NFL Punishing Players While Continuing to Rake in the Money

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:
Apr/24/2023

Last week we were shocked to learn that five NFL players were suspended, some of them indefinitely, for violation of the league's gambling policy.  We are being sarcastic with the "shocking" comment of course.  Even a blind person could see this coming from miles away.

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The suspensions impacted both the Detroit Lions (4 suspensions) and, to a lesser extent, the Washington Commanders (1 player).

2022 first-round pick Jameson Williams was among the Lions players suspended.  He'll be out until Week 7.  Williams, along with Stanley Berryhill, were found to have been placed sports bets from league facilities.  Berryhill will also be suspended for the first seven weeks. Neither were found to have placed bets on NFL games.

Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus, Lions safety C.J. Moore and Washington Commanders Shaka Toney have been suspended indefinitely for specifically betting on NFL games.

Both the Lions and Commanders issued statements.

"As a result of an NFL investigation, it came to our attention that a few of our players had violated the league's gambling policy," Detroit general manager Brad Holmes said in a statement. "These players exhibited decision making that is not consistent with our organizational values and violates league rules. We have made the decision to part ways with Quintez and C.J. immediately. We are disappointed by the decision making demonstrated by Stanley and Jameson and will work with both players to ensure they understand the severity of these violations and have clarity on the league rules moving forward."

The Commanders, a team that was sold in recent days, also issued a statement.

"We have cooperated fully with the NFL's investigation since receiving notice and support the league's findings and actions," the team said. "All further questions on the topic should be directed to the NFL League Office."

And in an ironic twist, both these organizations are - wait for it - partnered with gambling firms.

The Lions designated WynnBET as an official sportsbook and gaming partner of the team and house the "WynnBET Sports Bar at Ford Field."

The Commanders make history by partnering with Fanatics to open sportsbook at FedEx Field. FedEx Field made history Friday by partnering with Fanatics to open the first legal sports betting operation inside an NFL stadium. It's the first retail sportsbook for Fanatics, the top sports merchandiser in the United States.

Rodger Sherman of The Ringer further pointed out the hypocrisy

"The NFL had seemed to send a strong message with the season-long suspension of Calvin Ridley last season. I guess the constant stream of ads for sports betting everywhere—including during NFL games and your favorite podcasts on the Ringer Podcast Network!—is sending an equally loud message that gambling is fun and good, which somehow got five players to make a disastrous mistake."

Sherman added: "Ridley and Williams didn’t seem to realize they were breaking any rules and had no intent to fix games. It’s fine and completely understandable for the league to have different standards for acceptable conduct by players—the NFL can run ads showing how fun it is to drink a Bud Light, The Official Beer of the NFL, while watching a game, but also take steps to prevent players from getting drunk during games. But this is more like punishing a player for drinking on a Tuesday night.

"The league could easily have warned Williams and told him, “Don’t do it again … or else!” But the NFL seems to feel the need to hyper-aggressively punish gambling-related missteps to show it’s taking this seriously. In doing so, the league looks hypocritical for raking in cash from gambling companies while taking millions of dollars from players and cutting large swaths out of their already too-short careers."

Sherman is hardly alone. John Whiticar of Pride of Detroit (SB Nation) offered an even harsher perspective.

"Sports betting can have major consequences, but it’s not the kind of dangerous action that can cause innocent people to lose their lives. Yet, the NFL polices sports betting and things like domestic abuse and drunk driving the same. Nobody is going to die from placing a bet from a mobile phone from an NFL facility. Nobody will suffer irreparable mental trauma from an NFL player placing a non-NFL bet in their team’s clubhouse or locker room.

"The NFL wants to place the punishment on the same level as domestic violence and performance-enhancing substances. The former has real-world consequences that matter far more than anything on the field. The latter legitimately affects the integrity of the game, even if the player’s intentions can be debated. For context, Deshaun Watson was originally suspended six games for his sexual misconduct lawsuits, while DeAndre Hopkins was recently suspended six games for a positive PED result. Former linebacker Vontaze Burfict, an infamously dirty player, received a three-game suspension for a vicious hit on Antonio Brown that undoubtedly altered Brown’s NFL career and well-being."

And don't think this is a case of some sports writers preaching from their pedestals.  The gambling public also reacted to last week's news of the supsensions.

One tweeted sarcastically: 

"NFL: Jameson Williams you may not place legal bets from inside the sacred walls of the Detroit Lions Fanduel Training Facility & Lounge brought to you by DraftKings."

And another:

"The NFL has million dollar deals with DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBET and Caesars. But God forbid Jameson Williams maybe use one of those apps to bet on an NBA game. The hypocrisy is astounding."

And this:

"NFL: Caesars, MGM, Fanduel, Draftkings, and any other fly by night operation that wants to pay us to advertise and license. Also NFL: Jameson Williams, how dare you bet on another sport from our facility that has advertising for the same product everywhere. So hypocritical."

"Will this go down as a tale of player stupidity, or NFL hypocrisy?," asks Mike Jones of The Atlantic.  "How about both".

"Punishing players for gambling on non-NFL games in a team facility, when NFL stadiums have sportsbooks for fans, reeks of hypocrisy."

- Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com  

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