Atlanta Falcons Calvin Ridley Violates The NFL’s Gambling Policy

Written By Adam Hensley on March 8, 2022
Atlanta Falcons Calvin Ridley suspended by NFL for sports betting

Only a handful of NFL players have ever been suspended for gambling. But on Monday, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley became the fifth.

The NFL announced on Monday that the wideout would miss the entire 2022 season after it was discovered that he bet on games. Ridley was not playing when he bet on the games, though.

Ridley appeared in just five contests this past season before stepping away from football to work on his mental health. It was during his time away from the field in which he placed bets. Specifically, over five days in November of 2021.

Ridley headed to Florida to place an online bet

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Ridley:

“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.” “… 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.”

Ridley, though, took to Twitter to share his perspective.

“I bet 1500 total I don’t have a gambling problem,” Ridley tweeted Monday after the NFL announced his suspension.

Soon after Ridley’s suspension, ESPN’s Adam Schefter shed more light on the situation and tweeted:

“The NFL determined that Calvin Ridley placed multi-legged parlay bets involving 3, 5, and 8 games that included the Falcons to win, per source.” “Investigation determined there was no involvement from any team players, coach, etc. placed via his mobile device out of state.”

Currently, sports betting in GA is illegal, and Ridley’s betting location played a factor. According to Albert Breer, Ridley placed his bet while in Florida using the only gambling app legal in the state.

The app then notified a compliance company working for the NFL.

Why can’t NFL players gamble?

In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Since 1992 the law prohibited sports betting in most states. With that historic change, the NFL constructed its gambling policy, which stands today.

The league’s policy on gambling reads:

“Gambling, particularly on NFL games or other sports, presents potential risks to the integrity of our competition and can negatively impact team cohesion.”

Under those guidelines, the NFL does not allow its players to bet on football. Nor any professional, college, international or Olympic sports. Players are prohibited from fixing games and sharing inside information or tipping for gambling-related purposes (think undisclosed injuries).

NFL players cannot enter sportsbooks at any time during the NFL playing season. Players can enter a sportsbook if they’re passing through to access a “permissible area of a casino or hotel complex.” Furthermore, players cannot promote gambling-related enterprises.

Additionally, players cannot gamble in any workplace settings like:

  • Clubhouses
  • Locker rooms
  • Practices
  • Team facilities
  • Busses or flights
  • Hotels while traveling for the NFL

However, “playing cards or other casino-type games is permitted as long as nothing of value is wagered.”

NFL history of suspended players for gambling

This is not a long list. The NFL has previously suspended four other players for betting. Ridley joins Alex Karras (1963), Paul Hornung (1963), Art Schlichter (1983) and Josh Shaw (2019) as the only players to have received a suspension.

Karras, Hornung and Shaw all received one-year suspensions after betting on NFL games. While the league handed Schlichter a one-year suspension for betting on basketball.

What’s next for Calvin Ridley and the Atlanta Falcons?

According to the collective bargaining agreement, Ridley will have a chance to appeal his suspension within three days of the announcement. According to ESPN, it’s unknown if he’s already filed the appeal.

The earliest Ridley can apply for reinstatement is Feb. 15, 2023, but the Falcons are preparing for the upcoming season as if the suspension will remain in place.

“We are moving forward in the 2022 season with the decision that was made.”

The Atlanta Falcons

Ridley’s $11.1 million salary will also come off Atlanta’s books for this season. That opens space for the Falcons to potentially sign someone to fill his role. Atlanta currently has just one wideout under contract next season from its 53-man roster: Frank Darby.

NFL teams had been calling Atlanta to inquire about potential trades for Ridley before his ban. But the Falcons did not engage in serious talks, as they were aware of the impending suspension.

Ridley will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

Photo Credit: John Bazemore / AP News

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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, who currently works for the USA Today Network. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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