NFL players can bet on sports other than NFL football

National Football League Bets On Las Vegas
Getty Images

On Monday, we obtained some information from the NFL regarding the rules that do and don’t apply to NFL players wagering on sports. Here’s something I flat-out missed when writing the story.

NFL players CAN wagers on sports other than NFL football.

From the policy: “All NFL Personnel other than Players are further prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating bets on any other professional (e.g., NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, USTA, MLS), college (e.g., NCAA basketball), international (e.g., World Baseball Classic, World Cup), or Olympic sports competition, tournament or event.”

The key words, which I missed on Monday, are “other than Players.” Although the policy doesn’t say it directly, the policy means that players can indeed place bets on all other pro sports, on college sports, and on international sporting events.

Frankly, many would assume that all wagering on sports by NFL players is prohibited. That’s not the case.

We asked the league to explain the decision to allow wagering on sports other than pro football.

“Casual betting on other sports by players has always been permitted and a right protected by the NFLPA,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy explained via email. “It is not permitted by any league or club personnel. All personnel and players are counseled to avoid associations with known gamblers. In addition, all personnel, including players, who incur gambling debt greater than $10,000 to any person or gambling-related enterprise must promptly notify the NFL Security Department. NFL personnel, including players, are also reminded of their obligation to report violations or potential violations of the gambling policy, including improper approaches or solicitations by others, to the NFL Security Department or via the Protect the Shield hotline or website.”

So, yes, NFL players can download the relevant app in their state of residence or location and place bets on all sports, other than NFL football. Look at the language again. They can bet on college sports. The parenthetical only mentions NCAA basketball, but NCAA football also can be wagered upon. Again, it’s not spelled out as something they can do, but the implication is clear.

The ability to bet on college football seems odd, and risky. Plenty of NFL players still have close ties to their college programs. To the extent that there’s inside information within those college programs, recently former members of those programs are in prime position to get it, and to act on it.

It’s a surprising wrinkle to an unexpected twist in the broader gambling policy. Given the reference to the fact that the right is “protected by the NFLPA,” we can surmise that the NFL would like to eliminate it, but that the league isn’t willing to horse trade in order to make it happen.

Maybe the league should. The bright line regarding no betting on pro football arguably should extend to other sports, especially college football. It’s a small price to pay for the privilege of playing in the NFL, and it would help ensure that players remain out of a gray area that easily could become quicksand, for the players and in turn the league.

23 responses to “NFL players can bet on sports other than NFL football

  1. I know Ridley broke a rule, and rules are rules right? But I cant help but find the irony in the fact the NFL moves so quickly to “defend its brand” and the “integrity of the league’ when it comes to the players, but not so fast for issues with management. Guy bets $1,500 and gets an $11 million fine. The investigation into the wrong doings of the Redskins/Washington Football Team/Commanders claimed by 43 defendants concluded in July 2021. Results? Instant banishment? Nope. Silence. Mum on 2.4 million of non-disclosure payments to cover up messes in the home of Jerrah’s Cowboys? No issue here. Owners tanking games? Instant suspension? Nope. Same old same old? Can you say hypocrisy? I knew you could.

  2. At some point there’s going to be a scandal where some borderline NFL player has a friend or distant relative place NFL bets for his team (or against it).

  3. Can’t wait for an NFL employee to get in trouble for betting on the professional tag matches running on ESPN…

  4. I don’t find it odd they only limit this to NFL games. NFL doesn’t care about the other leagues and it really shoudn’t have to. They don’t care of MLB players are betting on NFL, in fact the probably encourage young people with large incomes laying wagers.

    If player are betting on their own games it will appear they are fixed from the public’s view. This is why even though Ridley didn’t really effect the integerity of the game he opens a can of worms the league has to keep a lid on. I gamble, a lot, but you can’t have your players gambling. Pete Rose should have taught us all that. Heck Jordan’s 1st retirement was about gambling.

  5. I was wondering about this loophole as well… 🙂
    Good job contacting the NFL to get their statement on it. I hadn’t considered the college football aspect. Gambling is addictive. If players can gamble on other sports, it’s natural to assume that the urge to bet on their own sport could be strengthened. I think this is a slippery slope. Good job calling it out.

  6. Shouldn’t be able to bet on anything as long as they are employed by any sports league. Hypothetical but what if… Player on minimum salary gets in deep with a (wink,wink) book and can’t pay it back. What if that book decides they can work it off by affecting the outcome of the games they play in. Highly unlikely I know but not impossible. Why allow outside temptation?

  7. Confidence is the game matters more than essentially anything else to the NFL – and it should. Their entire business is predicated on the trust that both teams on the field are trying to win.

    Maintaining confidence in the game is not about morality – its required absolutely.

  8. I don’t think anything has to be changed. Just don’t bet on the NFL if you are a player under contract with the NFL. Betting on college football or any other sport has no impact on the integrity of the NFL.

