When the NFL announced Thursday that three players had been found betting on football, the punishment came with a specific harshness: indefinite suspensions that can only be appealed after the full season.
It was the second set of gambling fines imposed this off-season, after the league in April implemented similar suspensions against three players who bet on NFL games.
These suspensions, punitive in nature, were also a warning to other professionals tempted by the wide opportunities to bet on football. But, critics say, the harsher punishment is inconsistent with the league’s commercial partnership with betting companies, which is expected to bring the league more than $1 billion in revenue in 2022.
On Thursday, the NFL suspended Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Berry of the Indianapolis Colts and free agent Demetrius Taylor for at least the 2023 season for betting on NFL games. Shortly after the announcement, the Colts released Rodgers and Berry.
Team general manager Chris Ballard said of the decision, “The integrity of the game is of the utmost importance.”
His language resembled that of Jeff Miller, the league’s executive vice president for communications, public affairs and policy, who told reporters after the April suspension: “The integrity of the game must be held to such a high standard that no Don’t be.” tolerance for such behaviour.”
The NFL began embracing sports gambling in 2018 after the Supreme Court banned betting out of most states. Since then, along with the spread of gambling, sports betting has emerged as a lucrative source of revenue for the league. In 2021, the NFL partnered with DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars Entertainment on a deal reportedly collectively worth around $1 billion.
After long avoiding Las Vegas and its casinos and sports books, the Super Bowl will be held there in February, nearly seven years after team owners approved the Raiders’ relocation there.
The recent suspension reflects the league’s struggle to draw a line in acceptance of gambling, said Bob Boland, professor of sports law at Seton Hall and former Penn State athletics integrity officer.
Boland said in an interview, “The idea that sports betting is part of our product, we advertise in our broadcasts and where at one time it was something we held back, it is now something we embrace.” But not for you as a player.” “It’s a complicated question and it sends mixed messages.”
Although the league’s gambling policy is detailed in Appendix A of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement – and is included in each player’s contract – recently players have expressed doubts about the prohibitions.
“I understand rules are rules, but I can risk my life so my team wins but I can’t risk 1k on my team winning,” Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones wrote in a twitter postReferring to suspension.
When Lions receiver Jamison Williams faced a six-game suspension for betting on other sports while at a team facility, he claimed he was not aware of the NFL’s policy.
The league has said it will make a point of pushing the policy, visiting teams to highlight the fine points of the rules on gambling and mandating that rookies attend informational sessions. But football’s most obvious effort to date has been the enforcement of strict discipline to ensure competition on the field remains fair and unaffected, which is key to maintaining consumer trust.
,You want to create interest so that the last shot, the last kick, the last pass is always subject to chance and human effort. That’s why we love them to some extent,” Boland said. “The fact that they would be fixed or that a consequence would be produced immediately spurred interest.”
But by allowing the possibility of restitution for players who bet on football, the NFL circumvents the zero-tolerance policy that has been a cornerstone in Major League Baseball since the “Black Sox” scandal in 1919, when the Chicago White Sox The charges were leveled. of throwing the World Series.
Instead, the NFL’s indefinite suspension, with no possibility of a return, acts as an effective restriction on fringe players, while leaving the door open for football betting stars to return to the sport.
Calvin Ridley, who was suspended for the 2022 season due to in-game gambling, may return after serving his suspension. But for less impressive contributors like Rodgers and Berry, the path back to football is less clear.
Indefinite suspensions are not a recent solution in the NFL. In 1947, Commissioner Bert Bell indefinitely suspended Frank Filchock and Merle Hapes of the New York Giants for “acts prejudicial to the NFL and pro football” after they allegedly But a bribe was offered for repairs that year. Championship Game, however none of the players accepted. Filchock’s suspension was lifted in 1950 and he played only one more game. Heaps’ suspension was lifted after seven years, and he never played down the line again.
That scandal forced Bell to expand betting oversight of the NFL, including hiring former FBI investigators to keep tabs on league officials and gamblers alike. The team owners also gave them the unilateral authority to impose lifetime bans on anyone involved in in-game gambling. In 1963, commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended two players for 11 months for betting, despite finding no evidence that they tried to influence the outcome of the game.
The next penalty for betting on football came in 2019, when Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw was suspended until the end of the 2020 season for betting on NFL games. (Shaw was reinstated in 2021 but has not played an NFL game since.)
The recent spate of gambling violations may finally force the league to consider harsher penalties, the outcome of which would need to be agreed upon by the NFL players’ union. The volume and star status of player bettors, Leroy said, may give both sides an incentive to move to protect the faith in football games.
“Let’s say, hypothetically, that the league actually does this kind of investigation and they find out that 100 or more players are gambling,” he said, “so you’ve got massive disruption to team rosters.” I think this is something that will prompt parties to come to the table and negotiate on this.