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NFL betting: League, bettors must take Brian Flores' allegations seriously

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On Tuesday, former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed an explosive lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams (Giants, Dolphins, Broncos).

At the heart of the lawsuit, Flores alleges that the NFL and its teams have displayed a pattern of racial discrimination during the hiring process for coaching and executive positions. This is obviously a very serious allegation and one that certainly has legs when you consider the NFL currently has just one Black head coach.

However, there was another allegation in the lawsuit that was also very serious and should be taken seriously, especially by those of us who like to bet on NFL football on a regular basis.

Flores alleged that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him an extra $100,000 per loss in order to incentivize him to lose games to improve the team's draft position heading into the 2019 NFL draft.

Tanking is not a new concept

The concept of tanking is not new in sports. Media, fans and pundits often talk about the merits of losing on purpose in order to improve draft position. The argument is that getting access to a higher draft pick is more beneficial long term than a meaningless win in a lost season.

However, there's always been a trust that organizations don't intentionally tank games. Owners want to sell tickets and merchandise. General managers and coaches have such a short shelf life that they don't want an abomination of a season on their resumes. Players certainly don't care about draft picks and random players in college. They've sacrificed too much, and their careers are much too short to lose games on purpose.

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 09: Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Brian Flores' allegations require the attention of the NFL and sports bettors. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

This past year, there was certainly a collection of bad teams. The Jacksonville Jaguars ended their season by ruining the Colts' season. The Detroit Lions played hard nearly every week. The New York Jets had wins over top teams like the Bengals and Titans. The Houston Texans arguably ruined the season of the Los Angeles Chargers. It's hard to accuse those teams of tanking — they were simply bad teams. You could bet on these teams and expect them to try to win and play with a high level of effort.

With Flores' allegations about Ross surfacing, we must now wonder whether we were all naive. Do teams actually tank on purpose?

NFL has obligation to investigate

With the legalization of sports betting in various states across the country, sports leagues have gotten involved as they recognize the untapped potential in the market. The NFL is no different. Prior to the start of the 2021 NFL season, the league announced a partnership with seven sportsbooks, including BetMGM.

To be fair to the NFL, it does the most currently to aid sports bettors. The league forces teams to release injury reports every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, showing which players are practicing and what specific injuries are ailing players. The NFL also forces teams to announce inactive players more than 90 minutes before kickoff. In sports like basketball, hockey and baseball, players are often scratched at the last second and injury designations are purposefully vague.

Any goodwill the league has built up among bettors will quickly be lost if it doesn't thoroughly investigate these latest allegations from Flores. The league released a statement very quickly on Tuesday saying, "We will defend against these claims, which are without merit." This is a league that spent months investigating the inflation levels of footballs.

Flores and his attorneys appeared on ESPN's "Get Up" with Mike Greenberg. During that interview, his lawyers insinuated that the Dolphins aren't the only team to act in this manner.

These are just allegations, and they might not be true. However, the league has an obligation to investigate the Dolphins and any other team that is accused of purposefully trying to lose games. You cannot watch an NFL game these days without being inundated with advertisements from various sportsbooks. The league has an agreement with Caesars Entertainment that pays it over $30 million annually. The majority of NFL teams have an official sportsbook partners.

There have been allegations of point-shaving and participants throwing sporting events in the past. Back when sports betting was not widely available, we had scandals such as the 1919 Black Sox, Jake La Motta taking a dive in a boxing match, NBA referee Tim Donaghy, and point-shaving scandals at Boston College, Tulane, Toledo and Arizona State. More recently, Tucker Tynan, a junior goaltending prospect in the Ontario Hockey League, has been accused of running a gambling organization and betting on games he's played in. That investigation is still being conducted.

Now that sports betting is legal in many markets, the biggest sports league in the country has an obligation to take these accusations seriously. It shouldn't hide behind the shield. Sports betting used to be viewed as some shady underground activity for degenerates. Now, it's common and widespread. The league is aggressive in trying to attract people to bet on its games and acquire new customers. At the very least, it should conduct a full and thorough investigation. This impacts more people and has way more of a societal effect than the PSI levels of a football.