Opinion: Jameson Williams’ Suspension Shows NFL’s Sports Betting Hypocrisy

Written By Drew Ellis on June 14, 2023
Jameson williams suspension

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect PlayMichigan’s position.

On the grand scale of awful things you can do as an NFL player, clearly the league has made a decision that betting on sports is arguably at the top of the list.

You read that right.

Not betting on the NFL itself, but just betting on sports in general from the “workplace” warrants a suspension of more than a third of the season.

As we are getting further removed from the 6-game suspension of Detroit Lions wide receive Jameson Williams, it’s becoming more clear how ridiculous the NFL’s policy on gambling is.

Not only is the suspension longer than past suspensions of cheating or domestic violence, it’s becoming clear that many NFL players don’t even understand how the policy works.

Williams himself admitted he didn’t know the policy when he violated it last season.

Now, anonymous players are voicing that they also aren’t aware of the policy and that many in the league bet during the season, likely in prohibited locations.

Yet, it is Williams and the Lions that seem to be taking the brunt of the league’s discipline.

Now Williams is being unfairly labeled as a “trouble player” by some local media for simply doing something legal that millions of us are doing regularly, betting on sports.

The NFL has planted its flag in cracking down on sports betting, but has conveniently not made an effort to educate the players on the matter, while also ignoring far greater issues with its players.

Williams’ suspension arose from minor details in NFL policy

When the news first hit that Jameson Williams would be suspended for six games, it was a gut punch to the Lions fanbase.

Williams was one of four Lions players suspended as part of gambling violations, but was certainly the most impactful player of the four.

Initial reaction was to put the blame on Williams for not knowing the rules and making a poor decision. The second-year receiver violated the following policy:

  • 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.

Jeff Risdon, who writes for The Lions Wire, told the Detroit Lions Podcast that Williams simply bet on a college football game outside of the state.

“My understanding is that (Williams) bet on a college football game from an app in a team hotel in a different state where sports gambling is also legal.”

While blame can still be held on Williams for not knowing the rules, he’s apparently not alone.

Anonymous NFL players didn’t understand gambling policy

In a story from The Athletic ($$$), anonymous NFL players commented on the league’s gambling policy and their awareness of the rules, disputing the claims that the league has clearly spelled out the policy to players and agents.

“That’s bogus because straight up, that’s not talked about like that. That could have been any one of us,” one player said of the suspensions.

Another player also indicated that gambling on non-NFL sports is pretty widespread in the league.

“You could make the argument for everybody, because people are betting during rivalry week — Florida is playing Florida State, Ohio State vs. Michigan — everyone is betting on that. Could all those guys get in trouble?”

The answer to that question appears to simply be, where did the bet take place?

Hypocrisy in how NFL handles sports betting, gambling

The NFL is acting very high and mighty with its recent suspensions regarding sports betting, but the hypocrisy is spelled out right in the rules.

“Playing cards or other casino-type games are permitted as long as nothing of value is wagered.”

What is considered something of value?

A penny has value. It’s valued at one cent.

Are you telling me these players are playing card games like poker for pretzels and M&Ms? This isn’t an 80’s family sitcom, it’s real life.

NFL players have millions of dollars to work with. But, God forbid if one wants to bet on a non-NFL event while sitting in a hotel awaiting a game the next day.

Not to mention that the NFL itself is partnered with seven different online sportsbooks. You can’t go to a NFL venue or watch a NFL game without being bombarded with sports betting advertising.

It probably won’t be long before a sportsbook logo is appearing on NFL jerseys.

Let’s face it, the NFL doesn’t really care about preventing gambling from its players, it cares about the money.

Williams’ gambling suspension doesn’t match up

Another reason this six-game suspension seems increasingly ridiculous is when you consider other past suspensions of NFL players for other, more despicable reasons.

  • Greg Hardy: Hardy was originally suspended 10 games heading into the 2015 NFL season but had the length dropped to just four games following an appeal. Hardy was suspended for allegedly throwing a woman onto a futon covered in assault rifles.
  • Adrian Peterson: In 2014 Peterson was indicted on felony child abuse charges. The running back allegedly used a wooden switch on his four-year-old son on multiple occasions. After being exempt from playing, but being paid, Peterson would ultimately serve a 6-game suspension from the NFL at the end of the season.
  • Ray Rice: In the offseason of 2014, Rice was involved in a domestic violence case involving his then-fiancée. Rice was originally suspended for just two games by Roger Goodell. However, Goodell was forced to change course following a TMZ video being released showing Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious and then dragging her out of an elevator. Goodell then suspended Rice indefinitely.
  • Tom Brady: Arguably the greatest player in NFL history was involved in a cheating scandal known as “Deflategate.” It involved members of the New England Patriots, including Brady, deliberately using footballs deflated beyond regulation during the 2014 AFC Championship. Brady was suspended just four games for something that legitimately compromised the integrity of the game.

While I can understand the NFL wanting to protect the integrity of its sport and not having players betting on the game, the Williams suspension is overkill.

Bet on the NFL or your team, earn a year suspension. You get no argument from me.

But, betting on non-NFL sports legally shouldn’t carry a six-game suspension just because you are deemed to be in the “workplace.” At best, that should carry a one-game suspension for first violators.

Photo by Paul Sancya / Associated Press
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is currently the Lead Writer of PlayILottery.com. He was the former Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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