Jun 10, 2023
NFL suspension of Jameson Williams for sports betting looks excessive
There was always something off about the NFL’s decision to suspend Detroit Lions
There was always something off about the NFL's decision to suspend Detroit Lions wide receivers Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill six games for placing sports bets while at a team facility.
While they did technically break a rule — the league restricts gambling in club settings, including locker rooms, team buses and hotels — it was hard to believe Williams and Berryhill were the only two players to have ever broken the rule, which applies to gambling of any kind. As it turns out, they aren't.
In a story published by The Athletic, anonymous players not only confirmed the gambling habits of some of their teammates, but they also shared how unaware of certain policy details they were before these recent suspensions.
"That's bogus because straight up, that's not talked about like that. That could have been any one of us," one player said about the Lions suspensions.
"You could make the argument for everybody, because people are betting during rivalry week — Florida is playing Florida State, Ohio State vs. Michigan — everyone is betting on that. Could all those guys get in trouble?"
So why were Williams and Berryhill targeted?
It's hard to know, though it may have just been convenient to announce their suspensions along with two other Lions players who committed the ultimate sin of betting on the NFL — and it's easier to track sports bettors due to mobile technology. More than anything, though, it seems like the league is making an example out of them as a way to highlight a ridiculous and previously obscure rule with a ton of gray area.
Read it for yourself:
"NFL Personnel shall not engage in any form of gambling while in any Club or League setting including, without limitation, locker rooms, practice or office facilities, team buses, trains, flights, or hotels, or while traveling on Club or League business. For clarity, playing cards or other casino-type games is permitted as long as nothing of value is wagered."
OK, so cards and other casino-type games are permitted "as long as nothing of value" is wagered? And how do we determine what's "of value," especially to an athlete who might be making millions of dollars. And does sports betting fall into the category of casino-type games?
These are questions players might have been left with after a brief overview of the rules, which clearly haven't always been conveyed to them in a way that sticks, if at all.
"I don't recall seeing (signs that said) no gambling on team property. … I’m pretty sure a lot of guys have actually broken that rule," one player in the Athletic story said.
"I know we’ve been educated on it since these last couple incidents. Calvin Ridley, the guys in Detroit, and a few others. I didn't know the details and the fine print of the league gambling policy," said another.
Williams said he was unaware of the policy he violated, adding that the suspension "hit me out the blue. And, it hit a couple other players around the league and on my team out the blue."
After his and the other suspensions, though, it’ll be hard for any player to claim ignorance. Berryhill was cut, and Williams is a recent first-round pick whose name is just big enough to create headlines. Not to mention, a second wave of potential violations are being investigated, ESPN's David Purdum reported.
If NFL players didn't know about a rule restricting where they could gamble, they do now, and it sure looks like the league used two young players to accomplish that goal, which is really messed up if true.
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