Sports beefs are legendary. Sometimes, star athletes pick beefs with one another to get the buzz generating, other times they do it out of genuine feelings of rivalry. It looks good when superstar players are facing off and talking trash leading up to a big game. Fans get involved, and everyone has a little fun. But sometimes, those beefs can go too far; way too far. This week, grim news comes out of Paris as PSG star Aminata Diallo is arrested on the suspicion that she hired hitmen to attack a rival to get her out of the way. Is it a case of overreaching ambition gone too far? 

Aminata Tries to Take Out Hamraoui

PSG

Imagine getting a ride from one of your team mates on what seems like a normal evening. The next thing you know, you’ve been beaten and your career is in jeopardy. Then, you find out your teammate may have set you up in the first place. Sound like a fantasy crime novel? Unfortunately, it played out just like that for Kheira Hamraoui last week.

Here’s what we know about the shocking attack:

  • November 4th: Diallo, 26, was driving home teammate and rival Hamraoui, 31. At some point during the drive, two masked men stopped the car. 
  • During the attack, Diallo was “detained” but the details remain unclear as to how that was accomplished, and she was released without harm.
  • Hamraoui was attacked with iron bars and beaten severely.
  • After the attack, Hamraoui needed stitches and was unable to play for the next game, which Diallo subbed for. 
  • The morning after the game, Diallo was arrested and local media have suggested that the French soccer star hired the hitmen to attack Hamraoui to get her out of the way and end the professional rivalry decisively.
  • Police do not appear to have identified the masked attackers and have not yet publicly shared the charges Diallo is facing. 

The Paris Saint-Germain club has acknowledged that a player has been arrested, and confirmed that the arrest is linked to an assault against another player, but have not released further comments. So was it a coincidence, or a professional rivalry taken way too far? Time will tell; for now, Hamraoui is healing and hopes to be able to play again soon. 

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan

If you lived through the ’90’s, this story probably sounds eerily familiar. The world of competitive ice skating turned bloody when Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in 1994, and the details that came out later shocked a nation. It’s a messy and complicated story, so let’s break down what happened:

  • Tonya Harding and Kerrigan were professional rivals, and Harding believed that Kerrigan stood between her and Olympic team dreams.
  • Looking to get ahead at any cost, Harding turned to her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt. 
  • Gillooly and Eckhardt contracted Shane Stant and his uncle Derrick Smith, who used a 21-inch collapsible baton to strike Kerrigan’s right leg.
  • The attack didn’t break any bones, but left bruising severe enough that she had to pull out of the looming national championships.
  • Harding inches closer to her Olympic dream – outwardly the picture of support for her injured teammate – until Eckhardt confesses and it all comes tumbling down.
  • The deal was really sealed against Harding in early 1994 as Gillooly confessed and implicated his ex-wife.
  • There’s a fiery back and forth, but ultimately the Olympic committee opts to let Harding perform while the investigation plays out. However, karma gets her and she comes in 8th. Kerrigan wins a silver medal. 
  • March 1994, Harding confesses. She receives $190K fine and three years probation. 

It was a wake-up call that a sport that seems so refined and delicate could be so brutal. People who are willing to do whatever it takes to win hide in even the most unlikely places. 

When Sports Beefs Go Too Far

Malice at the Palace

It’s not just the women that go for blood in the sports world. There’s a long history of rivalries being taken too far, and it highlights the danger of infusing a winning-above-all attitude in the sports world. Just recently, a far less sinister but still disturbing story made headlines as a high school football team won in a demoralizing 106-0 game against a badly mismatched rival. While no one was hurt, it was certainly a good reminder that sometimes winning isn’t everything; how you get there matters too.

Harding and Diallo aside, here are some other grim sports rivalries that took it too far:

  • “The Malice in the Palace”: One of the dirtiest brawls in sports history went down in 2004 when the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons broke into a fight over a thrown cup. 
  • Blues vs Blackhawks 1991: Hockey is known for fights but this one became legendary after players were assessed a staggering 278 penalty minutes for an out-of-control brawl as the sidelines emptied of players joining the fray. 
  • Tyson vs Holyfield: In 1997, Mike Tyson took it way too far in his bout against Evander Holyfield, biting his rival’s ear twice and drawing blood. 
  • Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier: This slow-burn rivalry turned bitter as the two sparred verbally and physically over the years. Ali took things too far with racially-charged epithets including calling him an “U–le T-m” and Frazier showed himself to be no better when he took the opportunity to verbally stab at Ali years later. As Ali’s Parkinson’s decline accelerated, Frazier bragged that he was responsible in part for that condition. 

Diallo’s alleged attack on Hamraoui is just the latest in a long line of horrifying rivalries taken too far. It’s clear that athletes take their jobs seriously, but there’s such a thing as taking it too seriously. There’s no win or contract worth hurting another person, but that hasn’t stopped some ambitious players from trying in the past.

More information is expected to be released as the investigation over Hamraoui’s attack continues.