Remember when gambling was considered the cardinal sin in sports? It’s the reason teams were wary of putting franchises in Las Vegas, and it got Pete Rose banned from baseball. However, nowadays you can’t watch a game without getting inundated with ads for mobile betting sites. Seriously, when was the last time you watched professional sports and didn’t get stalked by DraftKings? When pro leagues became linked with mobile betting apps, we all knew the outcome wouldn’t be great. And now, according to ESPN, four Detroit Lions players and one Washington Commanders player were suspended for “violating the NFL’s gambling policy following an investigation by the league.”
Detroit’s Quintez Cephus and C.J. Moore, as well as the Commanders’ Shaka Toney, were “suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games.” Though they can reapply for reinstatement after a year, that opportunity will not be with the Lions as the team has released both Cephus and Moore. But as we recently saw with new Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley, if a team thinks you can add value to the roster and you show the appropriate amount of remorse, all is usually forgiven.
The Lions’ Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill were also “suspended for six games each for mobile betting that occurred at the Lions’ Allen Park facility.” Although they did not bet on NFL games, the league’s policy on gambling prevents the use of sports betting apps while at team facilities or traveling.
League executives are likely well aware that players gamble, they just don’t want it to happen on team property or on football games. It just feels like it’s a very mixed message when you basically spend every Sunday telling the entire world that you’re not really enjoying football unless you have money riding on it, then turn around and clutch your pearls when players break the rules. Obviously, they should be punished, but let’s also not lose sight of how uncomfortably linked pro sports and mobile betting apps have become. And for younger players, they haven’t lived in a world where sports betting was considered a bad thing.
I’m not saying gambling should be removed from sports. However, for the safety of players and fans, do we need to make it an inescapable part of the game? Surely, there’s a middle ground between non-stop ads and a full ban. Right now, it seems like the league and these teams want to have their cake and eat it too.