NFL Fans Question the League’s Integrity


Media by Pranav Sriraman

The NFL’s most recent suspension of Calvin Ridley leaves many fans wondering if the NFL has fair practices when assessing suspensions. Ridley, who was caught betting on NFL games while being away from the league due to a mental health break, has been suspended for the entirety of the upcoming 2022 NFL season.

The National Football League (NFL) suspended Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons superstar wide receiver, for the entire duration of the 2022 NFL Season without pay.

The reason behind the Monday, March 7, decision was a result of Ridley placing bets on NFL games including for games his own team played. Ridley did not participate in these games, as he had stepped away from the team earlier in the season to focus on his mental well-being.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to Ridley that “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.” 

In addition to remarking on the importance of the NFL’s integrity, Goodell directly addressed Ridley and said “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.”

The NFL as a whole can’t make up its mind on what they want to do to punish players, and they can never correctly hit the mark.

— John Winka

Despite being the most highly profiled player to be suspended as a result of gambling, Calvin Ridley is not the first NFL player to be punished as a result of betting on games. 

In 2019, ex-Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw was suspended for placing bets on NFL games while injured. Although he was reinstated on March 20, 2021, he has yet to be signed to a roster and hasn’t played in an NFL game to this day.

In the past decade, the NFL has handed out a number of different suspensions. These suspensions vary in length based on the offense committed. The infographic above shows three notable suspensions within the past 8 years, detailing the offense committed and the length of the suspension. (Media by Pranav Sriraman)

John Winka, junior, is an Atlanta Falcons fan who said that the NFL gave a punishment that was far too severe due to the minimal sum of money Ridley spent on his bets.

“The NFL as a whole can’t make up its mind on what they want to do to punish players, and they can never correctly hit the mark,” Winka said.

Winka also said the NFL suspends players for a shorter period of time when it comes to violence-related issues in comparison to gambling, especially because violence issues occur more frequently.

“The NFL looks at violence as a smaller issue than gambling,” Winka said. “Players who cause violence don’t get punished as much because it happens a lot more often than players gambling on games.”

Will Locklin, sports analyst for The Wrightway Sports Network, said that although he believes Ridley deserved to be suspended because gambling on games is institutionally wrong, the severity of Ridley’s suspension demonstrates an inconsistency within the NFL’s policy of suspending players for immoral actions.

“The NFL has a baseline punishment of six games for sexual assault cases for players,” Locklin said. “Ridley getting an entire year tacked off for gambling seems excessive considering the NFL doesn’t punish sexual abusers this harshly for committing far worse crimes.”

Senior Supraneeth Yedem, president of MHS Sportology, said the suspension given to Ridley was unfair in comparison to suspensions the NFL has handed out in the past.

I thought the suspension itself was warranted.

— Supraneeth Yedem

“I thought the suspension itself was warranted,” Yedem said. “But the fact that he was suspended for the whole season was definitely unfair, as you have other players who’ve done far worse like assault and abuse that have been suspended for fewer games.

According to Albert Breer, Senior NFL Reporter for Sports Illustrated, Ridley placed parlayed bets through the use of a mobile app in Florida, where sports betting is legalized. In those bets, he picked the Atlanta Falcons to win their games, meaning he didn’t pick against the organization he is employed by.

With the NFL citing the integrity of the sport as reason to suspend Ridley for an unprecedented amount of time, fans question the integrity of the league’s policy itself. The historical suspension Ridley received leaves many fans believing that he was unfairly punished, especially when comparing his case to other suspensions the league has handed out in the past.