Black Sox Scandal Take 2 

Named as one of the professional baseball’s most notorious scandals, the Chicago White Sox “Big Fix” of 1919 does not seem that far away. In 1919, eight members of the Chicago White Sox were bribed to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. [1] The accused players received $70,000 – $100,000 for losing five games to three. [2] The scandal was uncovered almost a year later and became a mortal blow to America’s favorite game: the integrity of MLB thrown down the drain for a quick pay out.

           Sportswriters, players, and popular gamblers knew that there was some suspicious activity involved when the odds that favored the highly successful White Sox suddenly dropped. [3] After an extensive investigation, three players confessed to the grand jury that eight players were involved. [4After this discovery, the betting conspiracy led to the permanent ban of eight White Sox players and strict rules prohibiting gambling. [4] 

     Surprisingly, in the fall of 1921, four of the banned players sued the Chicago White Sox for back wages that weren’t paid when the players were suspended. [5] Initially, the players asked for an additional $100,000 in damages because their reputations and means of earning an income were demolished. [6] It seems like the big payout for throwing the World Series didn’t cover a lifetime of wages and embarrassment. The charges were dropped, and some players settled out of court, while Joe Jackson’s case went to trial in 1924. [7] The jury initially found in his favor, however his testimony contradicted what he told the grand jury.  Jackson was charged with criminal perjury and a warrant was issued for his arrest. [8] Since he never returned to Wisconsin, the warrant was never executed, so Jackson [9] essentially avoided criminal charges while keeping a World Series title. 

            With major leagues partnering up with online sports betting, an important aspect is being brushed over. Promoting online betting seems great to the leagues because they are making money, however, gambling has been compared to alcohol and drugs. Why? Dependency. When someone drinks alcohol, they have an “up” moment, when they are drunk, similar to drugs and after the “down” cycle. Gambling has been known to have an even worse impact because it has several “up” moments. It starts with going to the casino or place of bet, then finding a good bet, then deciding how much money to place on the bet, then watching the bet unfold, then possibly winning and more. This is a vicious cycle that happens with every single bet for people with gambling addictions. Drug use and drinking leave physical marks, but the extent of a gambling habit can sometimes not be present until the person has dissolved into undeniable and damaging debt. Now add professional sports leagues promoting it to look glamorous: potentially a perfect storm.

            What is to say that a controversy like this won’t happen again with the ability to gamble online now? The leagues that were once against gambling are now opening their arms to the endorsements that gambling companies give, along with revenue. The NFL once suspended its MVP Paul Hornug, in 1963 for gambling along with the best defensive player at the time, Alex Karras. [10] Further, as recently as 2015, the NFL would not let Tony Romo host a fantasy football convention at a Las Vegas casino. [11] Fast-forward to the post-legality of online sports betting and now the National Football League has betting partnerships and happily markets television commercials for DraftKings and FanDuel. [12] Every major league now has a partnership with these betting companies. The Chicago Cubs, for instance, announced a $100 million dollar deal with DraftKings: [13] The league with the most infamous betting scandal partnering up with an online sports betting company. The irony. As if this wasn’t enough, Pete Rose, who dominated MLB for 23 years, was permanently banned after accusations of betting on baseball games, violating MLB Rule 21 which reads, “The rule directly states: “Any player, umpire, or club, or league official, or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.”[14] So we have scandals, bans, but the promotion of gambling continues, despite the jaded and controversial past.

 Initially, the leagues were seeking “integrity fees” from the sports betting sector to cover the increased cost of safeguarding the integrity of their games.  While that approach did not pan out, it remains unclear what, if any, measures have been taken to address the same concerns that gave MLB a black eye in 1919.  What is to prevent the vulnerable players whose performances dictate the outcome of these bets from making a quick buck? White Sox Round 2, here we go.


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