Sports fans crave athlete loyalty more than just about anything besides winning. When a player sticks around with one team, he or she can become an icon in the city. Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, and Ryan Giggs come to mind when talking about athletes that played their entire careers on the same team.
With the emergence of free agency across all sports, many high profile athletes have taken massive contracts to leave the cities where they were beloved for greener pastures. Backlash towards the turncoats typically follows, as jerseys have been burned in the streets and children start crying about losing their hero.
What makes an athlete leaving their original team even tougher to swallow is when they sign with a hated rival. As it's become easier to sign athletes away from their squads with millions of dollars or the chance to win a title, parting ways to join the team they had spent so much time trying to beat before has become more common.
From baseball to basketball and even hockey to auto racing, plenty of sportsmen have been labeled as "traitors." These are the athletes that drew the most ire from fans and media alike, though many have found success in their new homes.
10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
For those that only casually pay attention to NASCAR or don't follow the sport at all, hearing the name Dale Earnhardt, Jr. instantly creates thoughts of NASCAR's biggest name. In fact, Earnhardt, Jr. has won NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award every year since 2003. Much of that popularity comes from the legacy of his father, who was one of the most successful racers in NASCAR history.
When Earnhardt, Jr. got his start, he was racing with his father's team (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) in the popular number eight car. In 2007, the most successful racing team, Hendrick Motorsports, came calling. Earnhardt, Jr. announced that he was leaving his father's DEI legacy for Hendrick, as the team was able to offer a better car to give him a shot at winning a title.
Upset with the decision, Earnhardt's own stepmother wouldn't allow him to take the number eight car with him. Instead, Earnhardt switched over to the 88 car, but never ended up winning a championship. 2017 was his final chance to take the cup, but he would finish outside of the Chase and never finished better than third. In terms of money, Earnhardt made the right choice as he's estimated to be worth $300 million.