When athletes misbehave, the leagues and teams they play for discipline them by taking a chunk out of their checkbooks. Ranging from a few hundred bucks to hundreds of thousands of dollars, fines of all sizes plague athletes who break the rules.
Sometimes it’s the rules that are silly and excessive, and sometimes it’s the athlete doing something dumb and unnecessary like when Golden State Warriors forward Jordan Bell was fined for oddly charging hotel incidentals to an assistant coach’s room. From uniform violations and unfortunate language to social media recklessness and droopy socks, here’s a look at some of the wackiest fines levied against some of the richest athletes in sports.
- $750 for Twitter incitement
In 2012, Cleveland Indians pitcher Chris Perez took to Twitter to explain in writing what baseball fans have known for generations: an unspoken eye-for-an-eye policy that requires pitchers to retaliate when their teammates are hit with pitches. After a back-and-forth that featured several bruised batters, Perez tweeted “You hit us, we hit you. Period.” Perez reportedly thought the First Amendment protected his speech, but the league reminded him that MLB fines aren’t issued as a result of a democratic process when it docked him $750 for the tweet. Perez retired in 2015, leaving behind a strange legacy including the delivery of weed to his home under his dog’s name, vomiting on the pitching mound and cursing out an opposing fan.
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- $5,000 for embellishment
Although NHL players skate on frozen water, diving has always been part of the game. Embellishing — exaggerating or fabricating the extent of an opponent’s infraction to draw an undeserved penalty — is called taking a dive, and it’s not just frowned upon in the NHL. Embellishment is against the rules. That, however, doesn’t stop the league’s most notorious divers from performing their theatrics in hopes of drawing a penalty.
Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri took things to a new level in 2016 when he not only took a penalty but also received combined NHL fines of $5,000 for repeated and shameless dives over the course of three games. Kadri has been suspended four times and fined once in his 561 game NHL career. Most recently he cross-checked Boston Bruin Jake DeBrusk by hitting him with his hockey stick — it was aimed at DeBrusk’s head.
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- $5,000 for biting
Maybe he was just hungry? The Canuck’s Antoine Roussel bit an opposing player on the hand during what seemed to be a regular hockey brawl. This is definitely not what the fans of the San Jose Sharks had in mind when they cheer on their team with “the chomp.” The self-proclaimed, “chomp heard around the world,” left victim Marc-Edouard Vlasic with bite marks. Thankfully he didn’t lose any fingers in the 2018 incident.
- $9,505 for charging hotel incidentals to assistant coach’s room
Golden State Warriors forward Jordan Bell, was suspended from a game and fined by the NBA in early 2019 for conduct detrimental to the team. Although what Bell had charged to his assistant coach’s room is still undisclosed, you can guess it was probably something embarrassing. The forward has since apologized, saying “[I] made an error of judgment and I thought I was doing something funny.” Funny or not, the NBA considered this serious enough for a hefty fine.
- $10,000 for inappropriate language
Hockey is an international game, but no matter what language is spoken, it’s best to avoid talking if you don’t have something nice to say. Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf learned that at the end of the 2016-17 season when he was hit with the league-maximum $10,000 fine for launching what the Washington Post called at the time a “homophobic slur” during an on-ice disagreement.
- $10,000 for speaking ill of an umpire
In August 2017, former Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler could not contain his strong feelings about umpire Angel Hernandez, nor could he resist offering unsolicited career advice. According to ESPN, the infielder said Hernandez was “messing with” MLB games and then suggested that he “find another job.” Kinsler was fined but not suspended, which compelled other umps around the league to wear white armbands in solidarity with Hernandez. The armbands, the umpires were warned, could have led to fines of their own.
