Tony Dungy is standing on moral ground. The NFL is standing on legal ground. But in the end, the players could wind up on shaky ground.
To this point, most attached to the NFL have kept quiet and turned the other way. Meanwhile, the NFL is all the way in with a partner they’ve longed to be in bed with.
The NFL used to act as if it was against gambling on its sport. But it did things to help people place bets on its action. The most obvious was mandating that teams release their injury report early Friday so fans could place their bets before leaving work that day.
Easily, that info could have been dropped Sunday morning, an hour before kickoff. It was clearly to help the gambling industry.
Now, the NFL has signed million-dollar partnerships with gambling entities all over the place since the Supreme Court ruled states could legalize sports gambling.
It gave the NFL the green light.
But not all are down with the king. Enter Dungy, the former Super Bowl-winning coach and current NBC NFL analyst.
He not only believes gambling is wrong, but said it out loud for the world to hear.
“I don’t know why the NFL changed its stance. My objection is just personal,” Dungy told Front Office Sports early this month. “I don’t think we should encourage people who are watching the NFL to gamble. Especially young people.”
Can you say, $270 million?
That’s reportedly what the NFL will collect from those gambling partnerships this season alone.
The NFL is a business and is trying to make as much money as it can. And now that gambling is being legalized state-by-state, it feels as if it has the legal footing not to be judged.
But Dungy, one of the most respected voices in the league, has a legit point as well.
Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you have to partake in it. A strip club is a legal business of operation. Many wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like that.
“I’ve got boys,” Dungy added. “I want them to enjoy the game for what it is…it’s a great game.
“And I know people gamble. I know it’s legal. I just don’t want to see the NFL promoting it. That’s just my personal opinion. I know a lot of people don’t agree with that.”
Nope. It’s actually how the NFL has become a monster in the sports landscape. It all started with fantasy football. Fans joined leagues with the goal of winning a huge pot of money at the end of the season.
It totally changed how fans even watched the game. That’s why the NFL Red Zone channel is so popular. People don’t want to even watch a full game on TV.
Instead, it’s about scoring plays and the points fantasy players get from the guys they put in their fantasy starting lineups. The NFL had to lift the TV blackout restriction it used to impose on teams that didn’t see 80 percent of their tickets for a home game.
It was lifted because fans didn’t want to see just one game. They had to keep tabs on all the games for their fantasy leagues.
Enter the players.
It will become a slippery slope.
The NFL has had some major gambling scandals in the past, including the 1963 case of Paul Hornung and Alex Karras. Both were suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games.
Last year, the NFL suspended Josh Shaw, a DB for the Arizona Cardinals. Reportedly, the league got a tip that on a few occasions during the 2019 season, Shaw bet on NFL games.
Players might want to enter the fray, especially if they have inside information about injuries and players that could affect the outcome of the game they are playing in.
The stigma on betting on games has been lifted now.
And it also will be hard for the NFL to justify players not gambling when the sport itself is promoting it. And again, it’s legal.
It seems inevitable that there will be some major gambling scandal in pro sports. The temptation is too great.
Heck, the Raiders play in Las Vegas, the home of gambling. The NFL is all in. The fans are all in. It’s just a matter of time before its players will want to be all in, too.