The Jacksonville Jaguars acquired wide receiver Calvin Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons before this year’s Nov. 1 trade deadline but they will have to wait until 2023 to see a return on their investment, as Ridley is currently serving a suspension for betting on NFL games in 2022.
A first-round pick by the Falcons in 2018, Ridley was becoming one of the league’s up-and-coming stars but he abruptly retired in the middle of the 2021 season to focus on his mental health. During his retirement, Ridley was suspended when the NFL learned that he had placed bets on games and the earliest he can apply for reinstatement is Feb. 15, 2023.
At the time, Ridley posted on social media that he had only wagered $1,500 but sports betting expert Brett Smiley of Sports Handle revealed that the Alabama product had instead placed six different bets for a total of $3,900, significantly more than the amount Ridley had originally stated.
While it’s uncertain whether this played a role in the length of his suspension, Black and Teal had the chance to talk to Smiley, who was kind enough to explain to us why Calvin Ridley’s punishment was appropriate.
B&T: Does Calvin Ridley’s action match the punishment the league imposed on him?
Smiley: People have varying ideas about what would have been an appropriate punishment. Some think it’s hypocritical the NFL suspended him at all because the league has sports gambling partners now. Others think he should be permanently banned from the league. Most people think the appropriate suspension is somewhere in the vast space between.
I think the only calculation that ultimately matters is whether the year-long suspension was levied consistent with the policy as set forth in the most recent BA and that’s a clear yes. The commissioner has wide latitude to suspend a player who bets on NFL games for a certain duration or indefinitely, regardless of whether he bets on his own team. The violation, unlike in some of the cases of conduct that is actually criminal, is pretty black-and-white from his perspective, and unfortunately for Ridley, he was used as an example.
As Smily noted, the league’s gambling policy is pretty straightforward, per NFL Communications:
"All NFL Personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or through a third party, or any NFL game practice or other event. This includes betting on a game, outcome, statistics, score, performance of any individual participant, or any other kind of ‘proposition bet."
So Black and Teal asked Smiley what steps the NFL is actively taking from discouraging widespread gambling.