Why These Athletes Were Banned From Restaurants

When it comes to athletes and bans, you're more likely to think of various sports scandals that got someone escorted off the field than from a restaurant's dining room. There's the 1919 Black Sox baseball scandal, which saw eight players receive lifetime bans from baseball after they intentionally lost the World Series. In 1994, there was the case of Tonya Harding who, with the help of her then-husband and bodyguard, hired a man to break rival ice skater Nancy Kerrigan's leg (via Washington Post). Not only was Harding stripped of her championship title, but she also received a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

At least Harding can still take a night out at a restaurant, however. Unlike even some of the most infamous banned sports figures, some athletes have also been banned from restaurants. Some of the reasons are bizarre or even outright hilarious, while others are quite problematic and may have you furrowing your brow in concern. The tales of how some of these bans came to be are as widely varied as the athletes who have been on the receiving end of these restaurant exits.

Jason Cummings can't enter an Edinburgh McDonald's

Imagine being banned from McDonald's because you threw muffins! In the case of Jason Cummings, this situation is all too real. According to Mirror, the Hibs striker was banned in 2015 from an Edinburgh, Scotland McDonald's location. The cause? He and his friends allegedly tossed around various pieces of food while lobbing insults at other patrons. Cummings denied his involvement in the incident, stating that he was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

At the time, he had been signed to Hibernian Football Club (affectionately known as the Hibs) since 2013. While he got a slap on the wrist from Hibs' team management following the McDonald's antics, he was part of a more concerning incident just a few months later. Per the Daily Record, Cummings was linked to an alleged sexual assault that took place at a party he attended. Even though he was reportedly not involved, as he was watching a boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, he did receive some serious public backlash on Twitter.

Samoa's rugby team was forbidden from eating fast food

During the 2015 Rugby World Cup held in the UK, some teams got to relish the glory of fast food all they wanted. Meanwhile, others could only warm the benches while watching the fast food feast from the metaphorical sidelines. That's because, according to the New Zealand Herald, the Samoan team's managers banned their World Cup players from eating any fast food, including McDonald's and KFC, for the duration of the tournament. This was reportedly made even more difficult for the players as they were staying at the Milton Keynes Hotel. Turns out that is the prime location to be in if you're looking to have more than your fill of junk food.

During the same tournament, Tonga's team visited Nando's for 10 consecutive days. They were so visible there that the players even received a special shoutout from the outlet on its Facebook page (via 9News). The Canadian team reportedly consumed a whopping 22 pounds of roast beef in 15 minutes and were permitted to enjoy mounds of bacon, pancakes, and maple syrup, amongst other goodies during game days (via New Zealand Herald). 

Perhaps none of the junk food details mattered in the end, because none of the above teams made it beyond the pool stages of the tournament. Hopefully, the Samoan players got to enjoy some of the fast food delights after giving their due diligence on the rugby field.

Dominique Wilkins took a restaurant to task

One would think that hosting sports legends would be a marketing boon for a restaurant. However, this was not the case at Le Bilboquet, an upscale French restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia. According to Bleacher Report, NBA legend Dominique Wilkins was denied entry into the restaurant in May 2021. Following the incident, Wilkins took the restaurant to task on Twitter, stating that the denial wasn't so much about his failure to follow the restaurant's dress code as it was about the color of his skin.

While the restaurant initially issued a statement denying the allegations, the post was later deleted. As per Fox5 Atlanta, an apology was later issued to the former Hawks star. The statement also indicated that changes would be made to the restaurant's dress code policy to minimize the subjective nature of its enforcement, and that staff would undergo diversity, equity, and inclusion training. 

Ultimately, the incident highlighted the long and shameful history of how restaurants, schools, clubs, and many other establishments have used dress codes to exclude marginalized groups of people by targeting clothing commonly associated with people of color (via Eater).

Alex Morgan got argumentative at Disney

The so-called happiest place on earth is not always so happy for everyone, it seems. In 2017, USA women's soccer player Alex Morgan was involved in an argument that erupted at a restaurant in Disney World Epcot that got her booted from the establishment. According to The Guardian, Morgan had been partying with a group that included two fellow soccer players, Giles Barnes and Donny Toia.  The argument broke out because Barnes had reportedly cut into a line. As Barnes was being escorted off the premises, officers were soon called back to the bar to take Morgan out as well. According to the Orlando Sentinel, they noted that the players appeared to be "impaired."

With an Olympic gold medal and a Women's World Cup championship to her name, Morgan is not just one of the most famous soccer players in the United States. She is also celebrated for her work in advocating for fairer pay in women's soccer, which has historically lagged behind more highly-paid and less-impressive U.S. men's soccer. According to NPR, the team ultimately won a $24 million settlement.

Following the incident, Morgan and other players from the group received trespass warnings, per the Orlando Sentinel. It's not clear whether Morgan and the other players will be allowed back to the theme park, although it's likely that they will steer clear for the time being. Morgan later apologized for her actions via Twitter (via Sports Illustrated).

Mike Evans can't get barbecue at one spot in New Orleans

Sometimes what starts as just a few words and a shove on the field can quickly escalate into intense displays of aggression. This was the case during a 2022 NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints that took place in New Orleans. Per the NFL, Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was making his way toward the sideline during the fourth quarter when fellow Buccaneers Tom Brady and Leonard Fournette got into a scuffle with Saints team members Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Maye. When Evans saw this, he sprinted back and shoved Lattimore so hard that he landed on the turf, which resulted in a full-on fight, and then a one-game suspension without pay for his "unnecessary aggression" and "unsportsmanlike conduct."

