Eight days ago, the NFL suspended Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw through the 2020 season for betting on pro football. He reportedly has appealed. So what happens next?
According to the NFL, suspensions for gambling will be resolved not by an independent arbitrator or hearing officer, but by a person designated by the Commissioner, as specified by Article 46 of the labor deal. This power, as a practical matter, makes a successful appeal far less likely.
Although it remains to be seen how frequently players will be embroiled in gambling scandals, the NFL Players Association may want to consider pushing for independence in this process. It’s one thing for Shaw to be caught red-handed by his own stupidity (he reportedly identified himself as a professional football player in the application he completed for an account at the Caesar’s sportsbook); what happens if/when the NFL accuses a player of gambling based on far less obvious facts?
And while Shaw won’t generate much sympathy, it’s fair to ask whether a suspension through 2020 is merited in a case where he made a legal three-team, second-half parlay wager while on injured reserve and reportedly under a mistaken impression that he was permitted to do it. With no evidence that he did anything to conceal his actions or that it was anything other than a one-time occurrence, it could be argued that the penalty is excessive.
It would be better for Shaw if that argument were made to someone truly independent.
The lack of independence in the appeal process will only affect, as a practical matter, a small handful of players. But the power of the league to direct the appeal to a friendly ear hovers over all players. Which should prompt the NFLPA to raise the issue of whether this kind of infraction should be handled in a manner similar to on-field infractions, PED violations, and substance-abuse issues.