Do the Detroit Lions Have a Gambling Problem?
Just when you think you can instill a little faith in the Detroit Lions, right?
News broke late Friday morning that the NFL is suspending four Detroit Lions for violating the league's gambling policy. Wide receiver Quintez Cephus and safety CJ Moore were suspended indefinitely by the league and both players have since been released by the Lions according to multiple reports. Likewise, second year wide receivers Stanley Berryhill and 2022 first-round pick Jameson Williams have been suspended six games. The NFL also suspended Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney indefinitely.
The difference in punishment is down to what sport and where the players gambled. Because Cephus and Moore gambled on NFL games, they're punishment is more severe. Williams and Berryhill bet on college games, but were in the Lions facility when they made their bets.
According to ESPN's Eric Woodyard, the Lions also had "several Lions staff members in various departments" that were dismissed from the organization for violating the league's gambling policy.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes said in a statement:
"As a result of an NFL investigation, it came to our attention that a few of our players had violated the league's gambling policy. These players exhibited decision making that is not consistent with our organizational values and violates league rules. We have made the decision to part ways with Quintez and C.J. immediately. We are disappointed by the decision making demonstrated by Stanley and Jameson and will work with both players to ensure they understand the severity of these violations and have clarity on the league rules moving forward."
Now, the first thought that springs to mind is a reactionary one, to be sure. After all, last year the NFL suspended former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the entire year and denied his appeal. Ridley missed two years of football between an injury and his suspension in what were expected to be the prime years of his career. So why, Jameson Williams and company, why test the NFL at all?
A vocal presence of NFL fans disagreed with Ridley's suspension and the NFL did not budge. The NFL is working hard to safely integrate gambling into the gameday experience and anyone who is anyone knows above all the NFL will "protect the shield". So the fact that half the receiving corp plus a defensive back and staffers are even entertaining opening up their betting apps is a dangerous decision on its own.
I won't stand on a soap box against gambling. I am among those who disagreed heavily with Ridley's suspension, and I'm relieved to see Williams and Berryhill are only getting six games. But this is one of those situations that comes down to culture in the building.
Head coach Dan Campbell has built a culture that is mostly respected from the outside. However, staffers and multiple players entertaining a violation that the NFL takes more seriously in its punishments than sexual and domestic abuse (this is a shot against the NFL for having distorted priorities, to be clear) is a gross oversight.
To build a winning culture in Detroit is hard, but Campbell has sound building blocks so far. But if those cornerstones are tampered with by immaturity and negligence, the whole project will come crashing down.
The NFL doesn't do warning shots with gambling Detroit. Let this be one final lesson in the growth of something special for this franchise.