Before going any further, let’s briefly summarize Couch Slouch v. The National Football League on a key, burgeoning issue:
• I remain pro-gambling (as in it should be legal) while encouraging most people not to gamble.
• The NFL remains anti-gambling (publicly) while maneuvering (privately) to make truckloads of more cash from gambling.
So with bemusement and a pinch of salt, I watched the NFL recently call out and suspend Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw through at least the 2020 season for betting on multiple NFL games this year.
Naturally, Shaw — who has been on injured reserve all season — had to be disciplined; it is very, very bad for business to have your own players betting on your own product.*
But it was the manner the league ran Shaw up the morality flagpole and occupied its faux high ground that made me roll off my NFL-licensed beanbag chair with snort-filled laughter.
Let’s start with the official response of NFL commissioner Roger “I’m Shocked, Shocked to Find That Gambling Is Going On in Here” Goodell:
“The continued success of the NFL depends directly on each of us doing everything necessary to safeguard the integrity of the game and the reputations of all who participate in the league. At the core of this responsibility is the longstanding principle that betting on NFL games, or on any element of a game, puts at risk the integrity of the game, damages public confidence in the NFL and is forbidden under all circumstances. If you work in the NFL in any capacity, you may not bet on NFL football.”
Have you ever noticed that whenever Goodell makes a public statement, he uses “integrity” multiple times? To borrow from Inigo Montoya, “Mr. Goodell, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
(*— I’d love to be more sympathetic to Shaw, but according to ESPN, he was betting a three-team second-half parlay last month and he was betting against his own employer. Parlays are fool’s gold — it’s hard enough getting one game right; trying to get several games right for a rip-off payoff is professional gambling malfeasance. Plus Shaw’s Cardinals might stink, but they’re actually quite good against the point spread this year. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you if it’s a winning hand. Geez.)
Anyway, let me see if I understand this correctly:
All NFL employees are banned from betting on the NFL in any manner, and this prohibition includes fantasy football leagues with a payoff higher than $250. So beyond players, coaches and front-office types, what are the chances that no other NFL wage earners besides Shaw — we’re talking team trainers, game officials, personnel at the league offices in New York, nfl.com, NFL Network, et al. — are breaking the NFL’s gambling statute?
Uh, I would say the chances are ZERO PERCENT.
DraftKings is the league’s official daily fantasy sports partner — Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft have invested in the company — and between DraftKings and its chief competitor, FanDuel, the two have sponsorship agreements with nearly every NFL team.
And as gambling becomes more mainstream in the aftermath of the 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing states to authorize sports betting, clearly more money will flow to the leagues and gambling sites, and all the losers will be sports bettors. Hypothetically, in fact, if we all live to be 800 years old, everyone gambling eventually will go broke.
So I get tired of hearing Goodell peddle his integrity-of-the-game patter as he reaches deeper and deeper into his fan base’s pockets.
Heck, if the NFL truly cared about its gambling customers, it would open its own sports book, offering no vig and the best parlay odds anywhere.
In the meantime, while Shaw is suspended from the league, I’ll take his action.