Professional Sport Commissioners Are Fighting To Preserve League Integrity Amid Gambling Scandals


Author: Craig Greenham

(MENAFN- The Conversation) Integrity is the word on the lips of every professional Sport
s league commissioner as investigations into gambling unfold and punishments are handed down.

Players, coaches and other personnel associated with Sport
organizations are expected to uphold high standards of conduct and integrity to make professional Sport
worthy of the public's time and money.

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie referenced integrity when he announced in late April that defensive lineman and three-time Grey Cup champion Shawn Lemon had been suspended indefinitely . Lemon was found to have engaged in Sport
s wagering while he was a member of the Calgary Stampeders, even betting on a game in which he himself participated.

“The integrity of our game is of the utmost importance,” said Ambrosie.“Any other factors - career performance, actions in community, timing, frequency or size of wagers - hold no weight when the Legitimacy
of the CFL can be called into question.”

Ambrosie stressed the gravity of the matter, wanting fans to know his office was adequately addressing the issue. He also clarified that Lemon's misdeeds didn't impact any game outcomes.

This incident is the latest in a string of gambling-related issues that professional Sport
s leagues have faced recently. The rise of Sport
s betting , fuelled by the proliferation of online
platforms and the legalization of gambling in many jurisdictions, has brought new complexities to the world of Sport
s.

Protecting league integrity

Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA, faced a similar issue in April when the NBA started investigating Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter for allegedly betting on games.

The investigation concluded that Porter had indeed violated league rules and he was banned from the NBA. He allegedly“disclosed confidential information” about his health
to an NBA bettor before a March 20 game against the Sacramento Kings.

In addition, during his time with the Raptors' G League from January to March, Porter placed at least 13 bets on NBA games totalling US$54,094. None of the bets were on games in which he played and he ended up making a profit
of $21,965 from all the wagers.


The NBA banned Toronto Raptors' Jontay Porter on April 17, 2024 after a league probe found he disclosed confidential information to Sport
s bettors and bet on games. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In a statement, Silver said:

Porter's penalty was the first lifetime ban issued by the NBA since 1954 when Jack Molinas was permanently bounced for wagering on games that involved his team, the Fort Wayne Pistons.

Silver's stiff brand of justice was a public message: the NBA was prepared to protect the integrity of its game because the fans need to be able to trust the product.

Restoring faith in pro Sport
s

The role of the MLB's commissioner was created in 1920 for just that reason: to restore public faith in professional baseball after eight members of the Chicago White Sox were indicted on criminal charges that alleged they fixed the 1919 World Series.

They were found not guilty amid several irregularities, including vanishing evidence in the form of self-incriminating statements. Justice wasn't served and everyone knew it.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was installed as MLB's first commissioner. A former judge, he provided the penalty when the courts didn't - lifetime bans for all eight implicated players. The public seemed satisfied that the cheats got their just deserts and faith was restored.

Almost a century later, Landis' approach - one rooted in a deterrence theory of punishment - remains the standard for those that bet on games in which they're involved.


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference
during the NBA basketball
All-Star weekend on Feb. 17, 2024 in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Present-day league commissioners have learned from Landis how to handle gambling infractions, but missed his lesson on how to avoid them. Landis demanded that club owners rid their respective ballparks of any trace of gambling by being vigilant and stomping it out. Landis applied the wisdom: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

But this is not the state of modern Sport
. Commissioners and the owners they serve fully embrace the proliferation of legalized Sport
gambling. That's where the money is . Leagues and teams have partnered with wagering sites to pad their wallets .

Modern-day Sport
s and gambling
New York Mets' Willie Mays announces his retirement at a news conference
on Sept. 20, 1973. (AP Photo/John Rooney)

In 2021, the Ottawa Senators were the first to wear a gambling advertisement with a BET99 helmet sticker, making players skating billboards for Sport
betting.

The irony was lost on no one when Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto was the first modern NHLer suspended for a gambling infraction in 2023.

Gone are the days when Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were banned from MLB because they accepted jobs as Atlantic City casino greeters in their retirement.

Players, current and former, have cozied up to gambling interests in league-allowed ways, advertising their product on television for all - children included - to see. It resembles the star-studded cast of athletes
that pushed Chesterfield cigarettes decades ago, which used Sport
s stars to appeal to young boys.

Anti-gambling advocates are pleading for the Sport
s industry
to re-think its approach to betting, but the practice has only become more pervasive and accessible .

The impact has been disastrous . Kids as young as eight-years-old are hooked and it's only going to get worse.

In the end, Sport
s leagues will protect the integrity of the game: there's money in preserving the trust and loyalty of their audiences. But will these same leagues demonstrate the integrity necessary to reverse course and protect vulnerable members of society from developing a gambling addiction? There's no money in that, so don't bet on it.


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