The National Football League is the most popular sport in North America, and it isn’t even close. In the Roger Goodell era as commissioner of the league, the earnings the league has made have been substantial.
New TV deals with major players in the market, agreements with many different sponsors and giving the owners what they want, money, has been Goodell’s modus operandi. However, Goodell’s tenure has also been riddle with hypocrisy at every turn.
I could mention the league backing off its substance abuse policy, a policy which ended careers of talented players like Martavis Bryant, but for today’s exercise I’m going to be talking about the league’s stance on gambling.
Friday was the day news broke about several players, all tracing back to the Detroit Lions being suspended for different aspects of gambling. In case you didn’t hear exactly what happened, here is the ESPN report giving the summation:
Four Lions players, including 2022 first-round pick Jameson Williams, were among five players leaguewide to be suspended for violating the NFL’s gambling policy after an investigation by the league.
Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus and safety C.J. Moore have been suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games, as was Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney. They can reapply for reinstatement after one year, although Detroit announced that its two players have been released.
Second-year wide receivers Williams and Stanley Berryhill are being suspended for six games each for mobile betting that occurred at the Lions’ Allen Park facility. These two did not bet on NFL games, the team said.
So, to clarify, the Lions cut the two players on their roster who will be suspended indefinitely, getting the Calvin Ridley treatment, while the others, who didn’t bet on the NFL, will serve their suspension and return to the team.
With that out of the way, it’s important to not the massive amount of hypocrisy within these decisions. Just like the league’s ever-changing stance on substance use, they partner with “official gambling partners” and yet suspend players for using those very services to gamble themselves.
I’m not saying NFL players should be permitted to bet on their games or other league contests, but simply how the league has been doing this very type of thing well before mobile sportsbooks even became a thing.
Anyone remember the fiasco between the league and Tony Romo for wanting to hold a Fantasy Football convention in Las Vegas?
Well, let me tell you about Tony Romo’s battle with the league. This is from USA Today in 2017:
Two times in two years, Tony Romo’s fantasy football convention has been canceled after clashing with the NFL over gambling and sponsorship disputes.
In 2015, nearly 100 NFL players were scheduled to attend Romo’s National Fantasy Football Convention in Las Vegas before the NFL stepped in and banned players from attending because it was being held at a casino property. The event was canceled in result.
In 2016, Romo’s company tried to move the event to Pasadena, Calif., partly because “there wasn’t a casino that close to it,” said Andy Alberth, who co-owns the event along with his cousin, Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback.
Yes, this was over Fantasy Football.
Not sports gambling, but Fantasy Football. You know, the same game which the league now has a service for fans to use, and who hosts shows pertaining to this very topic.
See where I’m going here?
The NFL has long been known as a hypocritical organization, and this just further exemplifies the latest hypocrisy coming from the league office.
Some will say the players should know better, and that’s true. Don’t pull a Pete Rose and bet on the league which employs you. However, you have to wonder why players who placed bets on either NCAA games or other professional sport leagues, not called the National Football League, are even suspended at all.
Will the NFL ever get it right? It isn’t likely, but the players will be the ones who suffer the most...as usual.