No, the NFL was not required to "embrace" legalized sports betting

The season began with the Commissioner blaming the Supreme Court for the NFL's current stew of hypocrisies regarding sports betting, and it is ending that same way.

On the sideline before the Chiefs hosted the Lions in September, Roger Goodell told NBC's Mike Tirico, "When the Supreme Court overruled [the law prohibiting states from legalizing sports wagering], we have to be in that space."

On Monday, during his invitation-only press conference, Goodell said this when reconciling the present reality with his past warnings about the impact of legalized betting on public trust in the integrity of the games.

"We did not make the decision," Goodell said regarding the legalization of sports wagering. "Ultimately, the decision was a decision by the Supreme Court, when they legalized sports betting. We have to adapt. We have to embrace it."

The first is true; they did indeed have to adapt to a world in which legal sports wagering has mushroomed. However, they did not have to "embrace" it.

They chose to embrace it, because it's an easy revenue stream. More money for nothing. Hold out a hand and take millions from a sportsbook company that aspires to be the exclusive sports betting partner of the NFL. Hell, have more than only one exclusive sports betting partner. Have seven of them (which the NFL had at one point).

If you can pay the fee, you too can be a partner.

The NFL could have shunned it. Indeed, just because something is legal doesn't mean you have to do it.

Mustard is legal, and I hate mustard. Sports betting is legal, and the NFL could have continued to hate it as much as the NFL did before it became legal.

If the NFL had said, "We will work strenuously to protect our game against the influences of sports betting, but we refuse to ever profit from it," that would have made it so much easier for the NFL to have the moral authority to prohibit all players and team and league employees from having any association with gambling. And that would have allowed the NFL to avoid the creation of a "do as we say, not as we do" environment characterized by convoluted, nonsensical mandates — such as the rule that the players on the 49ers and Chiefs can't gamble at casinos until after the confetti falls on Sunday night.

Or how about the rule that a player can place bets on his phone while standing outside the door to the team facility, but that once he steps inside it's forbidden? That's like God telling Adam and Eve to go ahead and eat the fruit, but just make sure you stand over there when you do.

Goodell knows he's being hypocritical. He doesn't care. Goodell set a revenue goal of $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027 and, just like he once set a goal to be NFL Commissioner, nothing is going to stop him from getting there.

And the last thing that's going to slow that horse down is the possibility that, as to gambling, the Emperor's new clothes (bought and paid for by gambling money) are flapping in the breeze.