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The NFL Epidemic: Gambling Your Career Just to Gamble on Games

By: Erin Highes

Edited By: Kylie Augis

Sports betting has long been common practice for fans; it has become integrated into sporting events for as long as we can remember. Most famously, patrons and fans used to only bet on horse racing as it is one of the oldest organized sporting events. According to The Fordham Ram, the first recorded horse race happened in England in 1174 and quickly became another way for the upper class to show off their wealth and those ideals did not change when horse racing moved to America in 1665. Today, horse racing is still one of the most popular sporting events to bet on, but as sports have evolved, so has gambling.

In the beginning, bettors could only gamble on the outcome of a sporting event; now, you can bet on things as obscure as the color of the gatorade players will dump on the head coach following a game. However, I don’t think the players who were suspended for gambling were betting on the color of the gatorade.

There have been some pretty infamous former players and coaches who were caught betting on games during their time. Some notable moments in sports betting history are the Black Sox Scandal, Pete Rose betting on his own Cincinnati Reds, and Paul Hornung and Alex Karras betting on their own NFL games. Most fans have hoped that incidents like these would become more isolated, but with the rise of online betting, the incidents have only grown. Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons was the most notable player in recent years to be suspended from the NFL for gambling, although he was reinstated in March 2023 after his year-long suspension from the sport.

Courtesy of The New York Post

Even though Calvin Ridley became the new face of the NFL’s new rules against betting, it did not stop five more players from pushing the envelope and betting during the 2023 season. Four Detroit Lions players and one Washington Commanders player have just received suspensions from the league for betting on NFL games. Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill, both wide receivers for the Lions, were handed six-game suspensions for betting while at the Lions’ facility. Other Lions wide receiver, Quintez Cephus, and Lions safety CJ Moore were suspended indefinitely, meaning at least one year, for betting on NFL games. Commanders defensive end, Shaka Toney is also getting an indefinite suspension for betting on NFL games. In addition, within the last two weeks, the league handed down indefinite suspensions to three more players: Isaiah Rodgers (cornerback for the Colts), Rashod Berry (defensive end for the Colts), and free agent defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor. The NFL also suspended Titans offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere for six games because he placed bets while at the Titans facility. All of these players, except for Williams, Berryhill, and Petit-Frere have been released or waived from their respective teams.

Courtesy of Getty Images

The NFL rules on gambling prohibit any and all NFL personnel, such as players, owners, coaches, officials, and even stadium workers from “placing, soliciting or facilitating any bet, whether directly or through a third party,” on any NFL game, practice and any other league events. However, in 2018, an exemption was put into place that allowed players to be on sports other than the NFL, but any bets that were placed could not be placed from league or team facilities. Fans are beginning to wonder why these players would take the chance of betting on their own sport in the first place. Arguably, these players stand to lose more than they would gain from gambling because they end up putting their careers in jeopardy when they take that risk. Although a gambling suspension holds different weight than suspension for more serious issues like domestic disputes or sexual assault, teams are still not very keen on signing a player that has been suspended for gambling, so why do players keep doing it?

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