One week after DraftKings announced a promotional deal that will have active NBA icon LeBron James picking football winners, NFL players said they will push to lift restrictions that keep them from betting on other sports during their season.
It’s another sign that even though almost six years have elapsed since the Supreme Court struck down the law that kept states from legalizing sports betting, U.S. leagues still are finding their way on the effects and how they’ll deal with them.
Rules that govern player betting — when, where and on what — vary from league to league and have evolved from season to season. NFL players are prohibited from betting on NFL games at any time, and also can not wager on other sports while at a team facility or during road trips. The NBA, MLB and NHL allow players to bet on other sports without restriction, so long as it is through regulated channels in legal states.
In September, after an offseason in which the NFL suspended 10 players for betting policy violations, the NFL Players Association negotiated a reduction of suspensions for betting on other sports from six games to two, but the prohibition of betting on sports while at a team facility or on road trips stood.
During an NFL Players Association press conference covering a range of issues at last week’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas, player representatives called for the elimination of that rule.
“I feel like the rules are outdated,” said Atlanta Falcons defensive end Calais Campbell, a member of the union’s executive committee. “There was a time where it made sense, but now with technology and being able to bet on baseball or basketball on your phone, I don’t understand why just because I’m in a locker room or on a Wednesday or whatever, that I can’t pick up my phone and [bet].
“Nobody wants to have a guy betting on football. That’s not OK. But, you know, with technology the way it is and you can tell exactly what people are betting on, and you know it has nothing to do with the integrity of the game, why not give us this opportunity to be able to make money when we’re doing that as a league?”
James’ deal with DraftKings will have the brand paying him an undisclosed promotional fee to attach to the NFL picks that have become a weekly feature of his vast social media feed. He announced the deal, which also will include other non-basketball content, with a post that showed his familiar cloud of chalk shaped into the DraftKings logo.
“Even our fans don’t see us betting on another sport that’s not the NFL as threatening the integrity of the game,” said free agent safety Michael Thomas, an executive committee member who last played for the Cincinnati Bengals. “So it’s just trying to make more changes that make sense. That’s common sense. And moving forward, I think that’s what we’re just trying to do.”