Tennis star Jennifer Capriati has been in the news a lot lately… for all the wrong reasons. She was accused of attacking her ex-boyfriend and has been charged with battery and stalking. Her court date is April 17th, after which, unless she’s indicted, she will probably just fade away or join Dancing with the Stars. Jennifer Capriati won a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics and 14 titles, including three Grand Slams. In 2001, she won both the Australian Open and French Open. Yet, her recent legal issues may be what this generation remembers her for.
Tennis is generally a “clean” sport. No white Bronco chases or scandalous doping confessions on Oprah. Our heroes remain, for the most part, intact. Serena Williams has been known to question authority and break a racquet or two. Of course there was her four-letter tirade in the 2009 U.S. Open, a truly non regal outburst by the queen of tennis. And who can forget John McEnroe, whose infamous temper tantrums had us all laughing and cringing while muttering, “You cannot be serious, Mr. McEnroe.”
While angry outbursts can be off putting, to many fans they aren’t in the same league as taking drugs, violence or murder. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for sports stars to fall from grace for a variety of illegal acts; whether its gun possession, gambling, or marital infidelity, plenty of star athletes crash and burn.
Most people agree that murder is a reason to stop idolizing someone. The most recent example being Oscar Pistorius, the infamous blade runner, whose triumph over adversity and gold medal wins made him someone many people admired. However, once he was charged with shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, his fans were shocked and hurt.
In another case of an athlete beating bad odds, Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and Tour de France champion, was idolized by millions. His fans were devastated by his bombshell: Not only did he use performance enhancing substances, but he lied to us for years. He hurt the careers of his rivals while sitting atop his moral high horse. When it comes to reasons people stop liking stars, you would think that murder would trump steroid use; however, many fans were crushed by Lance’s confession. Maybe Congress got it right when they said that the lies are often worse than the act itself.