Atlanta Falcons wide-receiver Calvin Ridley suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games

Atlanta Falcons wide-receiver Calvin Ridley suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games

Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended for the 2022 NFL season after an investigation discovered that the Falcons receiver placed $1500 in bets on the NFL during the 2021 season.

Ridley is the first former All-Pro star to be punished for gambling since the widespread legalization of sports betting in the US and the second such suspension in three years. Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw was suspended for the 2020 season after gambling on games while on IR in 2019. 

In a statement concerning the suspension NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted, “a league investigation uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way. Nor was there evidence suggesting any awareness by coaches, staff, teammates, or other players of his betting activity.”

Despite there being no evidence of foul play, Ridley’s actions still breached the league’s code of conduct in a serious way.

“Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermine the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.”

The statement notes that Ridley’s betting occurred during a five day period in November 2021 as he was on the non-football illness reserve list. Ridley reportedly placed three parlay bets all of which depended on the Falcons winning to cash out.

Since the NFL announced Ridley’s suspension, the receiver has tweeted, posting, “I bet $1500 total I don’t have a gambling problem” and “I know I was wrong But I’m getting 1 year lol.”

Ridley informed the Falcons in late October that he needed to step away from the team for mental health reasons. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter a number of teams at this time contacted the Falcons to discuss a potential trade of Ridley, inquiring clubs however were turned down by Atlanta.

As per Roger Sherman of the Ringer, the Ridley suspension raises a series of “logistical and ethical questions” as the NFL tries to protect the integrity of its games as it embraces the financial opportunities that comes with legalized sports gambling. Sherman raises 26 questions in his article. I have highlighted seven of my favorites:

  1. Did Ridley learn about the app by watching one of the thousands of advertisements for sportsbooks that air every NFL Sunday?
  2. Has anyone previously managed to bet $1500 and lose more than $11 million?
  3. Ridley tweeted that he’ll “learn from [his] L’s”. Is he the first sports bettor ever to do that?
  4. Was Ridley unaware of the sign posted in every single NFL locker room about how gambling on football is strictly prohibited?
  5. Isn’t Ridley’s punishment - being suspended for a full season - a bit harsh considering the low-level nature of the gambling, the lack of league evidence regarding insider information, and the NFL’s buddy-buddy relationship with sportsbooks?
  6. Why does the NFL dole out harsher punishments to players for gambling games than for domestic violence?
  7. How about sports media, which regularly offers betting tips despite being financially dependent on advertising from gambling companies? What are the ripple effects when all of these industries try to coexist? The explosion of legalized betting is primed to be one of the dominant stories in sports over the next few years, with myriad and complex considerations.

How the NFL, bookmakers, players and fans wrestle with the implications of the closeness between the sports betting industry and football will be a complicated and fascinating discussion over the next few years.

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