NFL Commissioner Still Thinks We’re Stupid

For as popular as the National Football League is and as much as many of us love our teams, it is getting harder and harder to enjoy the sport because of how much its leadership wants to treat us all like idiots. The latest is another instance of NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell claiming that the league is opposed to sports betting, as if any of us are supposed to believe that.

According to NFL Network and reporter Ian Rapoport, Goddell was speaking at the NFL owners meeting in Houston, Texas on Wednesday when someone asked him about sports betting. Rapoport tweeted Goodell’s answer: “We remain very much opposed to gambling on sports. …. we want to make sure we’re doing what’s right for the game.”

Yeah. Sure.

The discussion had to do with the probable move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis has been jockeying for either a new publicly funded stadium in Oakland or shinier, publicly financed digs elsewhere. During this past NFL offseason, the Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Rams were trying to strike deals that would have two of them move to Los Angeles and share a stadium. The Rams were the ones to take the plunge and are now the L.A. Rams.

The Raiders had been pining for Las Vegas, as well, and finally, last Tuesday, the Nevada Senate approved SB1, a bill which approved a tax hike to pay for a proposed $1.9 billion stadium. The tax increase is expected to raise $750 million for the stadium and $400 million for convention center improvements. Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill on Monday.

Rendering of proposed Las Vegas Raiders stadium

Rendering of proposed Las Vegas Raiders stadium

Las Vegas Sands CEO and molten sand golem Sheldon Adelson, along with his family, is expected to kick in $650 towards the stadium, while the Raiders will pay $500 million.

The significance of the Raiders likely relocation, if it wasn’t obvious, is that Nevada is the only state where people can wager on individual sporting events. For whatever, reason, it was always feared that if pro sports made a home in Vegas that somehow players would be betting on their own games (or something like that) because they were near casinos. Hence, the question to Roger Goodell about sports betting.

The asinine thing about Goodell’s statement – the same opinion he and the league have always publicly held – is that he is not a moron and therefore quite obviously knows that sports betting and fantasy sports are major drivers of interest in the NFL, not just in the United States, but around the world. People enjoy football without wagering, that is true, but it is by far the most popular sport for betting and fantasy games in the U.S. Sports betting is legal in Europe and has been a big reason interest in the NFL has grown across the pond. It has become so popular over there (not to the extent it is in the U.S., to be sure) that the NFL has sent games to Europe since 2005. Since 2014, there have been three games in England each season.

It is easy to see why sports betting and fantasy have contributed to making the NFL the most successful professional sports league in the United States. Having money on a game or players on a fantasy team makes people much more interested in watching games they might not otherwise care about. Born and bred in Wisconsin, I have been a Green Bay Packers fan my entire life, but rarely care about watching some random game not involving the Packers. If I have money on the Cardinals to beat the Seahawks, though, there is a much better chance I find a way to watch that game. If I play daily fantasy sports, I am more likely to watch a bunch of inconsequential games just to sweat my players.

Without sports betting and fantasy, fan interest would drop off significantly and Roger Goodell knows this. Hell, most NFL teams have some sort of marketing deal with either DraftKings or FanDuel. The Detroit Lions have a luxury lounge called the MGM Grand Tunnel Club. I could go on, but the point is that by continuing to claim that the NFL wants nothing to do with sports betting, Goodell is treating us all like chumps. It’s insulting.

Contrast that to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has openly welcomed sports betting and fantasy sports. He knows they not only drive fan interest, but can also allow fans to enjoy the NBA and its game even more.

In November 2014, Silver wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which he supporting the legalization and regulation of sports betting. He cited “an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events” and said that outside of the United States, legal, regulated sports betting is quite popular.

“In light of these domestic and global trends, the laws on sports betting should be changed,” Silver said. “Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”

Earlier this year, Silver also talked about daily fantasy sports at SXSW. He took issue with some states’ declaration that DFS is illegal, saying:

My only issue though in some of those states — I understand from a statutory standpoint if you want to interpret language and say this is not allowed, I get it and then it’s a question for the state legislature. What I don’t get is where then the interpreter then goes on to moralize about the notion that this is gambling and therefore evil, when in those very same states they have casinos, racetracks and lotteries. To me, I think gambling, regulated gambling, is a part of Americana now. We have casinos in 44 states.

In the meantime, here were have the NFL’s Roger Goodell, who is content to continue one of the biggest lies in the sports world, that his league wants nothing to do with sports betting. We are not children. We know that the NFL LOVES sports betting and it is frustrating that Goodell continues to deny it.


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