CHRIS MOORE — Ridley suspension about more than game’s integrity
Published 12:04 am Saturday, March 12, 2022
Many NFL fans across the country scratched their heads as the league handed down a one-year suspension to Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley for betting on games while he took a leave of absence to deal with a mental health issue.
The NFL concluded the receiver, who bet $1,500 on a parlay, did not have any meaningful contact with his current team and therefore did not gain any advantage.
Many pundits said the suspension was about “the integrity of the game.” That is certainly part of the issue. Fans who spend so much money and energy rooting for these teams should feel sure that a player is not going to try and sway the outcome in order to make more money on a bet. But that wasn’t at stake here. This was about protecting the integrity of the partnership. Last year, the NFL announced a tri-exclusive partnership with DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars Entertainment as the league jumped into the betting world.
States across the country legalized sports betting with more on the way; making the move by the league inevitable, if not late.
While open sports betting is relatively new for many, the fingerprints around betting have been all over the major sports for some time. The idea that teams have to put out an injury report and are penalized if it is not accurate is only to ensure that bettors are equipped with the necessary knowledge to place wagers.
Point spreads, which guess by how much a particular team will win, are shown on prominent sports media programming.
Rumors are swirling about the big casinos or betting websites are swimming in so much money that they will be in the game for big-name insiders who report on the leagues. That means ESPN, CBS, FOX etc. will have to compete against DraftKings and others for the services of NFL reporters and that number is expected to reach to more than $10 million a year.
It might be more valuable for the gambling sites to have information about a player’s injury and adjusting the betting lines than it is for ESPN to give the news to the masses.
These partnerships between the league and the gambling entities are worth billions and that is what is being protected more than “the integrity of the game.”
Ridley’s suspension was overkill. He is suspended a year for placing a relatively small amount of money on a multiple-team parlay that was not likely to win and he had been away from the team all season. The suspension was aggressive.
But it had to be. Ridley’s crime was small, which made it the perfect test case for the league. Over punish here and remove any doubt of how the league will respond when there is actual scandal.
Not being able to bet on games is a small price to pay for being a professional athlete, but it is a rule that we can all see is needed.
In the end, Ridley gambled more than $1,500 he wagered in bets. He lost millions in a year’s salary on a bet that the NFL hopes other players won’t make.
Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.