Here’s a simple fact that so many folks seem to have a problem with: two things can be true at the same time and man are we seeing that in the case of Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley. For those unaware Ridley was suspended by the NFL for at least the next season for betting on games in 2021. Ridley made a series of 3, 5 and 8 game parlay bets on a mobile app that included the Falcons to win. The league was actually made aware of the bets because of their relationships with legal sports books according to reports from ESPN.
Now, here’s where it gets a little complicated. The league has embraced Sports book and legalized gambling since the Supreme Court opened up the floodgates. In full disclosure I also work with the folks at Caesars Sport book as the Chief Trends Officer and Brand Ambassador. But to me, the complicated part isn’t the league embracing the massive gaming industry, and punishing one of it’s players for doing so. The complication is not conflating what should be obvious.. team personnel can’t gamble… with the idea of uneven punishment when it comes to players vs owners. Let’s start with player responsibility. It’s stated very clearly in the NFL rules that “ all NFL Personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or indirectly through a 3rd party, on any NF game, practice or other event.”. I think we call agree that makes sense, yes? There can’t even be a hint of the idea of someone directly involved in a game wagering on it or potentially using inside information to bet. The NFL’s investigation into Ridley found that this was not the case. To me this is very similar to the notion that a player is responsible for everything that goes into his body whether he’s aware of it or not, also stated very clearly in NFL rules. Personal responsibility should always matter.
In the wake of the Ridley news are wondering very LOUDLY about how the NFL can on one hand promote and be in business with gambling and not let the players gamble. I really don’t see this as an issue, it’s pretty clear why they shouldn’t. And remember, players make money too. Roughly 50 cents of every dollar the league brings in on gambling goes directly to the players. It’s a reason the salary cap has crossed the 200 million dollar mark for the first time for the upcoming season. EVERYONE is benefitting financially. The NFL does that better than anyone, make money. They know that betting is a huge part of fan engagement with the sports and there’s always been a relationship. Hell the only reason you have injury reports during the week is so the line can be set accurately. Those reports ensure that nobody is working off inside information.
The real issue, does the punishment fit the crime? Ridley spent $1500 bucks that cost him.. barring a reduction of the suspension…a year of his career. I think it’s very fair to ask is the NFL willing to play the hard hand on itself?
The Washington Commanders are in the midst of a very messy and public investigation into rampant allegations of sexual misconduct within the organization under the leadership of owner Dan Snyder. Are they willing to be as punitive with him as an owner once the investigation is complete? Considering the massive number of allegations should he even be allowed to be associated with the team at all? In the league’s personal conduct policy it makes it very clear that coaches and front office people will be held to a higher standard than players.
And then there’s the case of Dolphins owner Steven Ross. In the lawsuit filed by former Miami Head Coach Brian Flores he alleges that Ross offered him incentives to lose games to improve the team’s draft position. What could be more against the integrity of the game than that? In the league’s personal conduct policy it makes it very clear that coaches and front office people will be held to a higher standard than players. In 2007 Cowboys assistant coach Wade Wilson was suspended 5 games for using performance enhancing drugs while then Patriots Safety Rodney Harrison was suspended 4 games for using the same substance. Is that standard going to be applied in Washington?
To sum up, 3 things stand out. It should be fairly obvious to everyone that Ridley had to be dealt with firmly. The rules are pretty straight forward and personal responsibility matters. Secondly, the system is working. It was thru the NFL’s association with legal sports books that they discovered an NFL player was betting on games. And thirdly, its is absolutely fair to ask if the NFL is going to be as heavy handed on owners as well as players. If the “integrity of the game” is at stake when it comes to NFL personnel gambling.. isn’t that same integrity at stake when it comes to how those who run the business of football conduct themselves? We’re about to find out. The gambling genie is out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. There’s simply too much money on the line for everyone. But what’s on the line in Washington is just as important. We’ll see if there’s one or two sets of rules in play when it’s all said and done