Will NFL, with a team headed to Las Vegas, punish players for arm wrestling tourney in Vegas?

It used to be easier for the NFL to take a hard stance against everything Las Vegas.

When the NFL pressured Tony Romo to cancel a fantasy football event in Las Vegas in 2015 because it was going to be at a convention center attached to a casino, it was silly (the silliest instance of the NFL’s anti-gambline policy in action), but those were the rules. Players aren’t allowed to take part in promotional events at casinos.

James Harrison was one of the NFL players who participated in an arm-wrestling tournament in Las Vegas. (AP)
James Harrison was one of the NFL players who participated in an arm-wrestling tournament in Las Vegas. (AP)

That line has been blurred in a big way, with the NFL allowing the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas. That makes their upcoming decision on a few players who participated in an arm wrestling tournament at MGM Grand in Las Vegas very interesting. ESPN and USA Today reported that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, Miami Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman, Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King, Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards and New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung participated in the tournament April 5-9. Without seeing any of the results, we’ll assume Harrison won. The event is scheduled to air on late May and early June on CBS.

The reports said the NFL would look into the players’ participation, and a quote to USA Today indicated they would be punished.

“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, the NFL’s executive vice president for communications and public affairs, told USA Today. “No one sought pre-approval.”

It’s not like the players were hiding it. Harrison posted many pictures of the event on his Instagram account.

Lockin up with the Champ! Super Heavyweight Arm Wrestling World Champion @TravisBagent #ProFootballArmWrestling Championships @PFArmWrestling

A post shared by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on Apr 8, 2017 at 9:49pm PDT

This will begin a very slippery slope for the NFL.

If the NFL wants to argue that the Raiders won’t be associated with a casino, that’s technically true, but it gets a lot harder to take that stance when we all know that Las Vegas and gambling and synonymous. The Raiders’ stadium will be in the shadows of Mandalay Bay and some other mega-casinos on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. Yet, the NFL took a detour around its morals when Nevada came through with $750 million in taxpayer money for the Raiders’ new stadium. Funny how that works.

That this arm wrestling case will include Harrison, a longtime critic of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, makes it even more interesting. Presumably, one or more of the players will point out that they didn’t figure they needed to ask the NFL beforehand considering the NFL agreed to put one of its 32 franchises in Las Vegas last month. Goodell also said Las Vegas will be getting a Super Bowl at some point.

However the NFL rules on this case, it is an interesting test case. It’s a lot more difficult for the NFL to justify its inflexible anti-gambling stance when one of its teams will in a few years be playing a stone’s throw from the most famous stretch of casinos in the world.

More Raiders news from Yahoo

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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