Goodell on betting ruling: He’ll ‘protect integrity’ of NFL

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Last week, with a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court struck down federal restrictions on sports gambling, paving the way for states to legalize the practice.

As the NCAA and professional sports leagues brace for ensuing changes, each has released a statement. On Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell became the most recent to formally respond to the court’s ruling, echoing concerns from the NBA and MLB about protecting the integrity of its game.

“As it was for my predecessors, there is no greater priority for me as the Commissioner of the National Football League than protecting the integrity of our sport,” Goodell wrote. “Our fans, our players and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field. This week's ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment.

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“We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees and partners. These efforts include supporting commonsense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games. We are asking Congress to enact uniform standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting that include, at a minimum, four core principles:

■ There must be substantial consumer protections;

■ Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it;

■ Fans will have access to official, reliable league data; and

■ Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad."

Goodell was deposed in 2012 in the state of New Jersey's case to overturn the federal restrictions. The deposition, which was unsealed in 2015, emphasized his concerns about the perception of the league's integrity where sports gambling may be legal. 

"It's a very strongly held view in the NFL, it has been for decades that the threat that gambling could occur in the NFL or fixing of games or that any outcome could be influenced by the outside could be very damaging to the NFL and very difficult to ever recover from," Goodell said. 

The league has also been weighing these issues the past year, following the approval for the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas in 2020, where sports gambling was already legal. 

"I would probably tell you that I think society has probably had a little bit of a change with respect to gambling in general,” Goodell said in March 2017 at the league's annual meeting. “I think we still strongly oppose it in that room, and otherwise, legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.

“But I also believe that Las Vegas is not the same city it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. It’s a much more diverse city. It has become an entertainment mecca. It’s the fastest-growing city in the country. So, I think when you look at it today versus what it was a decade or two ago, I think it’s a much different city."