Major League Soccer (MLS) announced on Friday that it has suspended Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez for the rest of the season without pay for betting on MLS games. The league said that he “engaged in extensive and unlawful sports gambling” while he was on the team, gambling which included wagering on two MLS matches.
MLS conducted an investigation and, fortunately, found that the betting itself was far down the severity scale. Hernandez never bet on his own team’s games and he did not have any sort of inside information on the matches on which he did bet. The league also found no evidence that his betting impacted the matches.
As such, Hernandez is eligible to be reinstated on January 1, 2022. He will have to file for reinstatement and the Commissioner will review how he has followed certain directives handed down by the league. Of course, if any other evidence comes to light, it will be reviewed and adjustments to Hernadez’s punishment could be made.
But while Hernandez’s actual transgression wasn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things, the underlying issue that led to it is much more serious. MLS began its investigation on July 5 because Hernandez told Sporting Kansas City that he was worried about his safety because he had accumulated gambling debts.
On Friday, he tweeted that he stepped away from soccer over the summer to focus on treatment for gambling addiction.
“Over the last several months,” he wrote, “I have been able to reassess, take responsibility for my actions and get the proper care for something that has greatly affected me.”
Hernandez went on to thank the league, his club, his coaches and teammates, his agents, and the fans for their support.
“I look forward to doing everything possible to get back on the field and will work harder than ever to help Sporting KC achieve its goals,” he concluded. “I will not make any further comments at this time while I focus on my commitment to taking all the steps necessary to make a healthy return.”
Replies to his public statement have been overwhelmingly supportive.
Hernandez’s final appearance in a game this season came the day before the league started the investigation. The 23-year-old played in six games in 2021, starting four of them. He scored one goal and racked up four assists. Sporting KC is currently sitting in second place in the Western Conference as the playoffs loom.