- $10,000 for disparaging the slam dunk contest
The NBA slam dunk contest unites the league’s most acrobatic athletes for one highly anticipated annual contest — and the participants are well paid for their efforts. While it’s always OK to brag about power slams, it’s probably best to keep compensation-related motivation close to the vest. Now-retired forward Tyrus Thomas learned that the hard way in 2007 when his team hit him with a five-digit fine for admitting he was in it for the money. According to ESPN, he was fined after blurting out, “I’m just going to go out there, get my check and call it a day.” Later he said, “I’m just into the free money.”
- $10,500 for a uniform violation
After eight years in the NFL, then-49ers running back Frank Gore was headed to his first Super Bowl in 2013. San Francisco had just beaten Atlanta for the NFC Conference Championship with Gore’s help — but Gore’s wallet would be five figures lighter when he got to the big game. That’s because he was fined more than $10,000 for a uniform violation when he allowed his socks to fall down below regulation height. Gore reportedly explained to the NFL that perhaps his sock-height vigilance waned because he was in the middle of the biggest game of his life and had other things on his mind.
- $11,576 amount for excessive celebration
Prior to a 2017 rule relaxation, the NFL’s biggest showboats were in the crosshairs of a league-imposed virtual lockdown on excessive end zone touchdown celebrations, which was enforced with big NFL fines. The then-Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown racked up double-digit penalties between 2011 and 2017, more than half of which were for taunting, unsportsmanlike conduct or excessive celebration. Among his finest rebellions against the league’s no-nonsense policy came in 2015 when he gave a groin-first flying bear hug to an innocent goalpost during a now-infamous touchdown celebration against the Colts.
- $15,000 for obscene gesture toward a fan
Sometimes a pro athlete can be fined during a game even if they never stepped foot on the field, or in this instance, the basketball court. In early 2019, forward Anthony Davis was shown in a video posted to social media aiming his middle finger toward a fan after they yelled out, “[expletive] you, AD!” Poor sportsmanship is something the NBA fines for, both on and off the court. At that point in time, the New Orleans Pelicans’ forward had already sat out four games due to lower back spasms, and then he sat out the game where he was fined.
Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson
- $20,000 for conduct unbecoming
In 2008, Chad Johnson legally changed his name to the Spanish translation of his jersey number: Ochocinco. In 2012, he legally changed it back. One thing that remained the same throughout, however, was the Cincinnati star wide receiver’s status as one of the game’s greatest — if not most reviled — showmen. In 2009, Ochocinco picked up a $20,000 fine for producing a single dollar bill and pretending to attempt to bribe a referee during a replay call. The NFL reportedly was also not pleased that he said the word “bribe” during a postgame press conference, which, according to ESPN, ran the risk of giving the “appearance of impropriety.”
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- $20,000 for an unbuckled chin strap
In 2010, the agent representing then-Jets linebacker Bart Scott blasted the league for a fine he called “ridiculous” and “a joke,” according to an ESPN article written at the time of the incident. League rules state that chinstraps must be white and they must remain secured. Scott got half of the regulation right during a game against the Lions — his chinstrap was indeed white. It was, however, unsnapped, which cost the wealthy defensive player $20,000.
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- $39,000 for a racially insensitive Instagram post
In 2014, then-Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli got an expensive lesson in the boomerang effect of online jokes gone wrong — and viral. The famed footballer posted what he claimed was an ironic anti-racism cartoon featuring the iconic Nintendo character Mario. The meme stereotyped and disparaged or at least mentioned Jews, Japanese people, English speakers, Mexicans, blacks and Italians. A barrage of global backlash followed, as did a scrambling series of apologies and retractions from Balotelli. Finally, Balotelli was suspended for one match and fined the equivalent of $39,000.
- $50,000 for cursing at fans
The tally of fines and suspensions for former Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins reads like a basketball rap sheet. His dozens of violations span multiple franchises and nearly nine years. His specialty is technical fouls. In all, he’s been suspended for 12 games and fined more than $1.5 million. In 2015, he was hit with a hefty $50,000 fine “for cursing at fans,” according to the Washington Post. In NBA-speak, it was for “directing inappropriate language toward fans” on separate occasions in two different games. Although unsavory interactions with mouthy spectators is hardly a new theme for the NBA, Cousins holds the distinction of landing the technical just 32 seconds into the opening quarter — that’s an NBA record. Since it was his 18th technical foul in a league that mandates suspension after 16, he was also suspended for one game.
