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Falcons WR Calvin Ridley Betting on Games 'Strokes the Deepest Fears' of League, Says NFL Agent

Calvin Ridley was suspended one full season for gambling in March.

The Atlanta Falcons were struck with a big blow as wide receiver Calvin Ridley was given a one-year suspension for gambling on his own team in March.

In comparison to other suspensions handed out around the National Football League in recent years, a full season seems drastic compared to minor suspensions for domestic and substance abuse.

But how impactful was Ridley’s gambling to the game of football and does it make sense?

Leigh Steinberg, a longtime sports agent, sat down with D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss why the suspension for the Falcons pass catcher is not surprising at all.

For starters, Steinberg referenced how gambling in a professional atmosphere has a ripple effect throughout the league as a whole. It also can taint the view that fans and spectators have of the game themselves.

“So, everything relies on the concept of an even playing field,” Steinberg said. “The supposition that both teams are trying as hard as they can, giving maximum effort. Both coaches are incentivized to win.”

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NFL games are set on an even playing field, or at least should be. When someone who is involved in the aspect of the game is involved, it can taint the product and the league offices are most afraid of that, according to Steinberg.

“And what you’re seeing is a real contest,” Steinberg said. “Between two teams playing with the same rules on the same field, and it’s only athletic performances that determine the outcome. So, understand that anything involving an athlete and betting triggers a tripwire. It sends shudders through the NFL league office and individual teams.”

The NFL has been an American tradition for decades and the last thing that the league executives want is for fans to turn away from the game.

“If fans ever started to speculate that what they were seeing in front of them was a performance shaded or tainted by someone with gambling debts, that was in serious trouble with a bookie, like Art Schlichter, then all of a sudden, instead of dominating sports … it would lose massive amounts of popularity,” Steinberg said. “The point is, that this stokes the deepest fears of the NFL, about compromised results, undermining the foundation of the game.”

Ridley had put up a productive NFL career through his first two seasons and stepped away halfway through last season, stating he needed a “mental health break.”

As we head into 2022, the Falcons are already taking precautions with their newest rookies. Ledbetter reported that all of the incoming rookie class needed to watch a video on the league’s gambling rules.

Ridley was set to earn $11.1 million this year, but will not receive it. He will be eligible to apply for reinstatement on or after February 15, 2023.