It should be a rule that is ingrained in the minds of players, but it seems that there needs to be reminders handed out occasionally. On Friday, the National Football League did just that and brought the hammer down hard. Five current players in the NFL for three different teams were suspended, with three receiving indefinite suspensions that may keep them off the field for the entirety of the upcoming season.

Detroit Lions Take the Brunt

The team that took the brunt of the NFL hammer was the Detroit Lions. In total, four players – wide receivers Quintez Cephus, Jameson Williams, and Stanley Berryhill, and defensive back C. J. Moore – were reprimanded for gambling offenses. In the cases of Cephus and Moore, their punishment was indefinite with the ability to apply for reinstatement after the 2023 season. For Williams and Berryhill, they received six regular-season games for their offenses. Also receiving an infinite suspension was Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney.

The ramifications of the suspensions were felt nearly immediately by the players. The Lions announced from their team facilities on Friday that Cephus and Moore were released from the team, but Williams and Berryhill escaped that situation. Part of that may have come from the fact that Williams was a first-round pick of the Lions in the 2022 NFL Draft.

NFL officials stated that Cephus, Moore, and Toney were suspended for betting on NFL games during the 2022 season. Berryhill and Williams were stated to have made betting transactions “from an NFL facility on non-NFL games,” which could explain the lighter punishment for their transgressions. The issues present in the decision by the NFL demonstrate that there are still rules – and should be enforced rules – regarding gambling in professional sports despite the availability of gambling.

All Leagues Prohibit Gambling

Every professional sports league – be it in the States of America’s major professional sports leagues or overseas professional leagues like the Premier League or other outlets – has rules in place that are quite explicit. Under no circumstance are players, managers, coaches, executives or even employees allowed to be on their sport, at the minimum. That ban on betting can extend across the board to even entering casinos and the rules can also stretch to cover the officials who work those games (most leagues do allow for card games like poker if there “is nothing of value” wagered).

According to Sports’ Jori Epstein, these bans extend to any team facility and hotels that the team may be in. Epstein states that the rules are even harsher on those who are not players – the Lions also fired several staff members from the team, according to ESPN – and the Shield is very clear on what is expected of all personnel with one of their franchises. Epstein states that during Training Camp each year, the NFL instructs 17,000 people, ranging from the players to those who hold down markers on the sidelines, on the league’s stance regarding gambling. Those involved in this training also must sign a document that states they understand what their responsibilities are.

The issue for some, however, is that gambling has expanded so extensively in the past few years that it is an accepted part of life. Since the U. S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, it has allowed for the expansion of gaming across the U. S. This also has seen an uptick in people participating in gaming activities, including those that work in the leagues, and the feeling in the public that the league’s stances are a bit archaic.

The NFL has been consistent on this issue. In 2021, then-Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley allegedly bet on NFL games while on Injured Reserve; he was subsequently banned from the league indefinitely, with the same option to apply for reinstatement after the 2022 season. Ridley earned that reinstatement and is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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