The National Hypocrisy League strikes again.
The organization better known as the NFL moved quickly and decisively to punish receiver Calvin Ridley for betting legally on games while he was away from the Atlanta Falcons dealing with mental health issues.
Ridley will be suspended for all of the 2022 season at the very least — a far stiffer sanction than he would have received for using performance-enhancing drugs while actually playing the game.
“There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success — and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league — than upholding the integrity of the game,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to Ridley that may have set a new standard for irony.
If only the NFL was so diligent with other issues that affect the integrity of the game.
Like the glaring lack of Black coaches.
Or the kids-glove approach to reprehensible actions by owners such as Washington’s Dan Snyder.
And while we’re at it, has anyone seen Colin Kaepernick lately?
Sure, the NFL is prudent to maintain a strict no-betting stance for its players involving league games, but a lot more nuance is needed with the proliferation and acceptance of legalized betting in today’s society.
Look no further than the Ridley case, for which the NFL has definitely adopted the position of do as we say, not as we do.
The league has gone all-in on legalized sports betting as a way to generate millions in additional revenue, yet it still expects the players to view the activity as some sort of shady enterprise being run by modern-day Al Capones.
Apparently, no thought was given to the very real possibility of players taking the league’s stance on gambling as a back-handed invitation to do a little wagering themselves.
Ridley was the second player to be nabbed in this new era, following former Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw.
They are unlikely to be the last.
The NFL could have used Ridley’s case as a real teaching moment, since there was no evidence he got inside information or tried to influence the games he was betting on. Goodell also commended the player for promptly reporting for an interview and admitting he had used a legal sports app in Florida to place the wagers.
The commish dropped the hammer.
“For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction,” Goodell said.
Ridley, who can’t apply for reinstatement until next February, went on Twitter to insist he didn’t have a gambling problem, saying he had wagered $1,500. He clearly thought the penalty was too harsh.
If nothing else, there is no incentive for the next player who is caught to come clean to Goodell.
“I know I was wrong,” Ridley said. “But I’m getting one year.”
Penalties should be lessened if there’s cooperation from the offending party, as long as there’s no evidence of game-fixing. Counseling should be offered. At the very least, the league needs to acknowledge that its widespread acceptance of gambling requires even more education for the players.
Meanwhile, the league that says there is nothing more important than its integrity heads into the season with just two Black coaches and another who identifies as multiracial — a long-running embarrassment for a league in which Black players comprise 70% of the workforce.
The league keeps paying lip service to the idea of increased diversity in the coaching ranks, but there has been no significant moves to ensure more minorities get a real chance.
Of course, that’s right on point for a league that conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment within the Washington Commanders organization — but refused to release the report.
Snyder was ultimately fined $10 million by the league and supposedly turned over day-to-day operations of the team to his wife (wink, wink).
For a bit of context, Snyder’s fine represents 0.25% of his estimated net worth of $4 billion. Ridley’s suspension will cost him all of his $11.1 million salary for next season.
Recently, and only after feeling the heat from Congress, the NFL agreed to launch a new investigation of Snyder and the Commanders, whose offensive former name was apparently just the tip of their bad behavior.
We won’t hold our breath waiting for the outcome.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who alleged racist hiring practices within the league’s coaching ranks. That’s explosive enough, but the league should be even more concerned with Flores’ saying the Dolphins offered him a $100,000 bonus for each loss during his first season with the team in an effort to receive a higher draft pick.
If proven, that would be infinitely more damning to the league’s integrity than anything Ridley did.
This seems a good time to remember Kaepernick, who was effectively tossed from the league more than five years ago for taking a knee to protest racial injustice. Adding salt to the wound, the NFL effectively commandeered the causes Kaepernick was championing and passed them off as its own.
Kaepernick posted a video Thursday showing him continuing to do his football training, even though no one thinks he has any chance of getting back in the league at this point.
“Still Working,” Kaepernick said.
Too bad the NHL is already taken by the National Hockey League.
The National Hypocrisy League surely fits the NFL.
Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and check out his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
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