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  • Writer's pictureJG .


In the 1942 classic movie, Casablanca, the main character, café owner Richard Blane, played by Humphrey Bogart, has a cozy relationship with the Prefect of Police, Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Raines. Rick allows Louie to win at roulette and in return, Louie turns a blind eye to some of the less savory goings on at Rick’s Café. One night, when Louie shuts down the Cafe at the behest of the gestapo, Rick [Bogart] asks him on what grounds he was being shut down, Louie replies: “I'm shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here." At that moment, a worker from the roulette table walks up and hands Louie a wad of cash and says, “your winnings.” Louie pockets the money and says, “thank you very much”.

I thought about that scene this week when I have been watching all of the hand wringing and pearl clutching surrounding the Shohei Ohtani gambling controversy as if people are actually shocked that gambling has somehow infiltrated a Major League Baseball clubhouse. All the blame is being cast at Ohtani’s longtime friend and interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, who Ohtani’s claims stole money from him to place bets with an unlicensed bookie. Pete Rose, who has been suspended from the MLB for life for betting on baseball, joked on social media that he wished he had an interpreter who he could blame his gambling on. Even if Ohtani’s alibi is true, what do we think Ohtani’s interpreter was doing? He had access to inside information on a Major League Baseball club and using that information to place bets. It is the biggest use of insider information this side of the United States Congress. At least, Mizuhara will most likely be going to jail for his use of inside information. Pelosi, not so much.

Gambling has infected other sports leagues as well. In the past few years, the NFL has suspended several players for gambling. In 2022, the league suspended Atlanta WR Calvin Ridley, as well as Detroit Lions players Quintez Cephus, C.J. Moore and Shaka Toney for betting on football. This past year, NFL players Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill were suspended for the first six games of the season for gambling.  The NFL commissioner’s office is trying to take a hard public stand against gambling.

Even suggesting that gambling may be affecting the outcome of games is treated harshly by professional sports leagues. This week, NBA star, Luka Doncic, was fine $35,000, because he made a money hand signal to a referee after what Doncic deemed was the wrong call, suggesting that maybe the referee was on the take. The NBA fined him because even the appearance that the sport may not be pure and clean hurts the NBA brand which hurts the NBA bottom line.

So, the NFL believes that “fundamental to the NFL’s success… is upholding the integrity of the game”, and they understand that gambling and even the appearance of gambling, threatens the public confidence in the sport, yet they continue to actively encourage gambling by promoting gambling on their platforms and their broadcasts.  Professional sports leagues are sponsored by FanDuel, Draft Kings, ESPN BET, and others but then we are to believe that the NFL and MLB are shocked, shocked that gambling is going on. Gambling increases viewership which increases their revenue while at the same time threatens their brand and threatens their bottom line. They encourage gambling to increase their revenue but then become moralistic when people within the sport are lured into gambling. Laughably, during the playoffs, the NFL tried to cover its bases by having a proclaimed devout Christian and NFL Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner, air a commercial promoting gambling as long as its “responsible” gambling.

Gambling is part of professional sports. What do you think incentive contracts are all about? A form of gambling. The contract states that if a player achieves certain individual accomplishments, he will receive certain monetary payouts. That’s gambling. Do you not think that incentives cause the pursuit of money to muddy the purity of the sport? At the end of every season, players are fully aware of what their incentives are, and they play those last few games, not necessarily to win, but to pad their statistics to get their money. Incentives technically may not be gambling, but they can influence the outcomes of games because they allow money to change the pure intent of the players.

Going into the last game of 2023, Tennessee Titan WR, DeAndre Hopkins was 7 receptions short of his $500,000 bonus. He and his quarterback Ryan Tannehill made a concerted effort to reach his incentive. In the game, Hopkins caught 7 balls for a paltry 46 yards and received his money. After the game, Tannehill told reporters, "I was very aware… and I told him, 'Hey I'm going to get you this ball. I don't care what they call, I'm gonna get you this ball… Obviously, wanted that for him and what he's meant for this team over the course of this year." If Hopkins had gone to a bookie and made a $500,000 bet that he would catch 7 passes in that last game, and he and Tannehill played with the intent on winning that bet, both players would be suspended for life from the sport.

