The Duke Johnson phantom fumble at FedEx Field represents the kind of outcome that allows those who like to speculate that NFL games are fixed to attach the tin-foil hat and begin the barrage from his mother’s basement.
And that’s without the NFL doing business in a city that embraces all forms of gambling.
What happens when a questionable call happens during a game in Las Vegas, or involving the team headquartered in Las Vegas? What happens when there’s a bad call involving any team once the league pounces onto the third rail with glee?
Consider Super Bowl 50. When Cam Newton doesn’t dive on the loose ball, it was assumed that he was making a “business decision.” If/when the NFL moves to Las Vegas, some will be inclined to suspect that a player in this situation has made a different kind of “business decision.”
Regardless of whether there’s zero merit to the suspicion, the question is whether the league can afford to allow the perception to fester that gambling may in some way be influencing one or more of the many heat-of-the-moment decisions made during an NFL game.
With broader business considerations (starting with $750 million in free money for building a stadium) causing some to support the move strongly, others will be raising concerns like these in the coming days, weeks, and months — especially since Raiders owner Mark Davis already has tried to back his partners into a corner by declaring that Las Vegas will be the next home of the team.