As the NFL alters their educational program in regards to their gambling policies, many have wondered if players—including Detroit Lions receiver Jameson Williams—who have already been suspended because of these rules have a case for an appeal. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the league’s guidelines weren’t effectively communicated with the players, and the league seems to be admitting as much by putting a bigger emphasis on its educational program.
There have been conflicting reports on whether suspensions from the league’s gambling policies are even eligible for appeal. The New York Times said at the time the suspensions were given that “the penalties are effective immediately and are no longer subject to appeal, an N.F.L. spokesman said Friday.” However, the words “no longer subject to appeal” seem to suggest that there was an opportunity for players to appeal at one point in this process.
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio has a different explanation for the lack of appeals when it comes to gambling suspensions. In short, these gambling policies were never negotiated upon by the NFLPA—it’s completely controlled by the NFL because it’s a matter that deals with the integrity of the game. And when presenting these suspensions, they wield that leverage completely over the player.
“With that immense power, the league can approach the player with a proposed punishment — along with a threat/promise that if there’s a full-blown hearing the league will push for a longer suspension,” Florio wrote on Wednesday. “As a result, players don’t fight. They don’t request or receive the evidence proving the violation. They don’t get a chance to argue that they were not properly informed as to the rules. They just work it out, with the help of the union, and move on.”
For what it’s worth, though, Florio does say in the piece that the league and NFLPA negotiate the suspension for each player.
While this appears to be some speculation on Florio’s part, it does match up with some of the things we have heard from Williams himself. The Lions receiver told the media in May that he wasn’t sure and couldn’t remember the specifics of his violation, seemingly corroborating Florio’s claim that the league doesn’t give them evidence of the infraction. And when asked about a potential appeal, Williams basically said exactly what Florio laid out: the league gave him the length of the suspension and that was that.
“I just left it alone. They gave me the six games and we left it at that,” Williams said.
So don’t expect an appeal from Williams or any other players facing a gambling suspension. That means, unless the league fesses up to improperly communicating their policies on gambling [holds for laughter], expect Williams to serve the entirety of his six-game suspension.