Lance Armstrong endured two decades of professional racing and seven Tour de France championships before he became America’s most disliked athlete. That happened, of course, when he acknowledged that he cheated through much of the ride. For Manti Te’o, it took little more than a day, following the revelation of a fake girlfriend, to join Armstrong at the top of the list.
The latest public surveys from Nielson/ E-Poll show Te’o and Armstrong in a virtual dead heat for the dubious title of America’s most disliked athlete (though we give the nod to Armstrong based on higher name recognition that gives his score a bit more heft). Each appeals to just 15% of the public, according to Nielson’s numbers, which it runs on a rolling basis with the help of E-Poll, an Encino, Calif.-based market research firm. Candidates were limited to active athletes with a minimum of 10% awareness (Armstrong is now barred from officially sanctioned events, but still competes as an athlete, hence for all practical purposes he is active).
Armstrong, through years of doping whispers and suspicions, long managed to persevere in public opinion through his denials, his feel-good comeback from cancer and his Livestrong charitable work. Then he decided to fess up, to tell it all to Oprah. Good for the soul perhaps, but as for public opinion – not what he’d hoped for. Especially since many viewers didn’t find him all that remorseful.