Liars. Cheaters. Prima donnas. A new list unveiled by Forbes last week revealed the 10 most disliked athletes in America. The players are not short on talent—many are or were the best at their respective games—but almost all are noted for either deceiving the public or cheating in their sport.
The latest annual survey conducted by Nielson and E-Poll Market Research named former cycling great Lance Armstrong as the least popular athlete in America (15 percent appeal). In addition to taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), Armstrong spent years proclaiming his innocence and attacking teammates and reporters who said otherwise. Last month, Armstrong publicly confessed to taking PEDs during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The Nielson poll asked readers to rate their feelings toward high-level athletes, resulting in that athlete’s appeal percentage. To be a candidate on the list, an athlete must have a minimum of 10 percent awareness rating.
Another known cheater on the list is New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (sixth, with 22 percent appeal) who confessed to taking banned PEDs early in his career.
“I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time,” Rodriguez told ESPN’s Peter Gammons in 2009. “I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”
Much like Armstrong, Rodriguez has further damaged his reputation through his words. Despite claiming that he had been steroid-free since 2003, a recent Miami New Times article linked the slugger to a PED clinic in Miami last season.
Tiger Woods (third, with 22 percent appeal) appears on the list once again for a very different type of cheating. In November 2009, news of Woods’ extra-marital affairs became the headline of every media outlet in the nation, ruining the golfer’s stratospheric fame. Despite recent improvement in his golf game, Woods’ popularity ratings have not recovered.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o appears second on the list (15 percent appeal), as the public has shown little sympathy for him after his late girlfriend, “Lennay Kekua,” turned out to be fictionalized by a third-party prankster. While some people believe Te’o was directly involved in the deception, others believe that the Heisman Trophy runner-up used the story of his girlfriend’s death for public relation benefits.
Some athletes made the cut simply for failing to win or for appearing weak on the field. Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s popularity is still suffering (fourth, with 21 percent appeal) after he pulled himself from an NFL playoff game in 2011. Quarterback Tony Romo’s lack of success for the star-studded Dallas Cowboys landed him at number 10 (27 percent appeal).
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Metta World Peace (fifth) and Kobe Bryant (ninth), Philadelphia Eagles’ Michael Vick (seventh), and NASCAR driver Kurt Busch (eighth) round out the top 10.