The NFL has hammered Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley for betting on football while away from the team and on the non-football injury list in 2021. That’s the league’s prerogative.
Nevertheless, the situation places even greater pressure on the NFL to properly handle the still-lingering controversy regarding the allegation made by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered Flores $100,000 for each loss in 2019.
Compare the two situations. Ridley made a variety of parlay wagers. In so doing, he bet on his team to win, not lose. He wasn’t even playing in the games, so there was no direct connection between bettor and player. Also, he wasn’t even with the team when he placed the bets. (And did we mention that he actually bet on the Falcon? The Falcons?)
Ross, in contrast, is accused of encouraging his head coach to blow games in the hopes of enhancing draft status in 2020. Ross allegedly wanted his team to lose, necessarily compromising the integrity of all wagers placed on the Dolphins in 2019.
It’s a far more serious infraction. It’s a far more troubling situation. And to the extent that owners are held to a higher standard than players (as explained in Playmakers, they’re supposed to be — but they’re not), Ross will be facing far greater consequences than Ridley, if the allegations are proven to be true.
For the NFL, that’s the real challenge. Will it aggressively pursue the situation, given the practical consequences for Ross? Will the league want to admit to the world that such an egregious affront to the integrity of the game occurred, at the behest of one of the stewards of the league’s 32 franchises?
Ross ultimately may push the idea that he was joking. Will the league buy that one? Can the league afford not to?
The Commissioner’s constituents are the owners. No one else. He doesn’t answer to the players. They don’t hire him. They don’t pay him. Ross and his partners do.
That’s the way it is. The way it goes. But if the league is going to kick Ridley out of the sport for a year because he decided to download an app and place a few bets that had no direct impact on the integrity of the game, it can’t mince words or pull punches with Ross, who wanted his team to lose.
Let’s see whether the league applies the same standard to Ross that it applied to Ridley.