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NFL continues to tiptoe through minefield of inconsistency, hypocrisy on gambling

During Tuesday’s media conference call on gambling that involved pretty much everyone in the media covering the NFL except any of the people from this specific media outlet (we weren’t invited), the NFL apparently tried to continue to tiptoe through a minefield of inconsistency and hypocrisy regarding its gambling policy.

The entire gambling policy flows from the league’s desire to protect and to preserve the integrity of the game. So when it comes to betting on sports other than NFL football, are the rules aimed at protecting the integrity of the game or the perception of the integrity of the game?

That question was posed to NFL V.P. and chief compliance officer Sabrina Perel by Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports during Tuesday’s conference call.

The perception of it,” Perel said. “We’re mindful of just gambling in general and the perception. Are we doing everything to make sure that there’s no negative association with those individuals both on the actual betting and the potential for the use of inside information?”

Perception, as they say, is reality. But the ensuing reality for the NFL is a perception that they don’t really know what the rules should be, they don’t really know how to best educate players and non-players on them, and they don’t know how to properly and fairly strike the balance between perception and integrity.

Here’s the one question I would have asked, if invited to participate in Tuesday’s call: Why are players allowed to gamble on sports away from work when non-players are prohibited from ever doing so?

If the perception is strong enough to create rules regarding betting on sports other than NFL football, why are players allowed to do it at all? And if the men who play the game itself are allowed to bet on other sports, why are non-players subject to a very broad, restrictive, and aggressively (and largely quietly) enforced prohibitions of any form or fashion of gambling?

It makes no sense. All NFL and team personnel should be subject to the same rules, players and non-players alike. This dichotomy has resulted only in confusion, mixed messages, and a sense of inherent unfairness.

Through it all, the league lacks the moral authority to tell anyone what to do when it comes to gambling, given that the league is stuffing its own pockets with as much gambling money as it can grab. Before the league realized how much money it could make from legalized sports betting, the NFL loathed the idea of it. Now, the NFL wants to Wallenda its way toward making more money from gambling interests while restricting any and all employee interest in gambling.

It stinks. And it’s only going to start smelling better once the NFL does the right thing and completely divests itself of any and all gambling relationships.

It’s clearly the right thing to do. But when there’s plenty of money to be made by not doing the right thing, people tend to come up with all sorts of ways to persuade themselves that they’re fully within their rights to do something other than the right thing.