The National Football League handed down its largest batch of sanctions for gambling offences in 60 years on Friday, suspending five players for breaking the league’s gambling policy. Three of the players were banned for at least the whole 2023 season.
The announcement comes as the National Football League (NFL) tries to reassure the public that the integrity of its games will not be compromised by the enormous sums wagered on them through its partnerships with sports betting companies.
Indefinite suspensions were handed down to Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney, Detroit Lions receiver Quintez Cephus, and Detroit Lions defender C.J. Moore after an inquiry by the league. After the 2023 season, the players will be able to submit a reinstatement petition to the league.
For further gambling offences, including wagering from an N.F.L. facility on other sports events, the Lions have banned two receivers, Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams, for a total of six games apiece.
A spokeswoman for the NFL said on Friday that the punishments would take effect immediately and would be final.
When contacted on Friday, Andy Simms, Toney’s representative, refused to comment. A spokesperson for the NFL players’ union and the agents of the other four players did not reply to requests for comment.
The Lions released Cephus, who had been on injured reserve for portions of the previous two seasons, and Moore, whom they had acquired as an undrafted free agent in 2019, soon after the penalties were revealed.
The fines handed down on Friday come on the heels of bans granted to former Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley for the whole 2022 season and Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw for the entirety of the 2020 campaign, both of which were announced in November of this year. Both of the players received suspensions for betting on NFL games.
The current round of penalties, the first in decades, follows the NFL’s decision to abandon its decades-long stance of opposition to sports betting. The Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas was given the green light by the team’s owners in 2017, and a key turning point occurred the following year when the Supreme Court overturned a 1992 statute that had prohibited sports betting in virtually every state. Partnerships with big gaming businesses and casinos have since been formed by the N.F.L. and other professional American leagues.
The last time the NFL handed out a batch of suspensions for gambling on games was in 1963, when two of the league’s biggest stars, Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive lineman Alex Karras, were banned from playing for the entire season. For betting on the 1962 championship game, five other participants also received fines.
While Ridley was on his own in Florida in November of 2021, he used a gambling app to make three parlay bets. The NFL was tipped off that a player could be responsible for the bets by the business it contracted to offer “comprehensive integrity services to monitor betting,” Genius Sports.
The league’s laws prohibiting employees from making or assisting bets on any N.F.L. game, practise, or other event, such as the draught, are communicated to employees annually, according to an NFL spokeswoman. While players are free to wager on games in other sports, they are not authorised to gamble while on the clock or in the course of official league business.