NFL suspends Falcons WR Calvin Ridley for at least 2022 season for gambling on games

The NFL has suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the entire 2022 season and possibly beyond for betting on games in 2021, the league announced Monday.

"NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today suspended Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons indefinitely through at least the conclusion of the 2022 season for betting on NFL games in the 2021 season," a league statement reads. "The activity took place during a five-day period in late November 2021 while Ridley was not with the team and was away from the club's facility on the non-football illness list."

According to the NFL, nothing indicated that Ridley's teammates and coaches in Atlanta were aware of his gambling.

"A league investigation uncovered no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way," the statement reads.

Ridley is eligible to apply for reinstatement on Feb. 13, 2023, according to the league. He has three days to appeal his suspension, per the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

The NFL also shared a letter Goodell wrote to Ridley.

"Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL," the letter reads.

"For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for your promptly reporting for an interview, and for admitting your actions."

Calvin Ridley is banned for the entire 2022 season. (Dale Zanine/Reuters)
Calvin Ridley is banned for the entire 2022 season. (Dale Zanine/Reuters)

Ridley, Falcons respond

The Falcons issued a response Monday shortly after Ridley's suspension was announced.

"We were first made aware of the league's investigation on Feb. 9," the Falcons statement reads. "We have cooperated fully with the investigation since receiving notice and support the league's findings and actions. We are moving forward in the 2022 season with the decision that was made. With the decision that was made by the NFL, any further questions on the investigation should be directed to the league office."

Ridley responded to the news of his suspension shortly after it was announced, admitting on Twitter to betting $1,500 total while writing: "I don't have a gambling problem."

He continued to tweet Monday afternoon.

He posted this on Twitter Sunday prior to his suspension being announced:

Reports: Ridley bet on Falcons games

NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports that Ridley made parlay bets on games using his cell phone and that his bets included Falcons games. ESPN's Kimberley Martin also reported that he bet on Falcons games and that his bets covered "multiple sports."

The Washington Post's Mark Maske reports that Genius Sports Group, which manages the NFL's data and monitoring, informed the NFL of Ridley's parlay bet.

Ridley left the Falcons in 2021 for 'mental well being'

Ridley, 27, has played four seasons with the Falcons since being drafted in the first round out of Alabama in 2018. He played five games in 2021 before announcing in October that he was going to "step away from football" to "focus on my mental well being." He didn't play again in 2021.

“These past few weeks have been very challenging and as much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental well being,” Ridley wrote on Twitter on Oct. 31. “This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future.”

Report: Falcons recently declined Ridley trade inquiries

Ridley, Atlanta's No. 1 receiver, was widely believed to be a trade chip this offseason. Team owner Arthur Blank acknowledged the speculation in a statement on the Falcons' website on Feb. 9, the same day the Falcons acknowledged Monday that they were informed of the NFL investigation.

"We love the young man," Blank said. "He has had a great history in Atlanta. We'd love him to stay in Atlanta. Whether or not he wants to do that — he may decide that he wants a fresh start someplace else. We don't know that. I don't know that. I don't have information to indicate that, but we'll see how that plays out."

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that multiple teams reached out to the Falcons to inquire about Ridley in recent weeks and that the team declined to engage in trade talks because of the investigation.

Ridley was slated to earn $11.1 million with the Falcons in 2022 per a fifth-year option Atlanta exercised on his rookie contract. Per Spotrac, that salary will be delayed to the 2023 season if Ridley is reinstated. The Falcons will now have that $11.1 million in salary cap space available for 2022.

Ridley is 5th NFL player banned for betting

Defensive back Josh Shaw was suspended for betting on NFL games in 2019 while a member of the Arizona Cardinals. The fifth-year NFL veteran who previously played with the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers was reinstated in 2021 following a 21-game ban. He has not played in the NFL since.

Shaw was the fourth player ever suspended by the NFL for gambling, following Detroit Lions defensive lineman Alex Karras (1963), Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung (1963) and Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts quarterback Art Schlichter (1983).