The NFL shockingly suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver, Calvin Ridley, for the entire 2022 season after he was found to have wagered on NFL games. Of course, it's an obvious conflict of interest for a professional athlete to gamble on their sport, but Ridley is far from the first athlete to have committed the act. Harsh sanctions have been handed down to those who have placed bets on their sport, and we've seen instances of it in the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Even the NHL recently had an incident flare up involving Evander Kane, though an investigation found him not guilty of wagering on games.
Here are five athletes, including Ridley, who were caught red-handed placing wagers on their own sport, and were punished accordingly.
5. Tim Donaghy
While Tim Donaghy isn't an athlete, the infamous NBA referee's gambling scandal rocked the league back in 2007. An FBI investigation revealed that Donaghy had placed wagers on NBA games that he was officiating, and even offered gambling advice and information to bettors after incurring significant debt. The illicit activities occurred throughout a span of four years, during which the referee reportedly used his knowledge of connections between players and officials to advise other gamblers. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felony charges during an August 2007 court case, and was, of course, banned from officiating NBA games.
4. Paul Hornung
Paul Hornung was one of the stars of the NFL back in the 1950s and 60s, but he got into hot water after it was discovered that he routinely bet on NFL games, including some in which he played. The former Green Bay Packers star running back was issued a 16-game suspension by then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, after it was discovered that he'd placed wagers on horse racing, college football, and the NFL. He denied none of the allegations and was suspended for 16 games, though he was later reinstated and is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
3. Alex Karras
In the same case as Paul Hornung, former Detroit Lions star Alex Karras, oft considered one of the best defensive linemen in football at the time, was also handed a 16-game suspension. He, like Hornung, had placed a series of wagers on NFL games, including betting once on the Lions. Karras was far less accepting of his punishment than Hornung, however, holding Rozelle in disdain and considering the discipline to be wildly disproportionate to the offense committed. He was reinstated after the suspension was served and went back to dominating in the trenches.
2. Calvin Ridley
In the latest instance of a professional athlete getting caught betting on their own sport, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was handed a 17-game suspension after being busted for placing parlay bets on NFL games. As part of his parlay bets, which reportedly were up to as many as 8-legs, Ridley reportedly bet on the Falcons to win. The wideout was away from the team for mental health reasons at the time the bets were placed, having featured in just five games for the team in 2021. He's now set to be sidelined all of next year after getting caught red-handed by the league.
1. Pete Rose
In perhaps the most famous scandal in sports betting history, Pete Rose's antics are still impacting his legacy to this day. Rose, MLB's all-time leader in hits, remains outside of the Hall of Fame and continues to serve a lifetime ban from baseball after it was discovered he had bet on games while serving as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Rose is a renowned gambler, and the controversy hasn't changed that, though his exclusion from Cooperstown remains one of the sport's all-time great debates. Despite his initial denial of betting on games, Rose finally admitted to the illicit activities in his book release in 2004, revealing that he did in fact bet on MLB and Reds games, but never against Cincinnati.