Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley will be absent from the 2022 football season following an investigation by the NFL that revealed his involvement in placing sports wagers in 2021. On March 7, 2022, the NFL suspended Ridley for the entirety of the 2022 season due to the bets he’d placed on football games during a leave of absence in November last year.
The 12-month suspension is one of the strictest penalties an American sports league has handed out since the National Football League has embodied and promoted the legalization of sports betting. On Monday, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, commented that Ridley placed wagers on NFL fixtures during a five-day time frame in November 2021 when he took a leave of absence due to mental health problems.
Following the investigation, the NFL “uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way,” Goodell said. “Nor was there evidence suggesting any awareness by coaches, staff, teammates, or other players of his betting activity.”
With that said, Goodell still highlighted the “integrity of the game” is imperative to the league’s success, and Ridley put the NFL’s integral beliefs at risk. “Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL,” Goodell commented.
When the suspension was announced, Ridley took to social media and wrote: “I bet 1500 total I don’t have a gambling problem,” he further added that he couldn’t watch football during this period. Ridley followed up with another comment: “I know I was wrong, but I’m getting 1 year lol.” Mental health should be taken seriously, and on October 31, 2021, Ridley walked away from the sport because of such issues.
“These past few weeks have been very challenging, and as much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental well-being,” Ridley said, on the brink of temporary leave. “This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future.”
Ridley Bet on His Team
Hidden sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Ridley placed three, five, and eight-game parlays – including one leg of one of the parlays that backed the Falcons to win.
It’s almost certain that Ridley did not use reputable and U.S. legal sportsbooks like BetMGM, FanDuel, DraftKings, or Caesars because sports betting hasn’t been regulated in the state of Georgia. Ridley must have made use of a local bookmaker or an offshore sportsbook.
He’s Not Alone
Josh Shaw, former defensive back of the Arizona Cardinals, received a 1-year suspension in 2019. Much like Ridley, Shaw was absent from the team during his betting escapade. Notably, Shaw hasn’t returned to the NFL since.
Prior to Shaw’s suspension, more than twenty years had surpassed since a gambling-related issue had surfaced in the NFL. The most famous sports betting incident dates back to 1963 when former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers and Alex Karras from the Detroit Lions for betting on football games.
While Ridley’s punishment could be viewed as a harsh punishment, I think it’s safe to say that the league must protect the integrity of the game and send a stern warning to other players who’ve contemplated wagering on the sport they’re significantly involved in.