After Calvin Ridley, 5 Stories Of Past NFL Gambling Suspensions

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on March 11, 2022
NFL gambling suspensions

The Calvin Ridley gambling suspension for the entire 2022 NFL season stunned the football world, but this is not the first time the league has dealt with players betting on games.

We’ll run through four notable incidents, and one time the league reportedly investigated an owner for a rumored million-dollar bet.

How much did Calvin Ridley bet?

Four Past Players Suspended By NFL For Gambling

While the NFL has very lucrative and very public relationship with sports betting now, that has been a relatively recent development. Long before the spread of legalized sports betting, a black market existed and thrived thanks in part to action on NFL games.

In fact, the league did everything it could to distance itself from the idea people gambled on games, even though that was common knowledge. The NFL spent decades vigorously opposing the legalization of betting, which it has now heartily embraced. These days, you can scarcely consume 15 minutes of NFL media without an ad or reference to a sportsbook.

But long before Calvin Ridley gambling, the NFL took a hard-line stance against betting. Thus, when one of the first major scandals involving a player betting took place, it didn’t hesitate to suspend one of its brightest stars.

Paul Hornung

calvin ridley gambling

A superstar in his day, former No. 1 overall pick Paul Hornung was in the midst of a Hall of Fame career with Green Bay when the NFL suspended him for betting on games for the 1963 season. The league had begun investigating multiple players’ ties to gambling. It ended up coming down hard on two players, Hornung being one of them.

Hornung even reportedly bet on the Packers, firing as much as $500 a bet — more than $4,000 in 2022, if you adjust for inflation.

Looking back years later, Hornung said he was far from the only guy in the locker room betting on the NFL. He estimated around 10 of his teammates were betting as well, among themselves from the sound of the quotes he gave a few years before he died.

Like the Calvin Ridley gambling suspension, Hornung served a one-year ban before the league reinstated him in 1964.

 

Alex Karras

Detroit Lions defensive lineman Alex Karras was the other player suspended for the 1963 season along with Hornung.

Karras’ bets were a bit smaller — reportedly around $100. But, he also placed at least one wager on his own team. The NFL had zeroed in on him as a high-profile target due to the fact he owned a bar in Detroit reputed to be linked to gambling and organized crime.

Commissioner Pete Rozelle called the violations of Karras and Hornung “repeated and flagrant.”

A star player like Hornung, Karras returned in 1964 as well. He posthumously made the Hall of Fame despite his indiscretions, elected in 2020.

Art Schlichter

After a superstar career at Ohio State, QB Art Schlichter went fourth overall in the draft to Baltimore in 1982. According to Schlichter, he had already developed a gambling problem, and his newfound massive paychecks fueled that fire into a blaze that consumed his career almost immediately.

Incredibly, it barely took a year for Schlichter to land himself a suspension. He lost almost $400,000 to local bookies, including $159,000 in a single week, more than $462,000 if adjusted for inflation today. Basketball and college football were his sports of choice.

Schlichter got in so deep that he wound up notifying the FBI when he felt pressured by the bookies. He helped out with an investigation that ended in several arrests.

Unfortunately for Schlichter, the league was unsurprisingly none too happy about the situation. Rozelle, still commissioner, suspended him for the 1983 season. The league’s release said Schlichter had placed “sizable bets on at least 10 NFL games” that season.

Rozelle reinstated Schlichter just over a year later. But, despite being ordered to complete therapy, he never conquered his problem gambling. He washed out of the league in short order and wound up in prison multiple times.

Josh Shaw

In contrast to the high-profile players above, Josh Shaw had a nondescript career as a mostly reserve defensive back. He started most of Cincinnati’s games in 2016 but otherwise played mostly as a backup and on special teams from 2015-2019.

While on IR for the Cardinals in 2019, Shaw visited Las Vegas with friends and reportedly placed a parlay wager on three NFL games.

The league suspended him, saying he had bet on the NFL “multiple times” that season. His camp maintained he had “misinterpreted” newly legalized sports betting rules. While the league cleared Shaw of any “insider trading,” he did reportedly bet against the Cardinals in the second half of a game for his parlay.

Shaw’s suspension was the first such case involving an active player in any major American league since the Supreme Court opened the door for widely legalized betting in 2018.

The league reinstated Shaw prior to the 2021 season but he has yet to land another job in the NFL.

The Time An Owner Was Investigated For Gambling

While those stories all have interesting, sad and historically noteworthy aspects, they pale in comparison to the uproar that could have ensued from that same 1963 investigation that stung Hornung and Karras. During that time, the NFL investigated the owner of the Colts.

Carroll Rosenbloom

calvin ridley gambling

The NFL investigated Rosenbloom for betting big — really big — on NFL games involving the Colts. Writer Jack Silverstein shared the story on Twitter. He posted several clippings from old newspaper articles.

Essentially, Rosenbloom’s Colts had gone off as -5.5 favorites in the 1958 NFL championship after opening -3.5 against the Giants. The game went into overtime tied 17-17, and rather than kick a game-winning field goal after driving to the Giants’ 20-yard line, the Colts kept playing offense. Eventually, they scored a one-yard TD to win and cover.

Rumor had it Rosenbloom had teamed with two others to make a massive $1 million bet — nearly $10 million in today’s dollars — spread among several outs. Former pro golfer Al Besselink swore the story was true in a years-later telling to a local newspaper.

A separate accusation from Rosenbloom’s former business partner, Michael McLaney, charged Rosenbloom with betting $55,000 ($584,000 inflation-adjusted) against the Colts in 1953, his first year as owner.

There was certainly circumstantial smoke around Rosenbloom, who had definite gambling ties. He and McLaney bought Hotel Nacional de Cuba in 1958, a venue with years-long mafia ties.

While Rozelle admitted Rosenbloom gambled big, he maintained the league’s investigation found “no proof” that he’d bet on NFL games.

Kind of makes the Calvin Ridley gambling story look tame by comparison.

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Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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