Pro sports leagues are asking for a fee from sportsbook operators that take wagers on their events. Regardless of what they end up calling the rights fees, the leagues stepped in a big one by bringing up the issue of integrity as a fee for their game. The states that have legalized gambling so far have disregarded this request, but the damage has started.
Most sports bettors and fans have always assumed that there was some kind of integrity in the games they bet on. Everyone expects an honest competition unless they’re watching the WWE. Bettors and fans assume that there’s a high level of integrity in sports and it would be nice if that’s the case. However, a couple of recent events remind us that not everything in sports is transparent and therefore lack total integrity:
- LeBron James mystery injury
- Julian Edelman PED suspension
- What’s a catch? What’s a charge?
LeBron James hides injury
Apparently, LeBron James was upset after an awful Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. He was so mad that he (allegedly) punched a whiteboard and possibly broke his hand. The anger is understandable and so is concealing an injury from an opponent. Teams and players often hide injuries from opponents.
Injury disclosure is a bigger deal than ever before. This kind of secrecy or gamesmanship isn’t fit for a league that wants transparency. The NBA is seeking an integrity/royalty/rights fee from sportsbook operators that take wagers on their games. As of now, they plan to offer nothing beyond the same product sportsbooks and bookies have been taking wagers on legally and illegally.
Julian Edelman suspension
Last week, the NFL suspended New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman for the first four games of the season for PED use. Well, kinda. The positive drug test was triggered by an unrecognized substance. Nobody really knows if it was actually for a performance-enhancing drug or just something the testing company doesn’t test for. Whatever, shut him down!
Maybe Edelman is taking PEDs and maybe he’s not. It’s strange that a multi-billion dollar company isn’t able to tell what drugs or substances its players are using. If the leagues can’t be sure if the players are playing within the rules how are fans and bettors supposed to trust the league for providing events with integrity?
Jesse James touchdown that wasn’t
The Jesse James catch isn’t the first time sports fans and bettors questioned the rules and interpretation of the rules on a catch in the NFL. The non-touchdown for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New England Patriots was the most recent head-scratching call by referees. The rules will be different next NFL season but these confusing decisions will probably continue.
There’s always conspiracies about referees. Did the league fix a game for TV ratings or did a gambler fix a side for money? It’s rare that either question is true but there’s always chatter about referees in all sports not knowing simple rules or just missing calls. Integrity and transparency have always been crucial to keeping the events appear to be fair.
Who knew what when about LeBron?
Integrity has always been important to sports. It will continue to be important when people are legally wagering on the games. The leagues say they’ve been operating legitimate events forever. If a league wants a fee for integrity they’ll have to offer it.
Disclosure of injuries – especially to a player like LeBron James – have an effect on betting the game. Evidently, a small group of people knew about the injury but didn’t tell anyone. Did they act on this with an illegal bookie? The lines in Nevada didn’t seem to be off.
Was LeBron really hurt or just making an excuse for losing? We may never know. However, NBA teams are supposed to report all injuries and the Cavaliers didn’t. Expect a fine regardless of what else is disclosed.
We live in a world of conspiracy theories and sports isn’t immune to this. Integrity has always been important and that needs to continue. The courts can decide if the leagues should be paid for doing what they say they’ve always done.