The Detroit Lions have never won the Super Bowl. But, they currently have set the bar for most players and staff suspended by the NFL over its newest gambling policy.
Take a bow, Detroit.
This past Friday’s news of four Lions being suspended, along with multiple staff members being fired for violations of the NFL’s policy set a new standard for head-scratching stupidity.
The most painful of the suspensions is a six-game punishment to second-year receiver Jameson Williams.
While Williams will be able to participate in offseason practices and the preseason, this suspension can’t be appealed and will take effect as soon as the regular season begins.
With the Lions seemingly having all the momentum going into the 2023-24 season, many have to ask just how this massive speed bump unfolded in the first place.
What NFL rule did Jameson Williams violate?
Lions Quintez Cephus and C.J. Moore, who were suspended indefinitely by the league, violated the first restriction stated in the policy.
- Betting on Football: All NFL Personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or indirectly 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” on which wagering is offered.
For Williams and special teams player Stanley Berryhill, who were each suspended six games, they violated the sixth restriction.
- Gambling in the Workplace: NFL Personnel shall not engage in any form of gambling while in any Club or League setting including, without limitation, locker rooms, practice or office facilities, team buses, trains, flights, or hotels, or while traveling on Club or League business. For clarity, playing cards or other casino-type games are permitted as long as nothing of value is wagered.
What did Detroit Lions staff members illegally do?
The Detroit Lions also had multiple staff members in various departments lose their job for violating the NFL policy.
Each of the members was in violation of the second restriction from the NFL.
- Betting on Other Sports: 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.
According to the Detroit Free Press, four “lower-level staff members” were fired in March over the violations.
How did the NFL discover Jameson Williams betting?
That question still remains a mystery.
The NFL didn’t disclose how they discovered these violations, but none of the parties involved have refuted the accusations.
In the case of Calvin Ridley, who was suspended for the 2022 NFL season for bets he placed in November of 2021, the NFL was informed of the matter through its relationships with the gambling industry.
With online sportsbooks requiring social-security-numbers and using geolocation to verify a user is legally gambling, it’s not out of the question that something similar happened with the Lions’ suspensions.
The NFL has partnerships with many legal online sportsbooks and could rely on those operators to provide any suspicious betting data from their facilities.
The NFLPA recently let agents know that sportsbooks could be “snitching” on the players, according to Pro Football Talk.
In an email from the players association to all agents, the following was said on the matter:
“I am sure all of you have seen the recent suspensions of players that resulted from violations of the NFL Gambling Policy (which is unilaterally imposed by the NFL and not collectively bargained). These recent violations involved players placing bets using mobile apps on their phone while at work or while traveling with their teams. This is a violation of the NFL’s Gambling Policy.
“During the NFL’s investigations we have learned that these apps (like FanDuel) are highly sensitive and very sophisticated at tracking, among other things, user location to be sure that the people using the app are not ‘prohibited gamblers’ and/or that the person using the app is in a location where they are allowed to place bets on the app. We have confirmed that some states monitor/audit FanDuel and the other gambling apps to ensure that the companies are in compliance with state law. Further the apps monitor gambler activity. It was as part of that monitoring that the NFL learned of the players using the apps at work in violation of NFL rules. At no time should players open or use any mobile gambling app while at work.”
Is Jameson Williams the first Detroit Lion suspended for gambling?
Good news for Williams and the other gambling policy violators, they weren’t the first under the Detroit Lions umbrella.
That honor goes to Alex Karras, also known as George Papadopolis – the adoptive TV father of Webster.
Karras was a member of the Detroit Lions from 1958-62 and 1964-1970. Why the 1-year gap, you ask? Well, that is because he was suspended in 1963 for gambling on NFL games. Karras had ownership in Detroit’s Lindell AC Bar, which was tied to organized crime in the area.
During Karras’ 1-year suspension in the NFL, he turned to the world of pro wrestling. While I don’t see Williams following suit, WWE Summerslam is taking place at Ford Field on Aug. 5.
