Tonight, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will square off with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Levi’s Stadium in the San Francisco Bay Area of Santa Clara, California. And while this is the biggest annual sporting event in America, football players are not necessarily saints (even if they do play for New Orleans)—many of them are hardened criminals, some sinister enough to rival the most gruesome hard-boiled villains.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to bring you my Top 5 Worst Criminals in NFL History:
The former NFL MVP (1973) and Hall of Fame (1985) running back needs no introduction. On June 12, 1994, Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were stabbed to death at her home in California. OJ was charged with their deaths, and the trial arguably became the most covered and highly controversial case in the history of America.
Spanning over an entire year, a verdict was finally reached on October 3, 1995, and the jury found The Juice “not guilty” (though if he was, we know how he would have done it thanks to his subsequent book, If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer). To this day, the case has remained a topic of public discussion, as this year, several documentaries and dramatizations of the trial have been released—including FX Network’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Another almost lay-up (sorry to confuse the sports terms) of a murder case: another double stabbing—perhaps it was the same mystery person that killed Simpson and Goldman—this time, occurring in Atlanta, GA following a party the night after Super Bowl XXXIV.
After Ray Lewis and his friends got into an altercation with another group of people, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar were found stabbed to death. While this trial was a whisper in comparison to the Simpson trial, it resulted in Ray Lewis accepting a plea deal that involved a testimony against the other two friends involved, 12 months of probation, and a hefty fine from the NFL.
The white suit he was wearing that night was never found, and Baker’s blood was found in Lewis’s limousine. But, win a Super Bowl the next year, and everyone forgets you’re a cold-blooded killer.
“I’m going to Disneyland!” *
*Trent Dilfer despite Lewis winning MVP. Don’t want to hurt Disney’s image.
Finally, someone tastes the sweet, swift kiss of justice! This trigger-happy tight end apparently has a thing for guns. In 2013, Aaron Hernandez was indicted in the killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Lloyd was found about a mile from Hernandez’s home with multiple gunshot wounds resulting in his death.
When the police arrived to search Hernandez’s home, he handed them a cell phone “in pieces” and had apparently hired a cleaning crew the morning after Lloyd’s murder. Hernandez was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Once arrested, evidence was released and suspicions were raised about several other shootings and gun-related incidents, including:
- 2007 Gainesville double shooting (thankfully, I left the University of Florida in 2006)
- 2012 Boston double murder
- 2013 Miami shooting
How’s a life sentence without parole sound?
This one’s just odd. Few remember Robert Rozier for his football prowess, as he played in just six games for the then St. Louis Cardinals. However, once leaving football, Rozier decided to join a black supremacy group called Yahweh ben Yahweh and change his name to Neariah Israel, or “child of god.”
But he didn’t stop there. After serving a six-month sentence, Rozier moved to the temple full time and joined their secret “Brotherhood,” which required members to murder the “white devil” and return to the temple with a piece of their body.
Rozier confessed to killing seven “white devils,” and after testifying against the Yahweh ben Yahweh organization was sentenced to 22 years in prison—being set free in 1996 after serving only 10 years.
A teammate of OJ Simpson, Jim Dunaway decided killing your ex-wife seemed too easy. After divorce proceedings awarded Nonniel Dunaway $1800 a month in alimony, half of his NFL pension, and 800 acres of land they owned, she was found facedown in her swimming pool.
Think again. The coroner reported that her skull had been fractured and she was unconscious before she was placed in the water. Despite having a motive, a grand jury chose not to even indict Dunaway and he faced no trial or legal ramification, other than a wrongful death suit his children filed in which he was found liable and forced to pay a settlement.
*Honorable mention: Everyone seems to forget that Cam Newton stole a laptop at the University of Florida (allegedly) and also solicited money from colleges that wanted him to transfer to after he was released (or maybe his father did…allegedly).
Enjoy the game!
Adam Wagner is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. Originally from Jacksonville, FL, Adam now lives in NYC where his hobbies include writing and performing stand-up and sketch comedy. Follow him on Twitter @shagner904