Top sports controversies of 2016
Ryan Lochte’s fake robbery story
During this summer’s Rio Games, U.S. swimmers Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz claimed they were robbed early one morning while leaving a party in a taxi by people posing as police officers. The problem was the story varied from person to person, and as the days went on more details began to come out. There was an accusation the swimmers vandalized a gas station, and there was edited security footage. It concluded with Lochte admitting he "over-exaggerated" the story. The IOC, USOC and USA Swimming suspended Lochte from competition for 10 months after the incident, preventing him from competing in the 2017 world championship meet.
Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest
To voice concerns over racial inequality and police violence in the United States, the 49ers quarterback began sitting during the playing of the national anthem before his team’s preseason games. He later decided to go down on one knee instead of sitting after a meeting with former Green Beret and NFL long snapper Nate Boyer. Kaepernick continued the polarizing protest during the regular season, inspiring other players to join.
Draymond Green's technical fouls in the playoffs
After kicking Thunder center Steven Adams in between the legs during the Western Conference Finals, a move that earned him a Flagrant 2 foul, Green appeared to swing for LeBron James's groin during the NBA Finals, which drew a review from the league. He was charged with a Flagrant, meaning he had accumulated enough points to earn a one-game suspension, and was held out of Game 5. The Warriors went on to lose a 3–1 Finals lead, and Green has continued flailing his limbs during play this season, claiming it’s involuntary.
Zach Britton left in bullpen for AL wild-card game
Tied 2–2 with the Blue Jays in the 11th inning of the win-or-go-home American League wild-card game, Baltimore skipper Buck Showalter decided to leave Zach Britton—one of the league’s top closers—in the bullpen in favor of starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez immediately lost the Orioles the game, and Britton never even saw the hill.
The Spot: Michigan vs. Ohio State
With the Wolverines leading the Buckeyes by three in the second overtime period, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett ran left on a 4th-and-1 option play to try to extend a big late-November game. He ran into his own teammate right around the line to gain and fell backward, causing some confusion as to whether or not he actually made a first down. Referees gave him the first, and determined the play stood after review. On the next play, a 15-yard run by Curtis Samuel gave Ohio State a 30–27 win.
Rich Hill pulled from perfect game
After seven perfect innings of a mid-September game against the Marlins, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to pull the fragile Rich Hill, who had made just 89 pitches, with the playoffs in mind. The bullpen lost Hill’s perfect game, and the rest did not seem to help him in the playoffs, either. After finishing the regular season in first place in the NL West, the Dodgers were knocked out of the playoffs in the NLCS by the Chicago Cubs.
Dustin Johnson's stroke on the fifth hole at the U.S. Open
On the fifth hole at Oakmont on Sunday of the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson began to address a putt, only to see the ball move with little or no contact. He stopped and made sure he was not breaking any rules, and finished the hole out. Over an hour later, the USGA told Johnson during his round that they were reviewing whether or not he should have been given a stroke for making the ball move. He was eventually given the stroke, but it didn’t matter, because he still won by three strokes. Players around the tour were appalled at the USGA’s decision to tell Johnson during the round that they were unsure if he would be penalized or not.
The ending of Spurs-Thunder Game 2
Game 2 of the Spurs and Thunder’s second-round playoff matchup didn’t close without some controversy. The NBA said that a total of five calls were missed in the final 13.5 seconds of the game. The Spurs’ Manu Ginobili stepped out of bounds while guarding an inbounds pass from Dion Waiters, who elbowed Ginobili. Two players were held. LaMarcus Aldridge was fouled on a game-winning attempt. Steven Adams was grabbed by a fan. All in all, OKC held on to win 98–97.
Conor McGregor's fake retirement
In the middle of a Tuesday afternoon in April, the UFC featherweight champion dropped a bombshell on the world by announcing his retirement in a 71-character tweet. Most thought the announcement was because of a dispute with UFC president Dana White, while others speculated it may have come as a result of the death of Joao Carvalho, an MMA fighter that died from injuries suffered during a fight that McGregor attended. No one knows the real answer as to what inspired McGregor's announcement, but he would eventually return to the octagon to claim yet another belt months later.
Cam Newton's exit from his Super Bowl press conference
Cam Newton didn’t have much to say after the Panthers’ embarrassing loss to the Broncos in the Super Bowl, leaving after just two minutes and 29 seconds. He caught heat from many former players for the move.
Laremy Tunsil’s gas mask bong video
Just a few minutes before the NFL draft began, a video showing Tunsil, one of the top prospects available, was posted to his Twitter account before quickly being removed. Like most athletes who post controversial things online, he claimed he was hacked, only this time he was actually right. The video was posted to sabotage Tunsil, who managed to slip to No. 13 in the draft order.
Tommy Elrod, a former assistant coach at Wake Forest who was fired and became a radio announcer, was caught sharing, or trying to share, the team’s gameplans with opposing teams over two years. Elrod was fired and publicly shamed by the school, likely putting an end to his career as a broadcaster or coach.
Russian doping scandal erupts before Rio
In the weeks leading up to the Rio Games, Russian doping took center stage. While the IOC ultimately decided against a full-country ban, 119 Russian athletes were told to stay home after evidence of systemic and widespread doping was revealed. In the months since the Games the story has continued to grow, as a new report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren has determined that more than 1,000 Russian athletes were a part of the organized doping system set up for the Summer and Winter Olympics. "For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians," McLaren said. The scandal is far from over.