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NFL regularly warns players not to engage in gambling on football

Following Calvin Ridley’s suspension, Mike Florio and Mike Golic dive deeper into how the NFL may handle the topic of gambling with the league's integrity in mind.

The NFL has only ever suspended five players for gambling. The league regularly sends a clear message to all players reminding them that gambling on NFL games is prohibited.

“There’s a simple policy that we reinforce through annual mandatory education and training programs for everyone associated with the NFL family, including league and club personnel, players, coaches, medical staff, officials, and gameday assistants -- if you work in the NFL in any capacity, you may not bet on NFL football. Betting on NFL games in any form is forbidden,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email. “It does not matter whether sports betting is legal or illegal in a given state.”

McCarthy shared specific information from the league’s player manual.

As to betting on football: “All NFL Personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or through a third party, on any NFL game, practice or other event. This includes betting on game outcome, statistics, score, performance of any individual participant, or any other kind of ‘proposition bet.’”

The prohibition on sports wagering extends beyond pro football.

“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 manual explains.

According to other materials provided to PFT by McCarthy, violations are “decided by the Commissioner or his designee on a case-by-case basis,” and violation “constitute conduct detrimental to the League and will subject the involved club and/or person(s) to appropriate disciplinary action by the Commissioner,” which can include “severe penalties up to and including a fine, termination of employment and/or banishment from the NFL for life.”

By rule, the decision rests in the “sole disciplinary authority of the Commissioner” when the underlying violation entails “betting on NFL games, associating with gamblers or engaging in gambling activities, accepting a bribe or failing to promptly report a bribe offer.”

There’s no specific requirement that a one-year suspension be imposed for a first offense. Given that Ridley has appeal rights, he could try to argue that the nature of the offense and his prompt admission to wagering on games should result in a reduced punishment.