Off the fields of play, the decade was full of controversy, tragedy, scandal, the death of an iconic figure and even a Supreme Court ruling that is changing the face of American sports fandom. Here are some to remember, in roughly chronological order.
Sandusky Scandal Rocks Penn State
It was bad enough that longtime Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was found to have committed child sexual abuse, but the scandal widened to include iconic coach Joe Paterno, whom the school terminated.
Football Confronts Brain Injuries
Growing concern over brain injuries in football, including ongoing research into CTE and the suicides of former players such as Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, led to lawsuits, rules changes and drops in youth participation.
Armstrong Goes Down Hard
Lance Armstrong was an inspirational figure as a cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner, but after years of denying doping allegations, the USADA finally took him down in 2012, and he was stripped of his titles.
Hernandez Convicted of Murder
Aaron Hernandez, a Patriots tight end who had caught a touchdown pass against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, was arrested in 2013 on a murder charge and convicted. In 2017, he committed suicide in his jail cell.
Boston Marathon Bombing
The 2013 Boston Marathon was torn apart by two bombs that detonated near the finish line, killing three and injuring many others. Five days later, the Red Sox’ David Ortiz famously exhorted fans at Fenway Park to “stay strong.”
Just when it seemed the PED era was over, news broke in 2013 of players using illegal substances from Biogenesis, a clinic in Florida. Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and (eventually) Alex Rodriguez were among those suspended.
NBA Kicks Out Donald Sterling
Adam Silver had been NBA commissioner for two months when he made an early statement, banning longtime Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life in 2014 after recordings of him making racist remarks went public.
Rice Assault Prompts Policy Change
Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested in 2014 for assaulting his fiancée in an elevator, a matter that became widely known when video went public. Criticism over its handling of Rice led the NFL to alter its domestic violence policy.
Fans got a crash course in the physics of football inflation as the NFL sought to punish the Patriots for deflating balls during the 2014-15 playoffs. Tom Brady initially fought a suspension but eventually sat out the first four games of 2015.
Nassar Scandal Rocks Gymnastics World
Larry Nassar, a doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, engaged in a long pattern of sexual abuse, a scandal that led to the departures of the entire USA Gymnastics board and two Michigan State presidents, among others.
Kaepernick Takes a Knee
The 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick sat, and later kneeled, during the national anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice, a gesture that spread to others, drew criticism from Donald Trump and left the NFL conflicted on how to respond.
Muhammad Ali dies
Muhammad Ali, one of the most memorable — and controversial — characters in sports history, died in 2016 at age 74. The former heavyweight boxing champion was celebrated with a processional through his hometown of Louisville, followed by a celebrity-studded funeral service.
Supreme Court Opens Door to Betting
After decades in which Nevada had an effective monopoly on legal sports betting in the U.S., a 2018 Supreme Court ruling opened the door for other states to join the club, including New Jersey, which had led the legal effort.