Ridley’s Suspension And The NFL’s Gambling Policy

NFL Gambling Policy, 6 rules

On Sunday, September 10th, Calvin Ridley, of the Jacksonville Jaguars, made his first appearance since being suspended by the League for the entire duration of the ’22-’23 NFL season.  Ridley, who had not played a single game since October 24, 2021 after stepping away from the Atlanta Falcons due to mental health reasons and then subsequently facing his suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy, made quite a “reintroduction” after being out for nearly 23 months.  Ridley’s eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown were exactly what the Jaguars offense needed in their opening game, but more impressive than that was Ridley’s enthusiasm for his teammates and their “W”. [1]

Circling back to the 2021 season: Ridley was an up and coming Falcons wide receiver.  He was drafted by the Falcons in 2018 and since then had continued to grow as an individual and team player.  So why the sudden change when he decided to step away from the Falcons and NFL at large? Ridley, in a statement posted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts on October 31, 2021 stated: “These past few weeks have been very challenging. . . I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing. . . I want to thank my teammates, the entire Atlanta Falcons organization, our great fans, my friends, and my family for all of their support during this time.” [2] Less than five months after this post, Ridley faced an unfortunate fate.

On March 7, 2022, Ridley was suspended for the remainder of the 2022 season for placing bets on NFL games in 2021 during his mental health leave from the NFL.  He placed $1,500 worth of wagers on NFL games over the span of five days.  After an investigation, orchestrated by the league, was complete, it was established that there was no evidence of insider information used or that any game was compromised by Ridley’s betting.  Further, there was no evidence to suggest that Falcons coaches, players, or staff were aware of Ridley’s “extracurricular” activities. [3] The league’s gambling policy strictly prohibits anyone in the NFL from engaging in any form of wagering in any club or league facility or venue. Ridley was traded by the Falcons to the Jacksonville Jaguars in November for two future draft picks.  This trade was conditional upon Ridley’s reinstatement in the League, which ended up coming in April ’23 when the NFL granted him eligibility to participate in all team activities. [4]

The NFL’s gambling policy has evolved over the years with the uptick in violations, which comes five years after a landmark ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.  In May of 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a federal statute that restricted regulated sports betting to primarily Nevada since 1992.  The NFL, a plaintiff in the case, fought a two-decade long fight in an attempt to stop the spread of betting, but they pivoted after losing at the Supreme Court level. [5] Over the last five years, the NFL has loosened its death-grip on betting and now allows players to bet on sports other than the NFL. But, as opportunities grow, the potential for violations does as well. [Id.] So, what does this mean for players today? Frankly, the players don’t even know.  The Athletic interviewed five NFL players anonymously and not one of them had a good handle on the league’s gambling policy.  Case in point: During those interviews two players interpreted the “placing bets from a team facility is prohibited” policy entirely differently.  For the sake of simplicity, Player A was completely unaware of that rule and Player B interpreted that as you “couldn’t bet on anything during the season.” Albeit confusing to many players to this day, there are three rules every player in the league must follow.  First, absolutely no betting on the NFL. Simply put, neither players nor league personnel are permitted to gamble on any NFL-related events.  Second, all NFL Personnel other than players are further prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating bets on any other professional (e.g., NBAMLBNHL, PGA, USTA, MLS), college (e.g., NCAA basketball), international (e.g., World Baseball Classic, World Cup), or amateur (e.g., Olympic, AAU) sports competition, tournament or event.” In other words, NFL players are allowed to bet on the aforementioned, but league personnel do not have those same rights.  In fact, league personnel are only permitted to place non-sports related bets, on their own time, and are not allowed to visit any sportsbooks while the NFL season is in session.  Third, as previously mentioned, is the policy restricting gambling in the workplace. This reinforces the notion that players, who are permitted to gamble on non-NFL related events, are not allowed to place said bets while at a team facility or venue. [6]
Since April 2023, ten NFL players have faced suspension for violations to the gambling policy and that number is likely to grow based on the foundational problem: Many players are unfamiliar with the league policy, specifically the policy prohibiting players from placing bets at a team or league facility or while on the road with their teams. [7] It’s not surprising that many players have begun to share their frustrations both anonymously and on the record.  With that said, where does the league go from here? If you ask the players, especially those who have faced suspension, they’ll likely say the league should find it incumbent upon themselves to reevaluate how they educate their players and personnel on the gambling policy. 

[1] https://www.espn.com/blog/jacksonville-jaguars/post/_/id/31215/what-calvin-ridley-strong-jaguars-debut-means-for-the-offense 

[2] https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/calvin-ridley-falcons-nfl/1e66qw5nxgqag112bctaamuzbc

[3] https://www.denverpost.com/2022/03/07/falcons-calvin-ridley-suspended-gambling/

[4] https://www.nfl.com/news/jaguars-trade-for-suspended-falcons-wr-calvin-ridley

[5] https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/37419884/inside-nfl-gambling-policy-uptick-violations#:~:text=An%20exemption%20allowing%20players%20to,prohibited%20from%20any%20sports%20betting.

[6] https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-gambling-policy-here-are-three-rules-every-player-in-the-league-must-follow-to-avoid-a-suspension/

[7] https://apnews.com/article/nfl-gambling-suspensions-0c31c118f637efa159fad75e7b949418

Photo Credit: Clutch Points

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: