Gambling on one’s own sport: The biggest mistake an athlete can commit

The NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Calvin Ridley for betting on games in November, showing how seriously the league takes the issue of gambling.

Opinion By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor

Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Calvin Ridley was rightfully suspended for the entire 2022 season, after it was discovered he bet on his own team. To bet on one’s own sport violates the integrity of the game that many call their livelihood.

As a first round pick for Atlanta in 2018, Ridley set a bad example when he stepped away from the Falcons for five days at the start of November, betting on many games in his absence that he claimed would improve his mental health. Whatever the struggles were that caused the promising wideout to take time off, gambling was not the remedy that would have allowed him to return in better shape.

Despite it seeming positive that Ridley bet on his own team to win, doing so is irresponsible, as it can cause conflicts between teammates, the front office and ownership if the team were to lose.

Former Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose was wrapped up in a similar scandal. Rose bet on numerous baseball games, both as a player and manager, including those he participated in. When interviewed on the Dan Patrick Show in 2007, Rose revealed that he bet on his team every night but never against it.

“I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team,” said Rose. “I did everything in my power every night to win that game.”

Despite having the most hits in MLB history with 4,256 and being named National League Most Valuable Player in 1973, Rose was deemed ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame after the scandal was unearthed — should Ridley become a Hall of Fame caliber player, he may face similar consequences.

Altogether, Ridley wagered $3,900 on six games involving his team, according to Sports Handle, though it is unclear if he ever bet against the Falcons. Though it is not against NFL policy, he put thousands of dollars on other sports as well.

Ridley, who according to ESPN joined Arizona Cardinal cornerback Josh Shaw as the only players to be suspended for gambling since 1983, can not apply for reinstatement until Feb. 15, 2023. Shaw, who also bet on his own team, was suspended in November 2019 and reinstated in March 2021.

By betting on his own sport, Ridley may have lost any chance of making something of his young career after being named to the second team all-pro in his third season in the NFL.

If the player who made the wager does not perform well and the team loses as a result, the loss of money might cause the player to lose motivation and try to break even. This could result in athletes getting banned from the sport and possibly losing future profits they would have collected during the rest of their career.

Between the game losing its integrity, the team losing focus and the player risking their career, gambling on conflicting matters is a problem that has plagued American sports. It is just not worth the risk of permanently staining one’s career for players who are already making exorbitant amounts of money.

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