- $50,000 for mouthpiece toss
For many athletes, trouble comes when they decide to run their mouth — in the case of the Golden State Warriors star point guard Steph Curry, it was actually his mouth guard. In an October 2017 game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Curry lost his cool — complaining when a referee didn’t call a foul after he made a drive to the basket. He proceeded to throw his mouth guard in frustration in the direction of a referee and earned himself an ejection in the fourth quarter of the game.
When asked by ESPN, Curry responded that he was not aiming for the ref, but simply threw it “out of frustration,” adding that, “I’ve got better aim than that.” Curry wasn’t the only one chastised for bad behavior — teammates Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala were also in on the fracas. Durant — who received an ejection alongside Curry for arguing with the referee — has yet to receive any official punishment, but Iguodala was handed down a $15,000 fine for verbally assaulting a referee, according to ESPN. This isn’t the first mouth guard mishap for Curry, either — he was also ejected and fined $25,000, according to Sports Illustrated, for tossing his mouth guard in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
- $50,000 for disparaging Mormons
In 1997, the floundering Utah Jazz was facing elimination from the playoffs, a flu-ridden Michael Jordan was on a liquid diet and Dennis Rodman was under fire once again for both lackluster post-season play and vulgar remarks. This time — it was the third incident that season, resulting in him being hit with NBA fines — Rodman earned the largest fine the NBA had ever dished out up to that point. The reason? Rodman used choice language while attacking Mormons. According to The New York Times, he subsequently indicated he didn’t know Mormonism was a religion. His coach later suggested that Rodman might have thought “Mormon” was a synonym for “Utah resident.”
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- $100,000 for avoiding the media
Plenty of athletes have let their mouths get them into trouble — rarely, however, is that trouble due to talking too little. But that was exactly the case when then-Seattle superstar running back Marshawn Lynch was hit with a six-figure fine for not talking to the media as much as his contract required — or at least as much as the NFL demanded. He had been fined $50,000 in the past for the same offense, but the fine was suspended on the condition that he would cooperate in the future. When that didn’t happen, the league hit him with a new $50,000 fine in 2014 and collected on the previously suspended fine as well. Despite incurring the steep fine, Lynch is one of the best NFL players when it comes to money.
- $500,000 for lying about an off-court injury
In 2007, former Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovic was fined nearly 10% of his $5.2 million salary. What was the crime that drew such a massive penalty? He separated his shoulder while attempting to snowboard for the first time ever. The dangerous undertaking violated his contract — but that wasn’t the sole source of his troubles. The baller made matters worse by lying when he concocted a story about slipping on some ice. He got off relatively easy, however — the Lakers made no effort to void his five-year, $30.2 million contract.
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Bill Belichick and the Patriots
- $750,000 for Spygate
In 2007, the Patriots accomplished a feat that’s nearly impossible in the parity-driven NFL — the team registered an undefeated 16-0 regular season. But the prestige of the juggernaut dynasty franchise and its legendary coach sunk to historic lows that season in a cloud of suspicion surrounding the “Spygate” scandal. When coach Bill Belichick and his staff were caught illegally videotaping defensive signals flashed by the New York Jets — a move the NFL considers criminal — the league fined the team $250,000 and coach Belichick $500,000 personally. The Patriots would enjoy an impressive playoff run, but the dream of a perfect 19-0 season came crashing down when the New York Giants shocked the world and broke the hearts of Patriots fans everywhere by upsetting the Pats in Super Bowl XLII.
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Priscilla Aguilera contributed to the reporting of this story.