Angry at Ridley? Don’t bet on it

by Gary Shelton on March 8, 2022

in general

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

I am trying to muster my moral outrage. I am trying to channel my anger.

Somehow, I am failing.

The NFL dropped a bomb on Atlanta Falcon wide receiver Calvin Ridley on Monday, suspending him for all of next year. Ridley has been tossed out of the sport, shamed and humiliated.

No, he didn't do steroids. No, he didn't abuse his girlfriend. No, he didn't sell trade secrets. No, he didn't pay his head coach to lose games intentionally.

He bet.

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In other words, the hypicrisy of the NFL has showed up again. At a time when the league has a team in Las Vegas, at a time when it is in bed with Draft Kings and Caesar's, Ridley was scapegoated. Roger Goodell, say early reports, has not been suspended.

Hey, I get it. Betting is evil, right? Unless, of course, it makes millions for those who run pro football, in which case they will tell you how they are on guard against any challenge to the integrity of the league while sitting on a lumpy wallet.

The truth, of course, is this: The shifting outrage of the NFL is partially responsible for Calvin Ridley. And someone ought to admit it.

You can't turn on a game anymore without seeing the Mannings preening for Ceasar's. Jamie Foxx touts Draft Kings. It has desensitized us all against gambling. Put it this way: Most of us wouldn't know what a steroid looked like, but we've made a small bet or two in our time. We've played Fantasy Football. We've picked the winners of games along with the TV hosts.

Look, it isn't Paul Hornung's America anymore. Or Alex Karras'. You've read about those two Hall of Famers, haven't you. They were both suspended for the 1963 seasons for gambling and "hanging around with unsavory characters."

There have been others. Back in 1946, Giants' quarterback Frank Filchock and running back Merle Hapes were suspended after a gambler tried to bribe them in the championship game. Neither took the bribe, but both were suspended.

In 1983, Art Schlichter was suspended for a season.

In those days, the NFL -- and other pro leagues -- feared another Black Sox scandal. If you remember, eight members of the Chicago White Sox were suspended for conspiring to fix the World Series. They were found not guilty in court, but Mountain Landis suspended them anyway.

And then there was Pete Rose, who gambled, lied about it and admitted it when he wrote a book. He's been kept off the Hall of Fame ballot since.

But things are more complicated these days. The NFL wants to take the money from gambling and have you trust the league that it still opposes the cice. That's too much trust. The appearance of compromise is an awful thing on its own.

Cardinals' defensive back Josh Shaw was suspended for a year in 2019 for gambling. Now Ridley. Assuredly, there will be others.

Hey, it's a hard job. Above all else, pro sports depends on fans trusting the final score.

It might help if the leagues weren't in bed with the gamblers.

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