We've recently seen it by league, how about overall? Over the past few months we've looked at the most disliked players in the NFL (Michael Vick) and NBA (Kris Humphries).
When putting the most disliked athletes from all sports under one roof, Vick and Humphries still make the cut. In fact Vick is still right at the top. But the NFL and NBA bad boys do share the stage with golf (Tiger Woods), baseball (Alex Rodriguez) and Nascar (Kurt Busch).
That's the result of the latest surveys conducted by Nielsen and partner E-Poll Market Research, measuring public attitudes toward pro athletes. Players named on the list were those that scored the most responses from people describing them as athletes they "dislike";"dislike somewhat" or "dislike a lot." Candidates are limited to those scoring at least 10 percent awareness with the public (hence, no hockey players).
Vick, who has led a lot of these lists over the past couple of years, continues to struggle with casual NFL fans who know him mainly for his dog fighting legal mess, even as close followers of the sport love him. Vick's high awareness number (42%) suggests he's a known quantity outside the hardcore NFL crowd. "His awareness is up there with Peyton Manning, but a lot of it is people knowing him for the wrong reasons," says Stephen Master, VP of Sports for Nielsen.
The past year has brought a fair amount of turnover on the fans' target list, with the likes of Mark McGwire Randy Moss and Manny Ramirez fading from the collective consciousness. Ben Rothlisberger, who still rates high on the dislike meter, nonetheless dropped out of the top ten as he put more distance between himself and the sexual assault allegations of 2009 (he was never charged). And while owners are included in the polling, none made it this year. The Raiders' Al Davis passed away in October, while the Cowboys' Jerry Jones was overlooked this time around, perhaps due to the relatively low profile he kept during his team's mediocre season. Both were on the 2011 list.
Taking their places are Plaxico Burress, fresh off a prison term for gun possession, Kris Humphries, thanks to his dalliance with Kim Kardashian and reality TV, and Kurt Busch, the Nascar driver whose temper tantrums resulted in a divorce from his Penske Racing team. And for the ultimate 180 degree turnaround, look no further than Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. Just four months ago, Suh led Nielsen-EPoll's survey of most liked players in the NFL. But his reputation took a sudden hit after a highly publicized stomping of a Green Bay Packer offensive guard during a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving Day. Suh got hit with a two-game suspension and bruised image.
"He went from being so popular to being a pariah in one season," says Master. The good news for Suh is that he's a young player who can shake off a mistake if he keeps it clean from now on. Humphries is in a similar situation – his tabloid exploits with Kardashian figure to become old news pretty quickly, meaning he won't be on many people's hate list a year from if he sticks to basketball. Vick's incident was more serious, but it too will fade with time. Just a bit more time.