What NFL players have been suspended under the new gambling policy?
Last Friday’s NFL news marked the third time the league has had an incident with players gambling since states were authorized to allow sports betting.
On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down a 26-year-old federal statute called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That opened the door for today’s sports betting world, where 33 states currently have legalized betting.
The first NFL player to earn that honor was Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw. He decided to wager on NFL games in 2019 in person at a Las Vegas sportsbook while on injured reserve. Included in those wagers were bets on the Cardinals.
The casino then reported Shaw to the NFL, which led to a suspension through the 2020 NFL season. While being reinstated prior to the 2021 NFL season, Shaw hasn’t seen another snap in the league since his suspension.
All was quiet for a few years until Ridley decided to wager on NFL games in November of 2021.
Though it isn’t football, the UFC recently dealt with a sports betting scandal that led to it being pulled from sportsbooks in Ontario and Alberta. Fighter Darrick Minner and his trainer, James Krause, failed to disclose a pre-fight injury to Minner while unusual betting activity occurred in favor of Minner’s opponent just before the fight took place.
None of these cases quite have the sizzle of America’s historic betting scandals like the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, Pete Rose betting on the Cincinnati Reds as the manager in the 1980s, or NBA referee Tim Donaghy betting on games he officiated while also conspiring with organized crime figures in 2007.
When did the Detroit Lions know about the gambling violations?
While the specific date is unclear, we know that the Lions were informed of the upcoming suspensions about a month ago, sometime in March.
We can probably guess that this information had to come sometime after March 18. It was on March 18 that the Lions signed Moore to a new 2-year contract extension. Moore was cut immediately following the league’s announcement of his suspension.
The Lions have made some terrible contract decisions in their history. However, signing a player they knew would be suspended indefinitely would set a new standard.
What are NFL teams doing to prevent gambling policy violations?
Last Friday’s news was pretty shocking around the league.
To have four players and multiple members of an organization all violate the policy and see subsequent suspensions can be a big blow to any team.
According to Pro Football Talk, many other NFL teams are now revisiting their in-house procedures when it comes to betting.
Though annual seminars are held to educate the players on the policies, more work needs to be done.
Visual reminders would be a good step for each team to take.
For the Lions, perhaps a change of the team’s motto would help. Something like: “One Pride, No Bets”
Or, work it into the fight song, “Gridiron Heroes.”
Forward down the turf,
Players whom on online sportsbooks will not surf.
And when the Blue and Silver play,
You know they haven’t bet on games, No Way!
No, No, No!
Go hard, don’t get suspended.
With honor your betting days have ended.
Down the field and gain,
A Lion victory!
What aren’t teams doing to prevent gambling suspensions?
One thing NFL teams, the Detroit Lions included, aren’t doing is ending partnerships with online sportsbooks.
The NFL struck agreements with seven different online sportsbooks back in 2021. You aren’t likely to sit through an NFL game without being hit with multiple sports betting ads.
In Detroit, the Lions have a variety of gambling partnerships.
BetMGM Michigan is an official sports betting partner of the Lions. Typically advertisers want their partner to speak on the great benefits of their product. In this case, the Detroit Lions can’t use BetMGM Michigan at all on their grounds.
Inside Ford Field you can find WynnBet Sports Bar in section 222. While consumers can bet on the Lions at will, nobody from the organization better step foot near there … just to be safe.
The Lions also have an advertising partnership with Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. Signage is located throughout Ford Field.
Just so you know, once you stop playing in the NFL, you can jump on the sports betting bandwagon right away.
Barry Sanders is an ambassador for BetMGM and has his own tribute booth at BetMGM Sportsbook inside the MGM Grand Detroit.
Herman Moore is a brand ambassador for Eagle Casino & Sports, the online operation of Soaring Eagle Casino.
If the NFL is to continue to proudly display its partnerships with sportsbooks, then it needs to make the same effort to protect its players from making these gambling mistakes.