The NFL suspended one of its top players on Monday afternoon because he gambled on the NFL in the 2021 season.
Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley will miss at least the entire 2022 season after betting on the NFL in November. He will be eligible to apply for reinstatement next February, but he is suspended indefinitely by the NFL. According to reports, he placed his bets in Florida, using the briefly live Florida sports betting app from the Seminole Hard Rock to do it.
Ridley had 1,374 receiving yards in the 2020 season, fifth most in the league.
In October, after playing five games in the 2021 season, Ridley stepped away from the Atlanta Falcons and the league, saying he was set to focus on his "mental well-being." He did not return to the team at all during the 2021 season.
However, the NFL learned in February that Ridley had signed up on the Hard Rock sports betting app in Florida via his mobile device and made multiple bets from November 23-28. Those bets included wagering on the Atlanta Falcons, the team he stepped away from a few weeks prior.
While sports betting is legal in Florida, it is not legal in Georgia. In fact, Georgia is among the strictest gambling states in the United States. The Hard Rock sports book recognized Ridley’s name and contacted the Genius Sports Group, which oversees the betting integrity of the NFL. From there, they contacted the NFL and they began a full investigation.
Ridley Placed Parlay Bets on NFL
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Ridley used the Hard Rock sports betting app to place multi-legged parlays that included 3, 5 and 8 teams. Ridley allegedly bet on the Falcons to win in multiple weeks, but the full extent of his bets is yet to be known. Ridley went to Twitter after the announcement, saying that he only wagered “$1,500 total” and that he did not have a gambling problem.
I bet 1500 total I don’t have a gambling problem— CALVIN RIDLEY (@CalvinRidley1) March 7, 2022
The Hard Rock app was taken down late in 2021 after the federal court in Washington ruled against the Seminole Tribe, which launched the app on Nov. 1.
Ridley, a Fort Lauderdale native, went to high school at Coconut Creek Monarch before becoming a college standout at Alabama. The Falcons selected him 26th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Ridley is not the first player to be suspended by the NFL for gambling. There have been five players ever suspended by the NFL for gambling and one in recent history. They are: Alex Karras and Paul Hornung (1963); Art Schlichter (1983); Josh Shaw (2019) and now Ridley.
Receiver's Future Uncertain Even After Ban
Ridley was set to make over $11 million on his fifth-year team option in 2022. Now, that contract will be tolled to the 2023 season should he be eligible. It remains to be seen if he will rejoin the Falcons once he is eligible to return, as the expectation around the league was that he would be traded this offseason. But his future in Atlanta and the NFL is up in the air.
Ridley’s breakout season in the NFL occurred in 2020, as he totaled 1,375 yards and scored nine touchdowns in 15 games. Before he stepped away from the Falcons in 2021, he caught 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns in five games.
The NFL has become more open to sports gambling over the last few years, even partnering with certain sportsbooks. However, active players gambling on the NFL (even if they have stepped away from the game for a few weeks) will always be something they are firmly against.
According to NFL.com, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to Ridley in a letter: "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.”
The NFL.com story said there was no evidence that teammates or other members of the Falcons organization were aware at the time that Ridley had placed the bets.