Keeping It Out of the Game: NFL Player Suspended for Betting on His Team

football player in stadium

On March 7, 2022 the NFL released a statement announcing the suspension of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the 2022 season due to sports betting. The news shocked fans across the nation. People took to social media, claiming the NFL was being hypocritical and that Ridley did not deserve his suspension. However, the NFL has held firm to its belief that its regulations and policies regarding players’ gambling protect the integrity of the game.

The news of Ridley’s suspension and the subsequent conflict shows that the responses to gambling are not cut and dry. Indeed, Ridley’s situation sends mixed messages about the effects of gambling.

Were the Actions of the NFL Full of Hypocrisy?

Calvin Ridley made a series of parlay bets on Atlanta Falcons games back in November 2021 when he was on mental health leave. Even though he claims he only bet a total of $1500, Ridley’s actions directly violated NFL policies, which state players cannot place bets on football games. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even explained that “gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction.” Because of his actions, Ridley will have to wait until February 15, 2023, to apply for reinstatement. Gambling cost Ridley much more than the $1,500 he wagered: He will forfeit an entire year’s salary — $11 million due to the suspension. This discounting of the full cost of better is common among problem gamblers. 

When the statement announcing Ridley’s suspension was released, people began to question the validity of the decision. They wondered how an organization that partners with gambling companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings could punish a player for participating in something they encourage others to do. Goodell and other sports experts believe that the NFL officials’ actions were justified entirely because the league exists to protect the integrity of the game. If football players are allowed to gamble on football games, people’s confidence in the game will be shaken, and they’ll begin to doubt the players have honorable intentions when it comes to playing the game.

Despite which camp you fall into, it’s clear there are mixed messages about the ethics of gambling. While the NFL will not allow their players to gamble on their own games, they still allow players to place bets on other sports games and encourage fans to bet on their favorite teams. This encouragement from a well-known sports organization could be problematic for people who struggle with knowing their boundaries for gambling. Plus, during the season, people cannot escape the ads enticing fans to use their sports knowledge to beat the odds. It’s no wonder there’s a spike in wagers placed during the football season.

How Does the NFL’s Response to Player Gambling Compare to Other Sports?

Ridley’s suspension for the 2022 season was not the first time a professional sports league tried to protect the integrity of the game by distancing itself from potential opportunities for cheating. In 1989, Pete Rose was given a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball for betting on games. Rose will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame despite being an all-time hit king because he decided to place bets on baseball when the league prohibited these actions.

The difference in the punishments Ridley and Rose received illustrates the reversal in attitudes towards sports gambling.  While Rose received a lifetime ban from MLB, Ridley’s consequence for betting on football was only a one-year suspension. Is this a sign that the regulations for sports betting among players will become even looser?

Struggling With a Gambling Problem? Get Help Today

The news about Calvin Ridley’s suspension for the 2022 football season for gambling reasons has stirred up many thoughts and feelings. If you or a loved one is dealing with a gambling problem, you can join Gamblers Anonymous online meetings or call 1-800-GAMBLER for support, treatment, and hope. We also offer gambling help for family members since gambling behaviors affect everyone involved. Don’t hesitate to reach out because a brighter future is right around the corner.


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