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The NFL suspends 5 players for violating gambling policy

Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus is one of five NFL players suspended for violating the league's gambling policy.
Leon Halip
/
AP
Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus is one of five NFL players suspended for violating the league's gambling policy.

Three NFL players were suspended indefinitely Friday for betting on NFL games in the 2022 season, while two other players, including the 12th overall draft pick a year ago, received six-game suspensions for betting on non-NFL games at a league facility.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus, Lions safety C.J. Moore and Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney are sidelined for the entire 2023 season and may petition for reinstatement afterward.

Lions wide receivers Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams each received a six-game suspension, though they will be able to participate in all offseason and preseason activities, including preseason games. Their suspensions will start at the final roster cutdown.

The NFL said that a "league review uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way."

Gambling incidents have been relatively rare for the NFL. Most recently, wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season for gambling on NFL games; he was later traded from Atlanta to Jacksonville and was reinstated. In November 2019, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw was suspended for gambling on an NFL game; he has played in the league since.

The Lions immediately released Cephus, who caught 37 passes in three seasons, and Moore, who started one game in four years.

Detroit executive vice president and general manager Brad Holmes said the two "exhibited decision making that is not consistent with our organizational values and violates league rules."

Williams was the 12th overall pick in last year's draft but he played in just six games after returning from knee surgery. Alliance Sports, which represents Williams, said in a statement the player is "apologetic to the NFL, his teammates and the fans and city of Detroit." It also noted Williams' suspension was for a "technical rule regarding the actual location in which the online bet was placed — and which would otherwise be allowed by the NFL outside of the club's facility."

Berryhill played in four games without a catch in his only season. Holmes said the Lions will work with both Berryhill and Williams "to ensure they understand the severity of these violations and have clarity on the league rules moving forward."

Toney started one game in two seasons with the Commanders, who said they have "cooperated fully with the NFL's investigation since receiving notice and support the league's findings and actions."

With the rise of sports betting across the U.S., some pro teams have a sportsbook in their stadiums — like the Washington Nationals (MLB) and the Phoenix Suns (NBA) as well as the NHL's Washington Capitals. Others, like the Arizona Cardinals, have a sportsbook on the grounds of the stadium and many fans bet on their phones while attending games. Sports betting ads also permeate breaks during NFL games.

The NFL, along with other pro leagues, this week formed the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising, a group described as a voluntary alliance to control how consumers see advertising and to rein in "excessive" advertising.

Until recently, gambling incidents had not surfaced often for the NFL. In 1963, the NFL handed out perhaps its most famous discipline: Then-commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended star running back Paul Hornung of Green Bay and defensive tackle of Alex Karras of Detroit — both of whom became Hall of Famers. Each was sidelined for that season, with Rozelle citing bets on league games and associating with gamblers or "known hoodlums."

Twenty years later, Rozelle suspended Colts quarterback Art Schlichter, who was in just his second pro season. Schlichter was reinstated and played in 1984 and '85. But he couldn't kick the gambling habit and eventually wound up in prison for a multimillion-dollar ticketing scam.

In the 1940s, Frank Filchock and Merle Hapes of the New York Giants were suspended by then-commissioner Bert Bell for not reporting attempted bribes, particularly for the 1946 championship game. Filchock played in that game, which the Giants lost 24-14 to the Bears, but Hapes was not allowed to take the field.

Both were eventually suspended; Filchock didn't return to the NFL until 1950 with Baltimore, though he played parts of four seasons in Canada. Hapes never played another NFL game.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
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