After serving nearly 20 months in prison, Plaxico Burress is hoping to make a comeback. The former New York Giants wide receiver and 2008 Super Bowl champion wants to return to the NFL, but has to prove himself on and off the field. After shooting himself with an illegal gun in a New York City nightclub in 2008, Burress lost a $35 million contract, the respect of fans and marketability to potential sponsors. But as proven by more than a few fallen stars, it is possible to rise again if he plays his cards right. Here is a look at a few other athletes that have gone through controversy and come out winners—again. —Kahliah A. Laney
The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback lost a $130 million contract and loads of endorsements when he was charged with running dogfighting rings back in 2007. Released from jail two years later, Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and led his new team to a NFC East championship. Earlier this year, the star quarterback signed lucrative endorsement deals with Unequal Technologies and Core Synergy, solidifying the former underdog’s position back in the media’s good graces.
The former Olympian was stripped of three gold and two bronze medals after it was discovered she’d lied about using performance-enhancing drugs during the 2000 games. Jones served six months in prison in 2008 as a result, but the tarnished track star rebounded last year when she joined the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock as a guard. Jones detailed her comeback story in her latest book, On the Right Track.
Tyson’s career should have been a KO many times over, but the self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet” keeps getting back up for more. He served three years in prison after being convicted of rape in the early nineties and then, in a notorious bout, bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997. The one-time undisputed heavyweight champion was arrested several times and filed for bankruptcy. But “Iron Mike” eventually revamped his public image, through comedic cameos in The Hangover and The Hangover Part II, as well as an Animal Planet reality series, Taking on Tyson. However, his true redemption came more recently as the controversial pugilist was inducted in to the boxing Hall of Fame just this week.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
In 1991, Johnson shocked basketball fans when he announced that he was HIV-positive and promptly retired from the NBA. Magic’s golden image was soiled further by the fact that his wife and unborn child did not have the virus and he later confessed to extramarital affairs being the cause of his diagnosis. Returning to basketball a year later, many players protested his return for fear of contracting HIV if he were to get an open wound on the court. Despite concerns Magic not only played without incident but went on to establish himself as a multi-million dollar mogul through Magic Johnson Enterprises and lucrative partnerships with Starbucks, AMC Theaters and 24 Hour Fitness, among others.
In 2003, the then high school senior found himself at the center of controversy when he received a Hummer from his mother as a 18th birthday gift. Ohio school officials in the district where he attended school conducted an investigation to make sure the vehicle wasn’t an “illegal gift” from a potential scout. While he wasn’t declared ineligible because of the car, James was banned from finishing the remainder of his high school basketball season by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for accepting two jerseys from a local clothing store. Despite the early controversy, he went on to be the first pick in the NBA draft later that year, becoming one of the League’s most marketed and successful players.
Serena Williams fought her way back to the top of the tennis world.
When news first broke of Woods having an extramarital affair in November 2009 it looked to be a small blemish on his until-then squeaky-clean image, but as more women came forward the golf star’s marketability was drastically tarnished. Companies endorsed by Woods saw their stock market values fall and shareholders lost an estimated $5 to $12 billion in revenue. Although he hung on to deals with both Nike and Electronic Arts, Woods lost multi-million dollar deals with Accenture, Gatorade, AT&T and Gillette, which caused his endorsement earnings to drop from an estimated $1 billion to a mere $70 million. After checking himself into sex rehab, Woods eventually returned to the course. Although a knee injury has him currently sidelined, his Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters video game was the fifth highest selling game in April, signaling a brand resurgence for the golf great.
In 2009 the South African track star faced intense scrutiny when she was accused of not being a woman. After rigorous physical and psychological tests it was determined that Semenya had both male and female chromosomes. Based on these findings it was uncertain whether or not the then 800-meter world champion would keep her title or be able to compete in the future as a woman. Despite having been suspended from competing for nearly a year, Semenya is back on track racing as a woman. Most recently, she competed in the IAAF World Challenge Dakar Grand Prix.
During his time at USC, the former Heisman winner and his family received thousands of dollars in gifts from sports agents, which violated NCAA rules. After a four-year investigation, USC was banned from bowl games in the 2010 season and forfeited wins in the 2004-2005 season. Skipping his senior year, Bush entered the 2006 NFL Draft and was selected second overall by the New Orleans Saints. Eventually signing a lucrative endorsement deal with Adidas, the star running back led his team to a Super Bowl win in 2010.