This is not an isolated incident. Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff did the same thing for receiver Josh Reynolds who needed 36 yards to reach 600 and trigger a $250,000 bonus. Reynolds had just 10 yards going into the final possession of the final game. With Detroit leading 30-20, Goff threw four straight passes to Reynolds, in a situation in the game where you would not even consider throwing one pass. Reynolds finished the game with 44 yards and 608 yards on the season, and his extra $250,000. "It was important for us to try to get him that number to get him his incentives, and we were trying like hell all game to get it to him." Goff said. "It just wasn't quite connecting, and there at the end, kind of had to force it in some ways.” Every year, dozens of players, alter their approach to the way they play the final games of the season, and go after their bonus producing statistics. And the fans are supposed to believe that the intent of playing the game remains pure.

Sometimes, players actually use the language of gamblers when describing their approach to handling their contract situation. Players who choose not to sign an extension and play out the final year of their contract, so they can test free agency the following year, often claim that they are “betting on themselves”. In 2020, Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott did just that. He turned down a lucrative contract extension, bet on himself and played out the final year of his contract in hopes of getting an even bigger contract. The following off-season, Prescott ended up signing a four-year, $160 million contract, including a record $126 million guaranteed. He bet on himself and won.

The leagues want to uphold the appearance that the game is pure, that the players play for the sheer joy of the sport and desire to win for their team, when, in reality, these players are making hundreds of millions of dollars, these organizations are worth billions of dollars, professional sports is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, the purity of the game no longer exists. We see that in All-Star games, where the players don’t even compete because they’re protecting themselves. They say that they are making “business decisions” by giving sub-standard effort in an all-star game so they don’t get hurt. So much for playing for the love of the sport.

Revenue is what drives professional sports. In the late 90s, Major League Baseball, turned a blind eye to steroid users, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, because, through their steroid use, they were hitting majestic home runs, which put a lot of people in the seats and turned a lot of TV sets to their games. They allowed these Major League Baseball players to cheat the game because their cheating brought in hundreds of millions of dollars to the MLB. The League didn’t care about the purity of sport during the Maguire-Sosa home run chase of 1998 or during Barry Bonds 73 homerun season a few years later. It was only after the fraudulent behavior of these players was exposed by outside sources and most fans saw that they had been duped by cheaters that Major League Baseball suddenly took the steroid situation seriously.

I’m not defending Shohei Ohtani if he had bet on baseball or arguing that players should be allowed to bet on their games, I just want to stop pretending that professional sports is some bastion of purity where the players are playing for the love of the game. They’re not. It’s a business. And most players are making business decisions. Sadly, we are seeing this mentality infect the lower levels of sports. Colleges are now being run by NIL money and the player’s pursuit of NIL windfalls to the point that pretty soon college sports will become merely a glorified minor league system, if it is not already that. And before we know it, 8th graders will have shoe contracts and 9th graders will opt out of half their season for business reasons.

The irony of all of this is, when sports becomes a business, it usually becomes less enjoyable to watch because it is not all that exciting to watch a businessman ply his trade and that is why sports leagues have encouraged gambling on their sport, so the games are more watchable and exciting for the fans who have become disenchanted by this new business-like model of professional sports. In the end, no one should be shocked at what people will do or be willing to compromise when pursuing millions of dollars, I’m shocked that they think we will believe that these multi-billion-dollar enterprises have even a semblance of purity or integrity left.



J Garrett is a graduate of Princeton University. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.

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Sam Dehne
Sam Dehne


Very interesting perspective. And I would "bet" a lot of money that, if it was anybody other than a foreigner monster-popular player in this interpreter/gambling situation, there would be a much harder-driving investigation. As you started to say.. this bro-dude gambler was virtually and literally this ballplayer's soul mate. And he kept the ballplayer totally unaware.. of the massive $$$gambling going on.. for years???!!!

Just sayin'...


Albeit this report of yours is far less devastating to America than your typical "exposays" of the treacherous damage the monster bucked-fidens's cartel traitors are wreaking. EVERYWHERE!!


Sam DNA Dehne


Judd Garrett is a former NFL player, coach and executive. He is a frequent contributer to the website Real Clear Politics, and has recently published his first novel, No Wind

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