Calvin Ridley suspension : Is the NFL sending the wrong message?


Photo courtesy of Instagram @espn

Calvin Ridley in pre-game attire

On March 7, the NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the upcoming 2022 NFL season for betting on his own team during the 2021 season. In the middle of last season, Ridley announced that he would be stepping away from the team due to mental health reasons. It is during this time that he placed bets on the Hardrock Sportsbook app in Florida, where sports betting is legal.

The NFL came down hard on Ridley with what some would consider a harsh punishment considering he was betting on his own team to win. This begs the question: could the NFL be showing its true colors on what truly matters to them?

There is no doubt that the NFL’s past decisions with suspensions have been head-scratching at best. Ridley is just a small part of a potentially monster problem involving sports betting. Former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores, recently accused the owner of the franchise, Stephen Ross, of attempting to pay him to intentionally lose games.

The way the NFL handles gambling in general needs to be rethought. In 2022, it is now impossible to watch your favorite team and not be bombarded by promotions coming from FanDuel, DraftKings or other sports betting sites.

One of the many problems here is the temptation that causes viewers to download apps and start betting. And, in Ridley’s case, he was just a sidelined player watching his team from his couch.

The comparisons that this is drawing to MLB Legend Pete Rose are misguided; Rose was betting on games as the manager of the Reds from the dugout, where Ridley wasn’t even traveling with the team at the time. There is no debating the dangers of allowing players to gamble on games, however, if the NFL didn’t promote gambling the way they do, it would be less tempting for the players to gamble.

Another aspect worth questioning is the severity of Ridley’s suspension compared to other players’ misdeeds. While we agree that an NFL player betting on the games breaks clear established rules and should be punished to a degree, there have been many current and past instances where the NFL has been less strict for worse incidents.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was just traded to the Cleveland Browns, has signed a 230 million dollar contract despite being accused by 22 different women of sexual misconduct. Former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson faced a similar punishment after pleading no contest for child abuse.

Calvin Ridley’s suspension will certainly be a huge blow to the Falcons next season. However, with the NFL’s notoriously questionable investigative process and their willingness to constantly promote the same sites that got Ridley suspended, this is an issue that the NFL should have seen coming and it certainly won’t be the last.