But what does an on-the-field scuffle have to do with dining out? According to USA Today, Blue Oak BBQ, a New Orleans restaurant, took it upon itself to dish out a dose of discipline for the player's bad behavior. The restaurant made its stance clear through a Twitter post that reads: "@MikeEvans13 has been banned from Blue Oak BBQ for life. You are a disgrace sir." If that hadn't been clear enough, the post was followed up with another strongly-worded sentiment. This time, it was a photo of Evans posted in the restaurant's doorway, emblazoned with text that read: "this is a NO Mike Evans Establishment."

Manchester soccer players couldn't enjoy pizza

In 2016, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola banned his soccer players from eating pizza during the season, as per The Guardian. As if that weren't bad enough, not only were they not allowed to eat pizza, but if they were found to be overweight, they would face a stint on the bench. The strict declaration went beyond nutritional considerations, as Guardiola argued that pizza also affected players' sleep and how they recovered from injuries. And so the pizzerias of Manchester would see none of its soccer players on the premises.

As it turns out, pizza has a contentious reputation in the world of soccer. In 2006, a longstanding rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal football clubs reached a head when Alex Ferguson was pelted with a slice of pizza after his team ended Arsenal's 49-game win streak (via The Guardian). And in 2022, the UEFA decided to initiate legal action against Pizza Wolke, a small pizzeria based in Frankfurt, Germany for naming one of their menu items the "champignons league," as per the Daily Mail. Yet this was a decision that critics have described as bizarre given that the term means "mushroom league" in German.

Grady Jarrett ran afoul of a restaurant dress code

Dress code-enforcing Atlanta restaurant Le Bilboquet once again landed in hot water for denying an athlete entry to its premises. According to Insider, Atlanta Falcons star Grady Jarrett was trying to gain entry while wearing a casual Gucci tracksuit. Citing the dress code, the restaurant refused to let him enter. While the restaurant issued an apology to "anyone who has ever been turned away," it did still insist that its dress code policy prohibits casual looks that incorporate pieces like sweatpants, baseball hats, torn denim, flip flops, athletic wear, and swimsuits.

Besides sports stars like the NBA's Dominique Wilkins and Jarrett, there seem to be a string of other patrons who have also been denied entry to the restaurant. Others include former mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Shamea Morton (via News Onyx), and Monica Johnson from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Several other restaurants in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta, have also come under fire for similar dress codes, according to Eater.

Charles Barkley was kicked out of a bar

Former NBA star and sports commentator Charles Barkley has a storied career, to say the least. He has also dealt with a gambling problem that has not only cost him millions of dollars, as per ESPN, but has also landed him in legal hot water. However, he's also caused trouble in restaurants that have earned him at least a temporary ban. According to UPI, in 1993 Barkley was escorted out of Stixx, a bar in Scottsdale, Arizona. Before his exit, Barkley had allegedly hurled obscenities at fellow patrons, which then kicked off an altercation that also involved Barkley.

According to ESPN, by the time 2008 rolled around, Barkley had racked up so much gambling debt that he had to pay $400,000 to Wynn Las Vegas. This came after the casino laid a civil complaint against him for failing to settle four $100,000 casino loans that he had received in the previous year.

Wolverhampton soccer players can't enjoy McDonald's

When former Wales striker Dean Saunders joined the Wolverhampton soccer squad as manager, one of the first things to be banned from players' plates was McDonald's, per the Daily Mail. Players were also expected to arrive at training on time, pick up after themselves, and generally present themselves as good representatives of the team.

McDonald's is not so unusual when it comes to odd food bans imposed by sports teams. Some coaches and managers have banned athletes from consuming chicken burgers, meat, french fries, and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sunderland coach Paolo Di Canio even forbade his squad from consuming ice cubes, according to The Telegraph. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspurs coaches Antonio Conte and Juande Ramos instated bans on condiments including ketchup, salt, and pepper (via Planet Football). As if that weren't enough, the National Collegiate Athletic Association once placed a ban on cream cheese, though CBS Sports reports that the rule is no longer in effect. The jury is out on whether or not these bans are effective when it comes to getting sports squads the wins they desire. At the very least though, as Saunders' rules strongly imply, discipline is essential, even when it comes to snacks and meal times.

Jaroslav Bobrowski defeated a buffet restaurant

If you've wondered how much food a triathlete can consume in one sitting, then Jaroslav Bobrowski is your man. According to the Washington Post, one evening in 2018, Bobrowski, a former bodybuilder and Ironman competitor, visited an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Landshut, Germany. At the time, he was reportedly following a strict diet that required 20 hours of fasting before he ate. Done with the fasting portion, Bobrowski sat down and dusted off 100 plates, which included approximately 18 pounds of sushi. Even though Bobrowski was a regular at the restaurant, this display of eating prowess pushed management to ban him. The restaurant owner said that Bobrowski's food consumption was simply "not normal."

Though Bobrowski's food stats might be shocking, it's not unheard of for patrons to get booted from all-you-can-eat buffets. Per The Telegraph, two men in Brighton were labeled a "couple of pigs" by the manager of Gobi, a Mongolian barbecue, back in 2012. The cause? For two years, George Dalmon and Andy Miles had regularly visited the restaurant, consumed five bowls of stir-fry each, ordered only water, and never paid a service charge. Meanwhile, in China, a man called Mr. Kang was banned from Handadi Seafood BBQ Buffet after he consumed over 3 pounds of pork trotters during one visit and about 8 pounds of prawns on another. The man complained, but the restaurant owner countered that he just couldn't afford to meet Kang's prodigious appetite (via BBC).