It's very rare to find a modern day sports figure without their share of detractors. But while some athletes and coaches certainly go out of their way to earn their share of haters, there are a good number who probably get more than they deserve. Here are ten who definitely seem to fall into that category for me.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDavid Liam Kyle
Robert Griffin III
Yeah, he's a little annoying. And cloying. And cheesy. And phony. He doesn't do himself any favor in press conferences and his post-injury PR push - while fine on its merits - was a predictable disaster. But this is a kind, giving human being. And not just that, but he could have been a controversial powder keg the last two years while Jay Gruden blackballed him, but he kept his mouth shut and played the good teammate. Let’s also not forget that if Mike Shanahan hadn’t completely ruined his career, he might not be tenuously atop the Cleveland Browns depth chart right now.
I hate this whole new wave of post-contrarianism orders from the Twitter gatekeepers that declares you, the masses, may no longer "hate" an athlete. It goes against the very fiber of sports fandom. If I want to dislike LeBron James because he seems like an opportunistic mercenary when it comes to his profession, then dammit, I'm going to hate on LeBron James because he's an opportunistic mercenary when it comes to his profession. If I want to boo him because he beats my team, then that's my prerogative. But it's a whole different thing to dislike LeBron the basketball player than it is LeBron the man. LeBron the man seems like a wonderful human being who has become as normal a hundred-millionaire as there gets and someone the NBA should be proud to have as their poster child.
David Richard-USA TODAY SportsDavid Richard
I'm not saying I'd buy a Cutler jersey or have faith in a Cutler team or like Jay Cutler at all, but all the hate is a little much. He was railroaded in that NFC championship against the Packers when he came out with a serious injury and then had to hear the entire NFL basically call him soft. But he started the second half, then came out and days later had an MRI to reveal a Grade II MCL sprain, a serious injury that would usually knock players out for three-to-four weeks and would have left Cutler questionable for the Super Bowl if the Bears had won. So make fun of Jay Cutler all you want but remember he's a quarterback who's made 15 of 16 starts in seven of his nine seasons as a starter.
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Why, because he's a little mouthy? If that were a reason to dislike people we'd hate all the great self-promoters of all time. Plus, how can you hate anyone responsible for this exchange?
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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
He seems like a nice young man. (Checks age.) He seems like a nice man.
Getty ImagesTodd Warshaw
For someone who’s the highest-paid female athlete in the world, Maria Sharapova sure has a lot of detractors, a group that grew even bigger after her positive test for PEDs. But her reaction to it is interesting. Unlike Serena Williams, Sharapova doesn’t care what you think about her. She’s not meticulously crafting her image and hoping that people just forget about all the contradictions. Serena is obviously the best female tennis player ever. But I can’t argue if you don’t like her because she told a line judge she’d “shove this [expletive] ball down your [expletive] throat,” and then threatened a chair umpire in another match. Having shown zero contrition for either blow-up gives plenty of ammunition for anti-Serena sentiment. She’s the least self-aware athlete in sports. Sharapova is at the other end of the spectrum.
Coach K reminds me a bit of Serena: The all-time greatest who’s holier than thou without a shred of ability to see how he’s portrayed. But his foibles are merely whining about calls, which is where they differ. However, while you’re more than welcome (encouraged even) to hate Coach K the Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski the man is a great American. A whiny, pettish American, but a great one nonetheless.
TNS via Getty ImagesRaleigh News & Observer
You can think Cam Newton acted petulantly with his bush-league decision to storm out of his Super Bowl press conference. That doesn’t mean you have to hate on him. Yes, it was unprofessional, but hardly a measure of the man. And if you don’t like the showboating, get over it. This is the NFL, where defenders break out dances for tackling a running back four yards past the line of scrimmage. If that sort of stuff bothers you, start looking for a different sport.
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant
Mother Teresa could have gotten under center for the Dallas Cowboys and people still would have ripped her. It comes with the territory. As a lifelong Washingtonian, I could get kicked out of town for merely thinking it, but I have no problem with Romo or his favorite target, Dez Bryant. As long as the Redskins keep splitting season series with them, that is. (Jerry Jones, on the other hand.....)
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Bryce Harper flips off his helmet while rounding the bases therefore he must be a huge jerk. What else could it be? Why does Bryce draw so much scorn? Is it because people are jealous of his greatness? Was it that Sports Illustrated cover he got at an age when most kids don’t have their driver’s license? Is it the hilarious “clown question, bro” comeback? What? Can you imagine if David Ortiz joined a softball game on the Boston Common, like Harper did in his rookie year in D.C.? People would think it was the coolest thing ever. With Harper, it’s ignored. He doesn’t party, he doesn’t get in trouble and other than being a bit of a hothead on the field, he’s the kind of role model you’d want for your kids. What’s the alternative, may I ask? Having zero personality? Yeah, that’s what baseball needs.