Sports betting requires balancing punishments and promotions

Photo courtesy of Richard Boyle, Unsplash

By Jeremy Torres

Sports betting has become more and more normalized in the sports community. Despite being illegal in California, companies continue to promote their services through various sports channels and sponsorships with influencers. Companies like Fanduel, DraftKings, Bet365,, and Underdog Fantasy entice users with offers such as matching their first deposit.

While the normalization of sports betting is aimed at the general public, as online sports betting gains popularity, the restrictions on players and other personnel within professional leagues and teams have become more crucial. 

The first instance of punishment within the National Football League (NFL) involves Jaguars receiver Calvin Ridley, who was suspended for the entire season without pay for betting on his own team while he was out with an injury. More recently, Quintez Cephus, C.J. Moore, and Shaka Toney were also suspended through at least the 2023 season for betting on NFL games during the previous season. Lions receivers Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams received six-game suspensions for betting on non-NFL games while at an NFL practice facility. William’s representative confirmed that the second-year wide receiver’s bet would have been considered legal, but only if it had taken place outside of the team’s facility.

In my opinion, individual players should not be penalized for betting on sports or games that are unrelated to their own teams. However, if someone wagers on their own team, there should be punishment since that offers a conflict of interest. If the bet involves a different sport, however, there should be no punishment imposed since it does not affect the individual’s gameplay for their team.

NFL rules state that NFL personnel should refrain from any form of gambling within any club or league setting including locker rooms, practice or office facilities, team transportation, or while traveling for team purposes. However, playing cards or engaging in other casino-type games is allowed as long as no value is wagered.

According to sports magazine The Athletic, in Major League Soccer (MLS), a player can face fines, suspension, or termination if they bet on any game involving an MLS team or player including actual game play or fantasy games. However, it seems contradictory to punish players within a different league for promoting gambling as that encourages viewership.

The rise of sports betting raises concerns within the sports community. Although engagement in such activities should be regulated, the punishments imposed on players should be fair and consistent. The NFL and other leagues should reevaluate their policies to ensure a balanced approach.