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Calvin Ridley Suspension Raises NFL Betting Partnership Questions

Legal Calvin Ridley Suspension Raises NFL Betting Partnership Questions
Mar 09, 2022 19:03Tim Ronaldson

Earlier this week, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for at least the 2022 NFL season after the league determined that he bet on games in the league while he was taking a mental health break from playing.

Ridley won’t be able to apply for reinstatement to the league until early on in 2023, and there’s no guarantee the league will allow him to play again — unless he shows remorse and they believe he won’t do it again.

All employees of the league — whether they are players, coaches, owners or even workers in the media relations department — are prohibited from betting on the NFL.

And while not many people have questioned that policy, there have been rumblings about the league profiting from legal sports gambling, and whether the whole situation could have an effect on other states legalizing sports betting in the future.

The NFL’s Sports Betting Partnerships

The NFL was one of the biggest opponents of legalized sports betting when New Jersey was pushing for the federal PASPA law to be overturned in the mid-2010s. Along with the other major U.S. professional sports leagues and the NCAA, the NFL said legalized sports betting would tarnish their brands and ultimately hurt the sport.

The Ridley situation is the exact scenario that the NFL was envisioning could be a problem. Ridley wasn’t breaking any laws when he legally gambled on NFL games. However, he was breaking rules the league sets out in its “Integrity of the Game” section.

What’s worse, at least one of Ridley’s bets included his own team, which is of course a major no-no.

At the same time the league outlaws betting on sports for its employees, it is raking in millions of dollars in partnerships with various sportsbook operators. In just the 2021 season alone, the NFL is estimated to have brought in roughly $270 million through those sports betting partnerships, according to a Washington Post report.

Currently, the league partners with sportsbook operators such as PointsBet, BetMGM, FOX Bet and WynnBET. Those partnerships allowed the operators to purchase commercials that would air during NFL games throughout the season.

Those partnerships were in addition to the ones the league already had in place with DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars Entertainment.

Effect on Future Legalized Sports Betting

Some states that have yet to legalize sports betting have also long been worried about a situation like the one that arose this week with Ridley. The states aren’t necessarily concerned about the integrity of the NFL. Instead, what they worry about is if Ridley’s actions — or that of another popular player — would convince young kids to try to gamble on sports.

Professional athletes are often role models to young kids, who look up to and idolize these athletes. Kids often want to replicate the actions of these athletes, in all aspects of their lives.

Lawmakers in some states are concerned that when a player like Ridley gambles on his own sport, he’s telling kids that it’s OK to follow in his tracks.  While there are obvious legal measures in place to prevent minors from gambling on sports, the lawmakers are still concerned this is sending the wrong message.

The flip side of that argument is there are plenty of other things advertised during professional sports games that are meant for adults — namely casino gambling and alcohol. So, there shouldn’t be a concern in this regard, just because legalized sports betting is still relatively new.

Whether the Ridley situation will only affect his career and the performance of his team in upcoming seasons, or whether it’ll have a larger effect on the sports betting landscape, will soon be seen.

But, no matter what happens, it’s the exact scenario that a lot of legalized sports betting detractors feared would happen from the start.

What do you think?

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Tim Ronaldson
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Tim Ronaldson is a writer, blogger and marketer. He loves all things sports, especially covering the sports betting industry. He joined the AmericaGambles Team 2020 and is mainly responsible for columns and extensive reportage articles.
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