While responsible gambling education efforts tend to focus on fans, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is reaching out to another sector impacted by the scourge.
The players themselves.
The NFLPA Professional Athletes Foundation has designed live and virtual programs for former players.
Former Michigan wide receiver Amani Toomer, who played 13 solid seasons for the New York Giants, is the spokesperson for the efforts.
“Professional athletes are highly susceptible to problematic gambling behavior,” said Toomer, in a release about the program. “Educating these former players on how to gamble responsibly and act with integrity is a crucial step forward for all sports.”
U-M’s Toomer a voice for players
Toomer racked up more than 2,500 receiving yards in a four-year career in Ann Arbor. He followed that up with nearly 10,000 more as a pro.
As a trustee for GVC Foundation US, Toomer will help deliver educational sessions throughout the country.
During a program rollout this month, Toomer recalled his Michigan days when the issue got on his radar.
“The first day I sat down for a team meeting as a football player at University of Michigan, they addressed us all about what gambling can do to your career and reputation,” Toomer told ROI-NJ.com. “They said there are many things you can do off the field and receive a second chance, but being involved in gambling was not one of them.”
The Great Lakes State launched sports betting in March.
Gambling situations have derailed pro careers
One need look no further than Toomer’s biggest Maize and Blue rivals for a cautionary tale.
Former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter is football’s most notorious example of what can go wrong with gambling.
The No. 4 overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft is better known for his compulsive gambling and assorted connected troubles.
The NFL forbids gambling, even legally, and Schlichter played just 13 games over three seasons. During his post-NFL run, Schlichter played two seasons for the Detroit Drive of the Arena Football League. Schlichter won League MVP in 1990, a championship season.
Schlichter is currently serving jail time for stealing millions of dollars to maintain his gambling habit.
Programs aim to educate former NFL players
The NFLPA will advertise the programs to its members.
After retirement, many former players look for ways to maintain the competitive edge of their playing days.
“This is the first program that the NFLPA/PAF has ever run on problem gambling education and awareness,” said Andre Collins, executive director of the NFLPA Professional Athletes Foundation, in a release.
“As the first major professional sports league in the U.S. to undertake this project, we’re proud to tackle this issue head-on. We urge all sports leagues to address problem gambling with the seriousness it deserves.”
EPIC Risk Management, a gambling harm minimization consultancy, also partnered in the endeavor.
EPIC and GVC are further partnering with the Division on Addiction at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, to conduct research about elite athletes’ relationships with problem gambling through these and other educational sessions.
GVC partnered with MGM Resorts International to form Roar Digital, the operators of BetMGM Sportsbook in MGM Grand Detroit. The partnership also operates the upcoming BetMGM online brand in Michigan.