NFL Suspension Of Four Players Underscores Struggle With Regulated Betting

June 30, 2023
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The National Football League (NFL) on Thursday announced the suspension of four players, including three for the entire 2023 season which begins in September, for violating league rules by betting on NFL games last year.

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The National Football League (NFL) on Thursday (June 29) announced the suspension of four players, including three for the entire 2023 season which begins in September, for violating league rules by betting on NFL games last year.

Following the NFL’s announcement, the Indianapolis Colts promptly released Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Berry, who are two of the three players suspended for at least the upcoming season.

“We have made the following roster moves as a consequence of the determination that these players violated the league’s gambling policy,” said Chris Ballard, the general manager of the Colts.

“The integrity of the game is of the utmost importance. As an organization we will continue to educate our players, coaches and staff on the policies in place and the significant consequences that may occur with violations,” Ballard said.

Demetrius Taylor, the third NFL player suspended for at least the entire 2023 season, remains a free agent after being released by the Detroit Lions on May 10.

The fourth player suspended, Nicholas Petit-Frere of the Tennessee Titans, must sit out six games this year after betting on other sports at team facilities during the 2022 season.

With Thursday’s suspensions, there have been nine NFL players cited for sports-betting violations in the first six months of 2023.

Four players from the Detroit Lions and one from the Washington Commanders were suspended in April.

The total of NFL suspensions reaches double figures if Calvin Ridley, who was suspended for the entire 2022 season, is included.

Ridley was suspended for betting on NFL games in 2021 when he was a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

After being traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars last November, Ridley was reinstated to the NFL in March.

Of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States — the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League — the NFL is by far the leader in sports-betting suspensions.

Marc Edelman, a sports law professor at Baruch College in New York, said the NFL’s partnership with sportsbooks puts the league in an awkward position.

“It creates a great amount of cognitive dissonance in the minds of players to see the NFL pushing and peddling sports gambling on the one hand while the other hand deems sports betting so problematic that it creates grounds for suspending players from the league for an extended period of time,” Edelman told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in a phone interview.

But John English, managing director of sports betting and technology for Global Market Advisors, said the impact of the NFL suspensions on sportsbooks has been minimal.

“The leagues have developed strong relationships with their sportsbook providers over the past five years,” English told VIXIO in an email.

“I can’t see letting the mistakes that were made by a handful of players reverse the years of hard work [to legalize sports betting] and take away what the general public enjoys,” English said.

Timothy Fong, co-director of the Gambling Studies Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said substance use policies of the leagues are clear but their gambling policies are not.

“Gambling among athletes needs to be considered part of the training experience — no different than focusing on sleep, training or nutrition,” Fong said.

“The NFL has put out a six-point [gambling] plan to tell all of the athletes and that’s a start, but gambling needs to be framed as a part of the human condition and not just a ‘good or bad’ activity.”

Joshua Grubbs, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico, said the most effective method to prevent future violations by NFL players may be a blanket ban on sports betting.

"For most athletes, this will be enough, but as we've seen over the years repeatedly with things like substance use violations -- regardless of how clear the rules are -- some athletes will struggle with complying with them," Grubbs said.

Young men with disposable income and an interest in sports make up the demographic most likely to engage in sports betting.

"That pretty much describes all of the major sporting leagues in the U.S., so I would expect to see more situations like this in the future," Grubbs said.

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