When the NFL announced Thursday that three players were found to have been betting on football, the penalty was handed down with the unique severity of an indefinite suspension that can only be appealed after a full season.
It was the second such gambling penalty to be imposed this offseason after the league issued similar suspensions against three players for betting on NFL games in April. .
Originally, the punitive suspension was also a warning to other professionals tempted by the prevalence of football betting opportunities. But critics say the harsh punishment goes against the league’s business partnership with gambling companies. brought over $1 billion to the league In 2022.
On Thursday, the NFL suspended Indianapolis Colts Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Berry, as well as free agent Demetrious Taylor, through at least the 2023 season for gambling on NFL games. Shortly after this announcement, the Colts released Rodgers and Berry.
“The integrity of the game is paramount,” said team general manager Chris Ballard of the decision.
His language echoed that of Jeff Miller, the league’s executive vice president of public affairs, public relations and policy. “The integrity of the game must be held to a very high standard,” he told reporters following the April hiatus.
The NFL began accepting sports betting after the Supreme Court in 2018 overturned a ban that continued to ban gambling in most states. Since then, with the spread of gambling, sports betting has emerged as a lucrative source of revenue for the league. In 2021, the NFL has reportedly partnered with DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars Entertainment on deals of roughly equal value. $1 billion combined.
Las Vegas, its casinos and sportsbooks have long been shunned, but the Super Bowl is set to go to Las Vegas in February, nearly seven years after team owners approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. .
Bob Borland, a professor of sports law at Seton Hall University and former Pennsylvania State University athletic health officer, said recent suspensions show the league is struggling to draw the line on accepting gambling. said there is.
“The idea that sports betting is part of our product, which we promote in our broadcasts, used to shy away from it, but now we are more open to it. but it’s not for you as a player,” Borland said in an interview. “It’s a complex issue and it sends different messages.”
While the league’s gambling policy is detailed in Appendix A of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and is included in all player contracts, recent players have expressed concerns about the ban.
“I know rules are rules, but you can risk your life for your team to win, but you can’t risk 1,000 for your team to win.” Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones wrote in a twitter postrefers to the suspension.
When Lions receiver Jameson Williams was suspended for six games for betting on other sports on the team’s property, he said: he claimed to be unaware NFL policy.
The league has made this policy a priority, saying it will visit teams to highlight the finer points of its gambling rules and require new players to attend information sessions. But imposing strict discipline is, so far, football’s most visible attempt to ensure that competition on the field is fair and unaffected, and to maintain consumer confidence. is the key to
“We want it to be interesting so that the last shot, the last kick, the last pass are always subject to chance and human effort. That’s why we love them to some degree,” Borland said. “The fact that they can be corrected, the fact that they produce results, is immediately intriguing.”
But by acknowledging the potential return of players who bet on football, the NFL has maintained the zero tolerance that has been a cornerstone of Major League Baseball since the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal, in which the Chicago White Sox were accused. Stopped the policy one step ahead. When pitching the World Series.
Rather, the NFL’s indefinite suspension with the possibility of reinstatement will effectively serve as a suspension for fringe players while leaving the door open to return to play for football betting stars.
Calvin Ridley, who was suspended for the 2022 season for sports betting charges, will be able to return to action once his suspension is over. But for lesser contributors like Rodgers and Berry, the path back to football is less clear.
In 1947, Commissioner Bert Bell accused the New York Giants of Frank Filchock and Merle Hapes of being bribed to correct their results for the year, accusing them of “acts detrimental to the NFL and professional football.” ‘ was imposed for an indefinite suspension. A championship game, although neither player accepted. Filchock’s suspension was lifted in 1950, leaving him with just one more game. Hapes’ suspension was lifted after seven years, and he never played down again.
The scandal forced Mr. Bell to expand NFL gambling surveillance, including hiring a former FBI agent to monitor league officials and gamblers alike. The team owner also gave him unilateral powers to impose a lifetime ban on anyone involved in betting on sports. In 1963, Commissioner Pete Roselle suspended two players for gambling for 11 months, despite finding no evidence that they had attempted to influence the outcome of a match. .
Player penalties for football betting came next in 2019, when Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw was suspended until the end of the 2020 season for betting on an NFL game. (Shaw returned in 2021, but hasn’t played in an NFL game since.)
A recent spate of gambling violations may eventually force the league to consider tougher penalties, any outcome of which would require the NFL Players Association to agree. Michael Leroy, a professor and sports labor expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the number of player bettors and star status motivate both sides to work harder to protect the game’s credibility. said it was possible.
“Let’s say, hypothetically, that the league went into full swing with this kind of investigation and found that more than 100 players were gambling. I think it’s the sort of thing that forces the parties to come to the table and negotiate.”