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NFL players can bet on sports other than NFL football

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season after betting on games while away from the team last year, but Mike Florio and Chris Simms wonder if the punishment really fits the crime.

On Monday, we obtained some information from the NFL regarding the rules that do and don’t apply to NFL players wagering on sports. Here’s something I flat-out missed when writing the story.

NFL players CAN wagers on sports other than NFL football.

From the policy: “All NFL Personnel other than Players are further prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating bets on any other professional (e.g., NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, USTA, MLS), college (e.g., NCAA basketball), international (e.g., World Baseball Classic, World Cup), or Olympic sports competition, tournament or event.”

The key words, which I missed on Monday, are “other than Players.” Although the policy doesn’t say it directly, the policy means that players can indeed place bets on all other pro sports, on college sports, and on international sporting events.

Frankly, many would assume that all wagering on sports by NFL players is prohibited. That’s not the case.

We asked the league to explain the decision to allow wagering on sports other than pro football.

“Casual betting on other sports by players has always been permitted and a right protected by the NFLPA,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy explained via email. “It is not permitted by any league or club personnel. All personnel and players are counseled to avoid associations with known gamblers. In addition, all personnel, including players, who incur gambling debt greater than $10,000 to any person or gambling-related enterprise must promptly notify the NFL Security Department. NFL personnel, including players, are also reminded of their obligation to report violations or potential violations of the gambling policy, including improper approaches or solicitations by others, to the NFL Security Department or via the Protect the Shield hotline or website.”

So, yes, NFL players can download the relevant app in their state of residence or location and place bets on all sports, other than NFL football. Look at the language again. They can bet on college sports. The parenthetical only mentions NCAA basketball, but NCAA football also can be wagered upon. Again, it’s not spelled out as something they can do, but the implication is clear.

The ability to bet on college football seems odd, and risky. Plenty of NFL players still have close ties to their college programs. To the extent that there’s inside information within those college programs, recently former members of those programs are in prime position to get it, and to act on it.

It’s a surprising wrinkle to an unexpected twist in the broader gambling policy. Given the reference to the fact that the right is “protected by the NFLPA,” we can surmise that the NFL would like to eliminate it, but that the league isn’t willing to horse trade in order to make it happen.

Maybe the league should. The bright line regarding no betting on pro football arguably should extend to other sports, especially college football. It’s a small price to pay for the privilege of playing in the NFL, and it would help ensure that players remain out of a gray area that easily could become quicksand, for the players and in turn the league.