The NFL has been flexing its muscles over its strict anti-gambling stance, which extends, apparently, to barring football players from entering poker tournaments as celebrity bounties.
Last week, three Miami Dolphins players, A.J. Francis, Jason Fox and Jordan Cameron, were ordered not to attend the tournament at Florida’s Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, just hours before they were due to take their seats as bounties.
The tournament was not a charity event, as reported in some sections of the press.
According to NFL policy, players are not permitted to “promote casino activities.”
Local radio host Andy Slater, who organizes the tournament every month for three years, said the NFL’s decision was ludicrous. “The players told me they were advised they couldn’t play,” he told TMZ Sports. “The NFL is just doing this as a precaution. It’s an absolute joke. The NFL is built on gambling. This is the players’ time off, and they hang out with fans at a legal gambling event at a legit casino.”
Romo Barred from Fantasy Football Convention
Francis, Fox and teammate Michael Thomas had played last month, said Slater, who added that the tournament regularly invites celebrities and sports stars to play as bounties, including Dolphins players.
Last month the NFL also barred Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo from attending a fantasy football convention because it would be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.
This, despite there being no opportunity to gamble at the center.
A source connected with the convention told FOX Sports that NFL representatives were calling players and even the parents of some players threatening them with suspensions for attending.
The NFL’s distaste for gambling is ostensibly a hangover from the forties and fifties, when the sport was plagued by match-fixing scandals. The most famous of these occurred in 1946 when two New York Giants players were bribed to throw the NFL Championship game against the Chicago Bears.
However, many believe the NFL’s stance to be wrongheaded. Gambling drives interest in the sport, and the NFL knows this through its association with Fantasy Sports Leagues.
Moreover, this isn’t the forties: players are paid too much these days and are too much in the spotlight to risk their careers for a bribe.
“They talk about how no players or NFL personnel are to be associated [with casinos], well, I’m like, that doesn’t really make sense,” Romo told ESPN Radio. “There’s just far too many cases and it does make it sound sometimes that it’s an issue about money, which is disappointing because we were just trying to get the fans to hang out with players.”