While the NFL sees a surplus in gambling suspensions — a subject growing increasingly awkward while the league remains in bed with sportsbooks –, don’t count Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo among those who agree with them.
On Thursday, the NFL handed out a quartet of fresh suspensions. The league found four players, including the Indianapolis Colts’ Isaiah Rodgers, who violated the gambling policies. As a result, three of them: Rodgers, teammate Rashod Berry, and free-agent defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor received indefinite suspensions. Meanwhile, Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere caught a six-game suspension.
The differences in the suspension lengths are simple: Rodgers, Berry, and Taylor bet on NFL games. Elsewhere, the league caught Petit-Frere gambling on other sports.
For many reasons, gambling while on the payroll for a sports team is a big no-no. There have been countless match-fixing scandals that provide an example of why. Or, if you’re not into soccer, perhaps remembering what happened to Pete Rose is relevant. But that context was not enough to dissuade Mad Dog from unleashing a rant on Mad Dog Unleashed Thursday afternoon. Like many of his previous rants, this one went off the rails.
“I’m not sure what the solution is with players. I understand you can’t have the whole league play fantasy football and gamble,” Russo said via Mediaite. “Maybe you lower the suspensions. Maybe you give them a game suspension,” he strangely suggested.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Russo went so far as to be accusatory towards NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and several NFL owners.
“But a year suspension for a league that is in bed with FanDuel, DraftKings, and every gambling establishment known to man; that put a Super Bowl in Las Vegas on the strip, where you can go out there and bet the games.
“And I guarantee if you go to Vegas this year, you’ll see Roger betting,” Russo said. “You don’t think Roger’s going out there, playing a little bit?”
Russo didn’t stop there. “You don’t think Clark Hunt — and I love Hunt — you don’t think he has some fun with it? On a Monday night, his Chiefs have a bye week, and the Monday night game is Houston and Indianapolis — a horrible game — and he’s gonna sit there and watch it. You don’t think he says, ‘You know what? What the hell? Put a hundred bucks on the Colts.’ What are you, crazy?” he said.
It’s one thing to disagree with how the suspensions are handed out. Granted, NFL players (and professional athletes in general) have never been allowed to gamble. The recent run of legalization and increased accessibility has done nothing to change that. Just because something is legal outside the parameters of your place of employment doesn’t mean you should be allowed to do it, either.
And while there are certainly worse crimes with fewer harsh punishments in the NFL, it doesn’t mean this crime isn’t bad. You can argue that sports leagues being in bed with sportsbooks is an issue. I don’t know that you would find many who would suggest otherwise from an integrity issue or even an increase in television ads. But gambling as a pro athlete shouldn’t be difficult not to do and is worthy of significant punishments.
As far as Mad Dog’s accusations? Russo hasn’t ever been shy about being loud, but one has to wonder if he lost the plot and spoke too loudly here. Being openly accusatory in that sense is a hell of a thing to do. Especially with all of this on the line.
[Quotes cited from Mediaite]