point-shaving scandal. In 1951, 32 college basketball players from seven different schools around the country were snagged in an organized crime-run point-shaving scheme that impacted four New York schools and three out-of-state teams, including the University of Kentucky. Most of those implicated were CCNY players and the school never returned to major college basketball.

Source: Heritage Auctions / Wikimedia Commons

1. Black Sox
> Total suspensions: Life
> Suspended in: 1921
> Reason(s) for suspension: Throwing the World Series
> Team(s): Chicago White Sox

More than 100 years after it happened, the Chicago White Sox scandal is still the worst episode in American sports. Engineered by gambler Arnold Rothstein, members of the heavily favored Chicago White Sox – annoyed by the tight-fistedness of owner Charles Comiskey – were persuaded to fix the 1919 World Series and lose to the Cincinnati Reds. Rigging baseball games was nothing new, but fixing the World Series crossed the line and was seen as an egregious attack on the integrity of the game. The scandal led to the creation of a baseball commissioner’s office. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, an iron-fisted former federal judge, was the first to hold the commissioner’s title. He banned eight White Sox players from baseball for life for their involvement with gamblers.

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