Tom Brady As NFL’s Anti-Gambling Ambassador? I Bet It Doesn’t Work

Written By Steve Friess on June 13, 2023 - Last Updated on June 26, 2023
NFL Could Do Better Than Tom Brady For Sports Betting Message

We all know how this meeting went.

Some NFL suits realized they’re starting to have a bit of a problem with all these stories about current players laying bets on NFL games and/or wagering on other sports while at “team facilities.”

“Hey! I know!” exclaimed some Boomer or GenXer in a tie. “Let’s get Brady! He’s the greatest of all time! Everybody loves him! If he tells the kids what’s what, of course they’ll listen! And even if they don’t, the media will pat us on the back for trying!”

Right. Because if you want some effective peer-to-peer messaging to really penetrate a player pool that is majority Black and averages 26 years of age, you go to the 45-year-old white guy who just retired for the second time and lives in an entirely different universe in every way.

Tom Brady? Really? He’s the best, most relevant voice the NFL has to film a message to be played at training sessions to remind current players, coaches and staff of the sports betting rules they agree to?

Evidently, some of the sports-media lemmings are buying this. Erich Richter of the New York Post, for instance, led his report with: “Sometimes, to get a message across loud and clear, you have to bring out the big guns.”

And Caleb Skinner, who covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for sucked up thusly:

The message has yet to be released, but with the introduction coming from many players’ idol in Brady, it should garner the players’ attention enough to sway their decision to break the leagues’ policies moving forward.

To which the only rational, appropriate, mature reply is:  😂😂😂

Serious question: Was Calvin Ridley unavailable?

It’s not a bad idea to have a respected peer offer a lecture about the dangers of breaking a certain rule. But seeing how Brady is not appearing to warn the young’uns of the downside to illegally deflating footballs, maybe he’s not the right guy here.

The obvious person to have done this thing would be Calvin Ridley, the 28-year-old wide receiver who missed the 2022 season and lost millions of dollars in salary and endorsements after being caught violating the gambling policy.

You want to scare someone straight? Just imagine how Ridley — returning to the sport with the Jacksonville Jaguars this season — could speak from experience, with contrition and honesty. (As a bonus, since the NFL is so concerned about such things, the favorable media coverage behind a Ridley message would be bigger and last longer.)

The racial element here is real. It’s just bad form for an older white guy to be lecturing young Black men on a matter like this, especially when it has exclusively been Black athletes and coaches who have been punished so far.

But generational compatibility matters more. Brady did not come up in the sport with the conflicting messages now percolating about gambling.

In Brady’s day, the league had a fit when CBS accidentally allowed glimpses of Las Vegas in a Kia commercial during a Super Bowl. In Ridley’s day, the league was developing partnerships with casino brands and stadiums were bedecked with FanDuel or DraftKings signage. A smart phone at the onset of Brady’s career could include a calendar and a phone-number database; now, of course, a smart phone can contain an AI-bot capable of launching nuclear weapons. Or something.

Brady in this situation is the equivalent of Serena Williams in tennis or Derek Jeter in baseball. They’re revered elders of their sports, their achievements are impressive and well-respected. But they played and prospered in radically different times. Their voices are too easy to dismiss.

Also, the NFL still has explaining to do

It’s all well and good that the league wants to step up its efforts to avoid more NFL sports betting scandals. But it would be more helpful if the league explainED the logic of its rules, too.’s Skinner, among others, is haughty and dismissive. “The rules seem pretty easy to follow, right?”

Actually, my dude, no. Rules are easiest to follow when they make sense and the method of adjudicating them is clear.

The NFL’s rules on this are arbitrary — and how it catches violators remains opaque.

As I understand it, if you’re an NFL player, you can’t bet on any NFL games. You can, however, bet on other sports. You just can’t do so on devices located at an “NFL facility.” Also, an “NFL facility” is not merely a stadium or a team bus or a training site but even the hotel where the team stays and the green room at ESPN while waiting to appear on TV.

You might say, “Well, it’s a workplace, and some activity is inappropriate at work.” OK, but this isn’t your typical office setting. NFL players drink alcohol and have sex while they’re in the hotel where the team stays, too. That would be frowned upon at the “office,” one would imagine.

And more importantly, why do these rules exist?

Why can an NFL player bet on other sports at home but not at “work,” especially when “work” is so loosely defined? What’s the harm?

The more you pick at these questions, the less the sense the rules make in practical terms. It’s fairly well accepted that pro athletes shouldn’t bet on game they’re playing in. OK, fine.

But how does an New York Jet betting on Wimbledon impact the integrity of anything?

Nobody can answer these questions. And because of that, there will inevitably be more rule-breakers, both intentional and inadvertent.

Brady tsk-tsking the troops isn’t going to stop it. But hey, it bought the league a weekend of positive press. Which is, no doubt, exactly what the NFL was betting on.

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Photo by Eugene Hoshiko/AP photo; illustrated by PlayUSA
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Steve Friess

Steve Friess writes the State of Play column for PlayUSA twice a week. He's a veteran gambling-industry reporter who began covering Las Vegas in 1996 and covered the openings of resorts in Asia, Europe, and across the U.S. His bylines have appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, New Republic, Time, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. He, his husband, their children and three Poms live in Ann Arbor.

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