The NFL has insisted that its gambling policy has been communicated properly and clearly to its players, but a small survey from The Athletic suggests otherwise.
Back in April, the NFL suspended four Detroit Lions players for violating the league’s gambling policy. C.J. Moore and Quintez Cephus were suspended indefinitely—and promptly released—for betting on NFL games. Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill were suspended six games for betting on non-NFL games on team facilities.
The Athletic surveyed five current NFL players—admittedly a small sample size—and four of them said they were unaware that betting on non-NFL games on team facilities was considered a violation of league policy.
“I had no idea,” a seven-year veteran told The Athletic. “I don’t think any player knows about that. That’s so specific. If players know about that, kudos to them.”
It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” process, according to Highhill, who says the education is tailored to the different types of personnel. Most of the training, particularly for players, is held in person, along with online courses and regular reminders throughout the season.
But all five players in The Athletic’s survey said that the NFL and NFLPA need to do a better job explaining the policy—especially when there seems to be a conflict of interest with four NFL stadiums housing a sportsbook in or around the stadium.
“That’s bogus,” one player said of the six-game suspensions. “Because straight up, that’s not talked about like that. That could have been any one of us. They might have talked about it for a brief second, but do you know the player was present at the time you guys talked about that? ‘Oh, well it’s in the handbook.’ So you’re gonna tell a player to read 1,000 pages of nonsense and to recall everything?”
Obviously, since these suspensions, there has been a bigger emphasis on the policy across the league. Lions coach Dan Campbell said they obviously made it a bigger focus, especially since it impacted staffers beyond just players in Detroit.
“It’s much more an emphasis from us, as opposed to just leaving it to the league,” Campbell said last week. “Like we need to make sure that we really hit this ourselves and make a point of it. We did, but obviously not enough. The proof’s in the pudding. So, for us, let’s take it out of their hands.”
While the Lions are the only team that has been hurt by the NFL’s policy on gambling on non-NFL games, The Athletic’s story suggests Detroit is far from the only team who has violated these policies. They talked to two NFL agents who both have said that players have admitted to them that they have broken the rules.
“I have a player who has said to me, I bet from the facility, $3 or $5 bets on other sports,” one agent said.
There is a second wave of gambling investigations coming, and reportedly the Lions and Colts could be impacted. One common theme of these suspensions so far: it’s happening to young, inexperienced players. One surveyed player had an easy explanation for that.
“These guys—kids, whatever you want to call them—they’re the first generation of athletes to have sports betting actually at their disposal coming into the game. I definitely can see how this early wave of people are younger players.”
The entire article is very much worth your time and is eye-opening, even if the survey size is relatively small.