The NFL’s gambling problem

Kaylee Donnelly, Senior Writer

On Friday, April 21, the NFL announced the indefinite suspension of three players for gambling on games during the 2022 season. Shaka Toney from the Washington Commanders as well as Quintez Cephus and C.J. Moore from the Detroit Lions, have been banned from football until the conclusion of the 2023 NFL season. Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill, also from the Detroit Lions, have each been suspended for six games at the beginning of the 2023 season for gambling.

The suspension of Cephus, Moore and Toney means that in total there have been five NFL players in the past four years to be indefinitely suspended from their season.

The consequences of the legalization of sports gambling is continuing to come to fruition. In 2018, the Supreme Court officially legalized sports gambling, and the NFL jumped at the chance to make a profit despite years of  resistance  against the practice. Past commissioners of the NFL have testified in court against legalizing sports betting as far back as 1991, believing the practice was harmful to the integrity of the sport and the people who support it. 

It was clear that the NFL had abandoned its past convictions when immediately after the legalization they partnered with several gambling companies and allowed the Raiders to move to Las Vegas. The new stadium stands just off the Las Vegas Strip, and while it’s a marvelous sight to behold, it encourages more than just sports gambling alone. 

In terms of gambling companies, the NFL currently has reached agreements with DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars Entertainment, BetMGM, PointsBET and FOX Bet. These deals are reportedly worth over one billion dollars for the NFL franchise. The sponsorship deals alone have companies paying millions to in-game advertisements promoting themselves to the hundreds of thousands of NFL viewers. During the 2021 season, it was reported that these companies have spent around 129 million dollars in advertising alone, but it’s hardly a dent in the billions that they are now raking in since the legalization and partnership with the NFL. 

The suspensions show how serious the widespread betting has become. The Lions announced the terminations of both Cephus and Moore, as well as recognizing the severe punishments placed on Berryhill and Williams. The NFL also put out a statement saying that the league did not find that any game in the 2022 season “was compromised in any way,” although the NFL does not have a solid track record in terms of coming clean about their offenses.

The NFL’s harsh stance against players gambling will hopefully send a broader message to the rest of the players attempting to participate. But widespread gambling could also have consequences for the future generations of football. It’s one thing to play football for the love of the game, or for a livelihood, but much of the future generations of football players will be raised on gambling as entertainment. If not under the pressure of playing for your own money, the NFL has just added on an extra layer of playing for other people’s money. 

Perhaps these suspensions will be enough to kick any current or future players from potentially harmful addictions to sports gambling that could jeopardize their careers. However, it’s doubtful that this is the last we will see of the gambling issue in the upcoming years. The NFL is going to have to continue to crack down on instances of sports gambling or draw a harder line on its players in order to keep the integrity of the game and the integrity of the franchise as a whole. 

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