  9. The Tim Donaghy moment is coming for the NFL. Heck, it may have already happened and we just don’t know about it.

  10. bearsman says:
    March 8, 2022 at 11:11 am
    I was wondering about this loophole as well… 🙂
    Good job contacting the NFL to get their statement on it. I hadn’t considered the college football aspect. Gambling is addictive. If players can gamble on other sports, it’s natural to assume that the urge to bet on their own sport could be strengthened. I think this is a slippery slope. Good job calling it out.

    ———–

    That’s nonsense. Gambling is legal therefore NFL players should be able to gamble if they want to as long as it’s not on the NFL. Protecting against a slippery slope isn’t the job of the NFL. They aren’t the players’ parent.

  11. nfl4dummies says:
    March 8, 2022 at 11:12 am
    Shouldn’t be able to bet on anything as long as they are employed by any sports league. Hypothetical but what if… Player on minimum salary gets in deep with a (wink,wink) book and can’t pay it back. What if that book decides they can work it off by affecting the outcome of the games they play in. Highly unlikely I know but not impossible. Why allow outside temptation?

    ————

    Is it ironic that fans want to ban the players from all gambling so they themselves can gamble on those same players?

    Employers can’t overstep their bounds and infringe on players rights. Gambling is legal now. The NFL should enforce whatever they want pertaining to the NFL and avoid getting involved in anything else that is otherwise legal behavior.

  12. bullcharger says:
    March 8, 2022 at 11:21 am

    That’s nonsense. Gambling is legal therefore NFL players should be able to gamble if they want to as long as it’s not on the NFL. Protecting against a slippery slope isn’t the job of the NFL. They aren’t the players’ parent.

    —-

    That’s a fair point. But if they aren’t the players’ parent, then they shouldn’t be other NFL personnel’s parent either. I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter, although I lean on the side of no gambling (from an employer perspective, or a head coach perspective, I wouldn’t want my players to lose focus on the game they’re playing because they have thousands lined up on a bet in another sport). But I mainly wonder why the rule isn’t uniform.

  13. This article reminds me of the old joke: a gambler loses consistently at football, baseball, basketball, you name it. His bookie suggests, out of equal parts concern and greed, that he try betting hockey. The gambler replies; “Hockey!! What do I know about hockey?!”

    The point being – it doesn’t matter what the players bet on, they can still create a downside in gambling losses that can be exploited. Just b/c they aren’t allowed to bet on football doesn’t mean they can’t get in over their heads and be vulnerable arable to fixers

  14. So, it’s bad for Ridley to gamble on a game….but it’ll be OK with someone like Trae Young to ask Ridley for some assistance on a specific game and then bet on that game?

    So dumb. Either they are banned from gambling in any league or not banned at all.

  15. The people saying that restriction are like treating players as children – dont understand what is going on and why.

    It has NOTHING to do with protecting the players.
    You will notice the other league employees have more restrictions than players – its not about protecting them either.

    Its about minimizing leverage between people who want to manipulate games and people with the ability to manipulate games.

    Theres no law guaranteeing your right to gamble – if a business has a valid interest in keeping its employees away from gambling, then its allowed to make such rules. Tthe reason players are allowed to gamble outside the NFL is that their union bargained for it – which is fine. There is not right or wrong here – its just competing interests.

  16. The NFL gets a LOT of things wrong, but swiftly punishing someone who bets on THEIR OWN SPORT is necessary, despite $1,500 being a small fraction of their entire earnings. Not doing so only encourages other players to do it which ultimately puts the league’s on-field product integrity in serious jeopardy.

  17. Wow. What a terrible move by the NFL.

    In sports, players used to be banned from betting on their own team because it could cause them to throw games to win money.

    BUt simply being allowed to bet on other sports is dangerous. IF they get into financial trouble because they bet and lost on other sports, the people they ow could “ask them for a favor”

    The NFLmade a huge mistake when they partnered with betting sites….and this rule makes it even worse.

  18. I’m trying to figure out why an intern in the marketing department of an NFL team isn’t allowed to place a legal wager on a soccer game.

  19. ” All personnel and players are counseled to avoid associations with known gamblers. ”

    How does that work. Almost by definition, if they bet they will be around “known gamblers”.

  20. “All personnel and players are counseled to avoid associations with known gamblers.”

    And here’s where the policy falls apart. Players betting on any sport will both put themselves one small step away from the temptation to bet on their own sport, and put them at the mercy of people betting on the NFL who could have influence over them if they start experiencing losses. Which, in turn, incentivizes gambling interests to make sure players they might want to lean on experience those losses.

    It’s all just horrible hypocrisy. There’s no way the league can have it both ways without that hypocrisy.

    Pro sports leagues should not have any kind of business relationship with gambling. Once they do, they’re dead and just don’t realize it yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.