Jets Cornerback Sauce Gardner Seen Hanging Out With Philly Mobster Raises Eyebrows

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
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New York Jets cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner was spotted hanging out with a Philly mob boss during the Fourth of July Thursday.


Nothing to see here, maybe.  But mobsters sometimes like to dabble in sports betting, if ya know what we're sayin'.  

The NFL has had its fair share of gambling scandals over the past 12 months, courtesy of regulated sports betting and a mostly laughable "zero tolerance" gambling policy.

And this particular mobster....well, he's been indicted for his sports betting activities (gulp).

Outkick first reported the encounter.

His name is Joseph Merlino. Bu because no self-respecting mobster would go by "Joseph," Merlino calls himself "Skinny Joey." And since I don't want to be on the mob's bad side, I'll call him that, too.

So Skinny Joey posted a video on his Instagram account (which, unfortunately, cannot be embedded) of himself shaking hands with the New York Jets cornerback on a pool deck.

"My main man Sauce, the best defensive back in the NFL," Joey says, "I want to get him on the podcast."

Merlino plead guilty to an illegal betting charge in 2018, just two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to abolish The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).  Two years ago, Merlino was reportedly in talks with Barstool Sports to do a podcast.  At the time, Barstool Sports was in the process of becoming a sportsbook, later rebranded by Penn Entertainment as ESPN Bet. 

Merlino previously served prison time for racketeering.   He's currently living in South Florida. It seems as if he's really turned his life around, but there's still that elephant in the room that's inescapable.

The meeting between a mobster and NFL player was not lost on X followers.

One person tweeted: "This gonna come back to haunt you when you don’t cover the spread."

Another wrote: "Sauce is the next Pete Rose".

The optics admittedly look bad but Outkick even suggests the meeting might be unremarkable.

"In fairness, Gardner doesn't look too enthusiastic, and the whole thing gives hostage video vibes. But the two-time Pro Bowler did share the video on his own Instagram story, so maybe I'm reading it wrong."

Gardner played college football at Cincinnati and was selected fourth overall by the New York Jets in the 2022 NFL draft.  He's widely considered among the best cornerbacks in the NFL today and playing on a team that suddenly finds itself among the favorites to go all the way in 2024 (finally, says this long suffering Jets fan).  In fact, the Jets are favored to win Over 9.5 regular season games in 2024.


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