When news broke on Monday that the United States Supreme Court had paved the way for legalized sports gambling in America, one of the biggest unknowns was the impact this will have on athletes.
While promoting his new book, “No Malice: My Life in Basketball or: How a Kid from Queensbridge Survived the Streets, the Brawls, and Himself to Become an NBA Champion,” former Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, told Yahoo Sports about the widespread ramifications that Monday’s ruling could have on professional and collegiate athletes.
Any number of bettors approached him with some version of, “Hey, you won me a lot of money,” and while most may have been innocent enough, outside of broaching a taboo subject for NBA players, there were those who looked to prey on underprivileged athletes.
“Bullies,” World Peace called them.
“I see the issues with betting, and I’ve been approached in college,” he said. “I got approached a couple times to throw games. The one interesting time, they come to me in my neighborhood and said, ‘Hey, I got $35,000 for you.’ I’m like, ‘All right, that’s cool, I’ll take $35,000.’ They said, ‘We need you to throw a game.’ That’s when I’m like, ‘You [expletive].’ But it crossed my mind — $35,000 to throw a game? Not bad.
“But that’s the problem. They find these kids that don’t have any money, and they attack them. What if I was some kid that was a little scared, like, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ That’s the problem I have with betting, because these guys who are betting, they’re bullies. Some of them are bullies. They’ll force a kid into a situation, and then when the kid’s trying to go to the NBA, they hold it against the kid.”
This sort of issue certainly isn’t something the Supreme Court couldn’t foresee, since Justice Samuel Alito warned of the rampant corruption that threatens the integrity of sports in the court’s opinion. The ruling encouraged Congress and individual states to enact policy regulating sports gambling.
World Peace pushed for strict punishment on matters concerning the corruption of youth athletes.
“They’ve got to have really harsh rules on people who are using kids,” he added. “If anybody gets in that situation, they should snitch, and that person should go to jail, because you cannot be putting kids under pressure like that.”
The NCAA opposed the abolition of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) for this very reason. “The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering,” the organization wrote on its website, “which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.”
The NBA, meanwhile, supported legalized sports betting, so that the the hundreds of millions of dollars that are annually wagered illegally would be “brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.” Earlier this year, NBA commissioner Adam Silver lobbied for 1 percent of all wagers on the NBA in order to insulate the league against threats to its integrity (and make a massive profit).
Where there is large amounts of money to be made, there are opportunities for corruption. Last decade, the NBA endured a scandal involving disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy, who pled guilty to a pair of gambling charges in August 2007 that threatened to undermine the game’s integrity.
Raised in Queens, N.Y., World Peace played two seasons at St. John’s before being drafted in 1999. He played parts of 17 NBA seasons for the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, making an All-Star team and winning the 2010 title.
That the man at the center of the Malice at the Palace is warning the NBA about threats to its integrity says an awful lot about the seriousness with which these leagues are going to have to treat gambling.
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