How Falcons WR Calvin Ridley got caught betting on NFL games
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley made less than 10 bets, including some on the Falcons, in November 2021. The betting activity triggered a year-long suspension by the NFL Monday.
While sidelined from the Falcons for a non-football illness, Ridley visited Florida and used a mobile device to make longshot three-, five- and eight-game parlay wagers through the Hard Rock Sportsbook in late November, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
After the news broke, Ridley's Twitter account posted, “I bet $1500 total. I don’t have a gambling problem.”
The suspension is a significant problem for the receiver because it's characterized as indefinite. Ridley can petition for reinstatement on Feb. 15, 2023.
The news sent an immediate shiver through the league and sportsbook operators after legalized online sports betting has spread rapidly through the nation over the last year, but there was some relief expressed by both sides that the system flagged and disciplined Ridley.
“Everyone associated with the NFL, from players, personnel … to ball boys knows the simple, hard and fast rule: Do not bet on NFL games,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told USA Today Sports+.
Someone familiar with the Ridley investigation explained Hard Rock Sportsbook initially recognized Ridley’s betting activity and told the NFL’s sports data provider, Genius Sports, which then alerted the NFL.
From there, NFL security confronted Ridley, who admitted to the transgressions, a league official said.
A Hard Rock Sportsbook spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a prepared statement released Monday, a letter from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Ridley said, “There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL's success — and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league — than upholding the integrity of the game.
“This is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.
"For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for your promptly reporting for an interview, and for admitting your actions.”
It was not immediately clear how many of Ridley’s bets included wagers on the Falcons, but the league reported its investigation “uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way."
Widespread access to legal betting widens the policing of professional and college athletes. In the minutes after Ridley’s suspension, one sportsbook spokesman reacted by saying, “This is why you want betting to be legal … we know who athletes are and we’ll be quick to report it.”
A league official said Monday that while, “it’s unfortunate the system had to be tested, the system worked.”
The NFL previously put its personnel through what it calls “comprehensive sports betting training, in which we stress the consequences and the discipline connected with betting,” a league official said.
The most recent session included a testimonial by former NFL player Josh Shaw, who was slapped with a 2019 suspension that forced him out of 21 games after he was found to have placed bets.
Jay Rood, the longtime Nevada sportsbook operator now serving as Bally’s Interactive senior vice president of risk and trading, said he was relieved to learn there was no inside information employed by Ridley.
“Insider information — that's where the edge is, where things can go real haywire,” Rood said. “Whenever that is exploited, it’s not good for both sides of the counter.
“We know that we are a better watchdog than if the betting is being done illegally. Understanding how this unraveled and how it was uncovered, I don’t think this damages the sportsbook industry. The system caught him. That’s a feather in someone’s cap.”