Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons has the ball right at his fingertips during the first half of an NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Editor’s note: The following article is an editorial, and the opinions expressed are those of the author. Read more opinions on the Grio.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley may not have a game problem, as he claims. But he certainly doesn’t have much common sense either. Otherwise, intuition would have kicked in and made him follow the first rule for NFL players betting on NFL games:
Let someone else make your bets.
Surely there’s a cuz or a homey he could have trusted. Ridley could have had them place $1,500 on three multi-legged bets involving multiple games last November. Instead, he did it himself – on his own cellphone – and got arrested. The game earned him a one-year ban, minimum, and cost him an $11 million salary he was set to earn next season.
“Your actions endanger the integrity of the game, threaten to damage public confidence in professional football and potentially damage the reputation of your fellow players throughout the NFL,” commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a statement. letter to Ridley informing him of the suspension.
Maybe Ridley wasn’t paying attention in November 2019 when the NFL suspended cornerback Josh Shaw for betting on football; Shaw’s ban covered the remainder of 2019 and the entire 2020 season for a total of 21 games. Maybe Ridley thought his actions were correct because he picked the Falcons to win in every bet. In theory, he never imagined getting caught breaking an NFL taboo that had been in place since at least the 1960s.
Ridley can afford to laugh a little. Having earned $11 million in his first four years in the league, he’s in a better position than most to deal with an income hiatus. This is not the case for a growing number of players with unlimited access to sports betting, with football matches being among their favorite games.
In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning sports betting. Shortly after, the NFL ended its vow of celibacy and went to bed with gaming gear, announcing deals with Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet and WynnBet.
It’s like every company wants a piece, and the league can’t say no.
Players, coaches, trainers and other employees are repeatedly reminded that betting on NFL games is prohibited. It’s okay if Ridley bets on the Lakers, Yankees or Manchester United. And that message repeats itself all year round, making it hard to accuse the league of hypocrisy as it cowers to the bookmakers.
Still, it seems a bit contradictory to punish players for betting that their team will win. The league’s big fear is that players will bet the other way, especially if they are bribed to pitch plays. But by embracing the game and helping it go mainstream, the league is apparently increasing the chances that foul play will eventually occur.
Beyond its own selfish concerns, there is a matter of corporate responsibility. According to industry site LegalSportsReport.com, more than $87 billion has been legally wagered on sports since the Supreme Court ruling. You can’t watch a game today without seeing endless game announcements. Companies are so desperate to get started that they make ridiculous offers like “Win if either team scores!”
The thing is, the house wins as soon as the app is downloaded.
Phones are crazy addictive without the ability to place bets in real time from the comfort of your couch. Putting that temptation within easy reach is too much for many people, which is why the phones ring non-stop at the National Council on Problem Gambling’s call centers.
“We’re still in the first run of a lot of things,” said NCPG executive director Keith Whyte. the washington post. “It is too early to tell the impact and severity of gambling addiction.” But the research suggests a trend. “The signs we are seeing are very troubling,” he said.
All parties involved — states raising tax revenue, businesses adding new customers, and leagues striking deals — say the addition of gambling is a major concern. And you can tell by the information at the end of the commercials… if you’re adept at deciphering fast speech and reading fine print.
That Goodell truly cares about ordinary people, his priority is the image and integrity of the NFL. Even a whiff of irregularity in the results is unacceptable. But if he wants to snuff it out, there’s a better target than Ridley, who played to win.
Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores has accused team owner Stephen Ross of offering him $100,000 per loss to the tank.
This is what we really want to hear about.
Award-winning columnist and director of BlackDoor Ventures, Inc., Deron Snyder is a veteran journalist, strategic communications professional, author, and adjunct professor. A Brooklyn native and HU-You Know Alpha, he resides in metropolitan DC with his wife, Vanessa, mother of their daughters, Sierra and Sequoia. To learn more, visit blackdoorventures.com/deron.
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