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NFL player Calvin Ridley suspended over $1,500 worth of sports bets

Atlanta Falcon’s wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended this past week for betting on NFL games including Falcons games.

Ridley reportedly bet $1,500 on various parlays including one 11 leg parlay that included the Falcons. The NFL made an example of Ridley by suspending him for the entirety of the 2023 season.

Ridley, 27, only played in five games this past season for a Falcons team that finished 7-10 in their first year under new head coach Arthur Smith. Ridley decided to take himself out for the season for mental health reasons. All of the gambling allegations reportedly happened during a five day stretch in November, a month after Ridley stepped away from the Falcons.

In a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell to Ridley, Goodell states “There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success – and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league – than upholding the integrity of the game. This is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.”

There have also been reports to come out that Ridley was unhappy with his current contract with the Falcons and wanted to be traded but these issues had nothing to do with Ridley taking the season off.

It’s certainly odd for a player in Ridley’s position to take themselves out of a season in the midst of their prime. If Ridley was seriously sick, hopefully, he took this time off to get help but the sports betting and reports of him being unsatisfied with his contract situation make the season off look suspicious.

The NFL has made it clear that they have a zero tolerance policy for players betting on NFL games. With US sports betting becoming more and more popular, Ridley likely will not be the last player to be caught betting on games. 30 states in the United States have legalized sports betting in recent years and it likely will not remain at 30 for very long. That is why the NFL needed to make a clear example of Ridley and some have said that a year long suspension was too light.

The question should be asked, should active players be allowed to bet on their sport?

The simple answer is no, if a player is actively playing in the league the they are correct to take a zero tolerance policy in this situation. It’s surpising that Ridley was not flat out banned from the NFL.

The sports betting industry in the United States has exploded in recent years. With sportsbooks like Fanduel, Draft Kings and so many others just a touch away for so many fans, sports betting has not only erupted in the United States for sports fans, but for average people as well. In fact, a total of $100 billion was wagered on the 2021-2022 NFL betting season this year alone.

Online betting sites offer so many promotions like refer-a-friend free bets and other boosted odds promos that have not only drawn in sports fans but people who have zero interest in sports. If a normal person gets a promotion where they can double their money if Tom Brady to complete one pass they are going to jump on that opportunity.

Forgetting the integrity of the game being on the line, there are billions of dollars being wagered across the entire country. If players are able to sports bet with inside information, it can result in player performance being impacted and worse yet throwing of games.

For example, if Ridley knew ahead of time that his teammate and quarterback Matt Ryan was dealing with a shoulder injury that significantly impacted his ability to throw the ball, wouldn’t it be easy for Ridley to take the under on passing yards? To go one step further, what would stop Ridley from intentionally dropping passes if he took his own under on receiving yards?

In Ridley’s case specifically, the NFL said in their press release that “A league investigation uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way. Nor was there evidence suggesting any awareness by coaches, staff, teammates, or other players of his betting activity.” None of that matters however, even though there was no evidence of game’s being thrown this time, it doesn’t rule it out in the future.

The NFL specifically has been lenient with allowing players to take part in fantasy football, but sports betting is where the line should be drawn. As more and more leagues partner with different sportsbooks to engage fan interest, it becomes a conflict of interest if players begin to wager as well.

Sports betting is a dangerous game to play for more reasons than a couple of dollars being on the line. The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and so many other leagues could open themselves up to being liable for lawsuits if it comes out players are throwing games for their own profit.

While it’s a grey area right now of whether or not players are allowed to wager on other leagues, it seems to be fine. In Ridley’s case, it’s confirmed he wagered on more than just NFL games. However, sports betting is only going to become more and more accessible for everyone including players from every professional sports league.

It wouldn’t be shocking for players to collaborate on bets in the future, but until that happens this will remain a grey area for professional sports as sports betting is still relatively new in the US. It might be smart to ban sports wagering across players of all leagues as it only takes one time for a league’s reputation to be ruined forever.

With Pete Rose still being banned from the baseball hall of fame because of sports wagering, you can clearly see that the NFL and MLB have two different standards on what is and isn’t acceptable from players. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for all professional sports leagues to get a uniform plan as sports wagering doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere anytime soon.

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