NFL Suspends Star Player For Betting On Games

March 8, 2022
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday announced that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is suspended for at least the entire 2022 season for betting on NFL games last year.

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National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday (March 7) announced that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is suspended for at least the entire 2022 season for betting on NFL games last year.

Ridley can appeal his suspension within three days and can ask to be reinstated on or after February 15, 2023.

In issuing one of the most severe penalties of its kind in league history, Goodell said Ridley, 27, wagered on games in late November when he was away from his team to receive treatment for his mental health.

“Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL,” Goodell said in a letter notifying Ridley of his suspension.

Ridley responded with a series of tweets on Twitter. “I know I was wrong. But I’m getting one year lol (laugh out loud),” he said.

The wide receiver, who enjoyed his best year in 2020 with 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns, will lose $11m in salary for 2022.

From November 23 through November 28 when the Seminole Tribe was accepting online bets in Florida, which have since been blocked by a federal judge, Ridley placed less than ten wagers on the Hard Rock sportsbook app on his cell phone including three-, five- and eight-game parlays.

Ridley bet on his team, but never against them.

“I bet $1500 total. I don’t have a gambling problem,” Ridley said in another tweet.

The NFL found out about the bets from Genius Sports, its official data and sports-integrity partner that has been contracted by the league to monitor sports wagering.

The league “uncovered no evidence indicating inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way,” the NFL said in its statement on Monday.

“Nor was there evidence suggesting any awareness by coaches, teammates or other player of his betting activity.”

Nevertheless, Goodell said, the integrity of the game is “fundamental to the league’s success,” and Ridley put that integrity at risk.

The Atlanta Falcons, who reportedly planned to trade Ridley before the 2022 season, said they were notified of the gambling allegations against him on February 9.

“We have cooperated fully with the (NFL’s) investigation since receiving notice and support the league’s findings and actions,” the Falcons said in a statement on Monday.

The Ridley suspension underscores the tightrope the NFL and other major professional leagues are walking since becoming partners with sports-betting companies, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal sports betting ban in May 2018.

Ironically, prior to that landmark decision, Goodell had argued sports betting posed a threat to the league’s integrity.

But the leagues rushed to form partnerships with multiple sports-betting operators after the Supreme Court decision and actively promote wagers on their games.

Events like Ridley’s suspension show the leagues will inevitably face questions around those relationships, with the likelihood of periodic incidents of players or others violating rules related to wagering.

Moreover, there is speculation Ridley used the app near the Miami Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium.

The Dolphins are owned by Stephen Ross, who has been accused of offering former head coach Brian Ross $100,000 for every game lost in the 2019 season to obtain higher picks in the NFL draft.

This is not the first time the NFL has suspended a player for betting.

On November 29, 2019, Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw was suspended by the NFL for wagering more than $1,000 against his own team in a three-team parlay at a Caesars sportsbook in Las Vegas.

Former NFL quarterback Art Schlichter was suspended indefinitely by then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle on May 21, 1983, but the suspension was reduced to 13 months after Schlichter agreed to seek help for his gambling addiction.

Schlichter later served almost a decade in prison for fraud and drug offenses.

The biggest NFL scandal occurred in April 1963 when Paul “The Golden Boy” Hornung — arguably the league’s biggest star at the time — and Alex Karras — one of the league’s best defensive players — were suspended for one year by Rozelle for gambling on league games.

The sports-betting industry seemed reluctant to comment on Ridley’s suspension on Monday.

“Almost every company/industries have rules you have to abide by. The NFL is no different,” Jay Kornegay, who manages the SuperBook at the Westgate Casino in Las Vegas, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in an email.

The American Gaming Association (AGA), the industry’s chief lobbying arm in Washington, D.C., saw a bright side to Ridley’s suspension.

“Today’s news is a perfect example of the legal, regulated market at work,” said Casey Clark, senior vice president of the AGA.

“When sports betting is out of the shadows, legal operators monitor activity, protecting consumers and the integrity of games.”

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