NFL al­ready stum­bling on Las Ve­gas

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

Only the NFL is ob­tuse enough to cel­e­brate put­ting a fran­chise in Las Ve­gas and crit­i­cize play­ers for at­tend­ing an arm-wrestling tour­na­ment there.

That’s like your com­pany set­ting up shop in a new town and com­plain­ing that the lo­cale has a neg­a­tive in­flu­ence on em­ploy­ees and the prod­uct.

In case you missed it, the league isn’t pleased with the Pro Foot­ball Arm Wrestling Cham­pi­onship that was held at the MGM Grand last week. More than 30 cur­rent and for­mer play­ers re­port­edly at­tended, in­clud­ing Pitts­burgh Steel­ers line­backer James Har­ri­son and re­tired half­back Mar­shawn Lynch. NFL Net­work re­ported Mon­day that fines are forth­com­ing.

The made-for TV event con­cluded on Sun­day and is sched­uled to air May 27-28 on CBS, with the cham­pi­onship round broad­cast the fol­low­ing week­end. A por­tion of the prize money is sup­posed to be do­nated to char­i­ties of the play­ers’ choice.

Star play­ers. Ma­jor net­work. Prime Ve­gas venue. Sounds like a win­ning com­bi­na­tion that would be hard to miss. But the league of­fi­cials said they were clue­less un­til the event be­gan. And they weren’t happy.

“Had we been asked in ad­vance if this was ac­cept­able, we would have in­di­cated that it was in di­rect vi­o­la­tion of the gam­bling pol­icy,” Joe Lock­hart, NFL vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions told USA To­day. “No one sought pre-ap­proval.”

Pro­moter Alan Brick­man told USA To­day that he en­gaged with the league start­ing in Jan­uary and re­ceived sug­gested guide­lines, in­clud­ing not show­ing gam­bling-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties or any al­co­hol on the broad­cast. He said nearby gam­bling machines were turned off dur­ing tap­ing.

“This is great ex­po­sure for all in­volved,” Brick­man said. “With (the Raiders) coming here, I’m sure they’re

brand­ing it as a fam­ily des­ti­na­tion.”

If the league was go­ing to be this skit­tish about do­ing busi­ness in the na­tion’s gam­bling cap­i­tal, the Raiders’ re­lo­ca­tion should’ve been blocked.

Then again, the NFL doesn’t let marks off the hook when it draws a win­ning hand; pub­lic of­fi­cials of­fered $750 mil­lion for sta­dium fund­ing and team own­ers couldn’t cash those chips fast enough.

But the league loves its im­age as much as money. So com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell doesn’t want us to think any­thing has changed with the Raiders’ move to Sin City. The NFL gam­bling pol­icy is still in place. Play­ers are still pro­hib­ited from ap­pear­ing at casi­nos as part of pro­mo­tional events.

Right, be­cause it’s a bad look to be inside, even if you’re nowhere near the gam­ing floor.

How about in front of the casino? Across the street? Around the cor­ner? Are re­strain­ing or­ders nec­es­sary, man­dat­ing that a player doesn’t come within 100 yards of a gam­bling es­tab­lish­ment?

The NFL gets a lit­tle crazy about per­cep­tions and prox­im­ity when Ve­gas is in­volved.

Then-Dal­las Cow­boys quar­ter­back Tony Romo planned a fan­tasy foot­ball con­ven­tion in Las Ve­gas two years ago; it was can­celed af­ter the league threat­ened fines and/or sus­pen­sions for the 100-plus play­ers sched­uled to ap­pear. The event was be­ing held at a site that wasn’t a casino and didn’t have any gam­bling.

But a casino com­pany owned the venue. Run!

The Raiders ran to the desert for three-quar­ters of a bil­lion dol­lars. The team logo and NFL shield will be plas­tered all over as the league beck­ons res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to an­other spec­tac­u­lar palace. Ev­ery­thing is brand new with a fran­chise in Ve­gas but the league’s pub­lic stance re­mains the same.

“We did not change any of our gam­bling poli­cies in the con­text of the Raiders’ re­lo­ca­tion,” Good­ell said last month at the own­ers’ meet­ing af­ter the move was ap­proved. “It wasn’t nec­es­sary. The Raiders didn’t ask us to do that. We don’t see that — chang­ing our cur­rent poli­cies.

“... I think we have to make sure that we con­tinue to stay fo­cused on mak­ing sure that ev­ery­one has full con­fi­dence that what you see on the field is not in­flu­enced by any out­side fac­tors. That’s our No. 1 con­cern. That goes to what I con­sider the in­tegrity of the game. And we will not re­lent on that.”

For­get about what we see on the field. Our only full con­fi­dence is that the NFL will never stop be­ing du­plic­i­tous, hyp­o­crit­i­cal and im­per­cep­tive. It’s a league con­cerned with ap­pear­ances, socks and cel­e­bra­tions more than re­al­ity phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and con­cus­sions. A league that has climbed in bed with fan­tasy foot­ball and daily fan­tasy op­er­a­tors while si­mul­ta­ne­ously fight­ing against New Jersey’s push to of­fer le­gal­ized sports bet­ting.

The NFL is ex­pected to host the Su­per Bowl in Las Ve­gas next decade. League per­son­nel — in­clud­ing coaches, front of­fice of­fi­cials and play­ers — will swarm to the Strip, rub­bing el­bows with work­ers, tourists and wise guys. Team em­ploy­ees might even find them­selves in a casino.

But arm-wrestling tour­na­ments are prob­lem­atic? OK.

Good­ell & Co. must think we’re a bunch of suck­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.