The NFL and Sports Betting Are No Longer Living in Sin

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Fans cheer during the second half between the New York Giants and the Kansas City Chiefs. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP.

You are likely reading this article because you have an interest in the topic of sports betting and its adoption by a growing number of states in the U.S. However, most people are ambivalent on the topic, as they are regarding any special interest initiative.

Of course, the holy roller, moralists who are opposed to gambling of any kind have eroded to the point where they’re barely relevant, yet, they poke their heads up from time. Add to that, more people are interested in sports betting than ever before due to mainstream acceptance and the NFL’s 180-turn on the topic.

Speaking of which, the league is now getting a direct piece of the action through what is reported to be about 3.2 billion in sponsorships which means this “scourge against society” is not such a scourge after all and will, miraculously, no longer impeach the integrity of the league.

We always knew Roger Goodell and the commissioners who came before him were outrageously hypocritical in railing against sports betting, as the ancillary, albeit indirect, benefit to the league had always been crystal clear. But in case it’s not, the fans’ vested financial interest in the outcome of the games manifested into soaring television ratings which reaped astronomical profits for the networks as well as the league.

Therefore, Goodell had the luxury of evangelizing the evils of sports betting while the league grew in popularity because of it. It was like the NFL was conducting a tawdry affair but didn’t want it exposed to the light, tantamount to the married conservative congressman cavorting with a pretty young thing after hours and out of district.

But what was striking was the immediate pivot the league took after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was overturned paving the way for licensed sports betting in the United States.

There wasn’t even a period of feigned reflection and contemplation which would ostensibly lead to the proverbial eureka moment. Goodell could solemnly rub his chin and declare that maybe the league had been a bit harsh all along and now it was time for a bit soul searching.

Here’s a little slice of Goodell in 2012 wagging his finger at the evils of sports betting, “If gambling is permitted freely on sporting events, normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties, and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust, and accusations of point-shaving or game-fixing.”

On March 28, 2017, before the legalization of sports betting had arrived in the United States, Roger Goodell stated, “I think we still strongly oppose legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.”

The operative word is “think” which is Goodell tacitly indicating that he knows the push for legalized betting is in the air and if successful will warrant a big ol’ flip-flop. And sure enough, PASPA was overturned on May 14th, 2018, just about a year later.

After the legalization of sports betting, Roger Goodell stated on March 18, 2021: “We’re going to find ways we can engage fans through legalized sports betting.”

Apparently, there is no shame in perpetuating a sham as long as it’s in the name of the almighty dollar. The moment the sportsbook operators came knocking on the league’s door, Goodell not only answered it but embraced them like long-lost brothers. The NFL’s former mistress is now its wife and the couple is doing just fine.