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Calvin Ridley gambling, Stephen Ross allegations unsettling

Late Sunday night, as the NFL’s annual scouting combine was being packed onto moving trucks in Indianapolis, a longtime team executive reflected on the league’s evolution over the past 20 years. As the conversation turned to the NFL’s drive to monetize seemingly every proton and neutron, the executive made a declaration about his many years inside the laboratory.

“Nothing will be like the 180-degree turn on gambling,” he said. “Nothing. There was a time it was taboo to even say the word ‘gambling’ out loud. Now I go to the Pro Bowl [in Las Vegas] and there’s a statue of Caesar in front of Caesars Palace, and he’s got a Pro Bowl jersey on. They’ve sold out to it completely and I don’t even think they’ve grasped what they’re really getting into.”

Less than 24 hours later, the NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley one year for gambling on league games during the 2021 season — including a Falcons game — while Ridley was on the team’s non-football injury list.

The development prompted one more poke from that same longtime executive.

“NFL made this bed …” he texted.

Indeed it did. A bed that’s already on the verge of being lit on fire when it comes to the integrity of wins and losses, thanks to a lawsuit from former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is alleging that team owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for every loss he piled up in 2019. Now you add in Ridley’s sledgehammer suspension, which occurred after he used a mobile betting platform — the kind widely promoted by the NFL’s multiple gambling sponsorship partners — to place three parlay bets on NFL teams over a five-day span in the state of Florida last November.

If you’re ranking uncrossable boundaries when it comes to the integrity of the NFL, two are unquestionably near the very top: a franchise owner allegedly offering a head coach cash for losses, and a star player caught betting on his own team (even if he’s not playing in that game). The…


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