Pro athletes perform at such a high level that it’s easy to forget they are human. Players are susceptible to the same range of emotions of any other person. From time to time, they can get angry just like all of us.
Recently, a Korean golfer was given a three-year ban for making a “middle finger gesture” at a pro golf event. He wasn’t the only one in sports history to do this, however. Here are the most controversial middle fingers in pro sports history.
The New York Yankees ended the strike-shortened 1994 season in first place in the AL East. For the 1995 season, they looked like they’d contend for a World Series title. To bolster their pitching staff, the Yankees added Chicago White Sox ace Jack McDowell in free agency — a no-brainer move.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as well as planned. McDowell disappointed in pinstripes. In July 1995, he had a particularly bad outing against his former team, allowing nine runs on 13 hits. Fans showered him with boos as he exited, and he let them know his displeasure with a whip of his middle finger.
In February 2010, then-New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan attended an MMA event in Sunrise, Florida. As he sat in the crowd, he heard comments from several Miami Dolphins fans in attendance. While it’s unclear exactly what was said, it was clear from Ryan’s reaction that he didn’t take kindly to it. Ryan flipped the fans the bird.
Unfortunately for the NFL coach, he was caught on camera. The Jets ended fined him $50,000 for the gesture, making this the most expensive middle finger on this list.
In December 2004, quarterback Jake Plummer led the Denver Broncos to a 20-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins. It didn’t look that way in the first quarter, however, when he threw an interception. As Plummer took his seat on the bench, a lone fan began jawing at him. Plummer responded by throwing up his middle finger.
Afterward, Plummer was remorseful. He said, “I apologize for that to our fans and everyone. It wasn’t directed to our fans. One guy got into my head a little bit. It shouldn’t be that way.”
During his time as an MLB outfielder, Milton Bradley was known as a very talented player. He was also known as a hothead. In 2010, he flipped off Texas Rangers fans while facing them as a Seattle Mariner.
The incident represented one of the tamest in Bradley’s career full of outbursts, including throwing a bag of baseballs on the field, fighting with Jeff Kent, tearing his ACL while yelling at an umpire, going after a TV announcer, and breaking his bat multiple times.
Brock Lesnar is one of the biggest stars in WWE sports entertainment. After his initial run as a pro wrestler in 2009, he was on top of the MMA world. Lesnar was a quick study at MMA, drawing on his amateur wrestling background to quickly dominate the sport.
In only his fifth career fight, he defeated Frank Mir by a second-round stoppage. After the match, Lesnar employed some WWE-style theatrics that involved flipping the middle finger to fans and insulting a corporate UFC sponsor. It left UFC President Dana White furious according to Twin Cities:
When Lesnar finally left the octagon, White cornered him in a bathroom for a tongue-lashing that left Lesnar apologetic. Yet it didn’t wipe the grin off his face while he drank a Bud Light, just moments after claiming he preferred Coors Light over the UFC sponsor, “because Bud Light won’t pay me.”
It was clear that while he physically was still in the octagon, Lesnar’s mind was still in WWE.