Top 10: Athletes behaving badly

Sean Avery is only the latest sportsman to find himself at the centre of controversy.

Avery only the latest sportsman to find himself at the centre of controversy

Giants receiver Plaxico Burress could be facing 3½ years in prison if convicted of illegal weapons possession. ((Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images))

Sean Avery landed in hot water this week when he used a crude term in reference to some of his ex-girlfriends who are now dating other NHL players.

The comment earned the flamboyant forward widespread public condemnation and a six-game suspension from the league on Friday. Now it appears the Dallas Stars may be trying to figure out how to rid themselves of his presence, mere months after signing the super-pest to a four-year, $15-million US contract.

While Avery's outspoken ways are foreign to the buttoned-down NHL, instances of athletes acting up are nothing new. Here are several recent examples from across pro sports, including a couple more sloppy moments courtesy of you-know-who.

Not-so-straight shooter

Plaxico Burress, the talented but troubled New York Giants wide receiver, has often been accused of shooting himself in the foot with his antisocial behaviour, but this time things got a bit too literal. While at a Manhattan night spot on Nov. 28, Burress accidentally discharged a loaded pistol into his right thigh. The Giants essentially suspended Burress for the season, but that could be the least of his worries: he was charged with illegal weapons possession, a felony that requires a mandatory minimum 3½ years in prison if convicted.

Fallen Starbury

The poster boy for the overpaid, underachieving New York Knicks, Stephon Marbury didn't appear to be in new coach Mike D'Antoni's plans for this season. Problem was, a $21 million US salary rendered the ball-hogging guard from Coney Island untradeable. So Marbury opened this season on the bench, and stayed there until D'Antoni ordered him onto the court during a Nov. 26 game in Detroit. The player refused, the Knicks suspended him, and the two sides began talks on a buyout. Starbury, though, got the last laugh: whether he suits up or not, he's pocketing cheques at the rate of a cool $256,000 per game.

Manny Ramirez wore out his welcome in Boston when his antics became less lovable. ((Christian Petersen/Getty Images))
Walk like a Manny

Legendary in Boston for his mammoth home-run totals and quirky behaviour (who can forget the time he took a bathroom break behind the Green Monster), Manny Ramirez may have crossed the line from lovable goofball to toxic diva last summer when he sat out some key July games with a dubious injury and knocked over a Red Sox official who failed to honour his ticket requests. Seems ManRam, under the direction of new super-agent Scott Boras, was unhappy with his contract. Miraculously, after Boston dealt him to the L.A. Dodgers, who agreed to let Ramirez become a free agent at season's end, the mercurial slugger's sore knee healed and he went on an otherworldly homer binge that propelled the Dodgers into the National League Championship Series.

The Sean Avery Rule

Renowned for his ability to get under the skin of opponents, Avery took his skills to new heights (or depths) during a playoff game between his New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils on April 13. Stationed in the Jersey crease, he waved his hands and stick in front of Martin Brodeur's face in an attempt to block the goalie's view. Though he was roundly ridiculed, Avery didn't receive a penalty because his antics didn't violate the laws of hockey. At least until the next day, when the NHL issued the so-called "Sean Avery Rule." When Brodeur later snubbed Avery in the post-series handshake line, Avery explained that, "Fatso forgot to shake my hand."

Taekwondo athlete Angel Matos, left, lashed out at Chakir Chelbat after the ref disqualified him. ((Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images))
Kick it out

What do you do after you're disqualified from the bronze medal match in Olympic taekwondo? If you're Angel Matos of Cuba, you find the referee who disqualified you and kick him in the face. That's what happened in Beijing on Aug. 23, when Matos delivered a bare foot to the grill of Swedish ref Chakir Chelbat and spat on the mat before being escorted out. Chelbat was OK after absorbing the glancing blow, which is more than you can say for Matos: the athlete and his coach received a lifetime ban from taekwondo's international governing body.


Game over?

The Dallas Cowboys knew what they were getting when they acquired Adam (Pacman) Jones from the Tennessee Titans last off-season. Since being drafted sixth overall in the 2005 draft, Jones had been arrested six times and questioned by police on several other occasions. That included an incident where a member of the cornerback's entourage allegedly paralyzed a strip club bouncer with a shot fired amid a melee sparked by Jones's showering the club with one-dollar bills. Jones claimed to be a changed man after arriving in Big D and completing an NFL-imposed one-year suspension. But only a month into the season, Jones was banned again after an altercation with his own team-appointed bodyguard at a private party. He's since returned to the gridiron, but how many credits does Pacman have left?

Young offenders

During his career as one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, Patrick Roy was known for his fiery competitiveness. Two of his teenaged sons, though, may have taken dad's example the wrong way. Jonathan Roy, a goalie with the junior Quebec Remparts, is facing criminal charges stemming from an incident last spring in which he skated the length of the ice to attack an opposing goalie and made obscene gestures to the crowd. On Nov. 25, Frederick Roy drew a 15-game suspension for cross-checking a Remparts opponent in the face during a stoppage in play. Patrick Roy owns and coaches the team.

Are John Daly's hard-partying ways catching up with him? ((Christian Petersen/Getty Images))
Daly trouble

A longtime favourite of golf fans for his tape-measure drives and everyman persona, John Daly might be as famous for his beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, casino-gambling social life than for winning two majors. But as the portly American gets deeper into his 40s and his skills decline, it's getting harder for some fans to accept his hard-living lifestyle. Indeed, many Daly fans cringed this fall when he was arrested for public drunkenness and spent a night in jail after being found unconscious outside a Hooters restaurant in North Carolina.

Football felon

Generally considered the most offensive bloke in the English Premier League, Joey Barton only recently returned from a lengthy suspension (and four-month jail sentence) for attacking a teammate during practice while he played for Manchester City. Barton, who was also jailed for six months for an alcohol-fuelled attack on a teenager in Liverpool in December 2007, caught on with Newcastle United this season, but it didn't take the midfielder long to find more trouble. In November, he was accused of hurling a racial insult at Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Harsh words

Why not one last nugget from everyone's (least) favourite NHL agitator? While with the Rangers last November, Avery denied making cancer-related comments to Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake during a pre-game skirmish in Toronto. The two were seen exchanging words near centre ice before enraged Leafs forward Darcy Tucker stepped in and threatened Avery with a stick blade to the face. Both men were fined, and Avery later noted that he's lost two grandfathers to cancer.