Tony Romo is justifiably irate with the NFL for the purely reasonable reason that it blocked him and many friends from making a lot of money.
We would be equally mad if we had organized an additional business opportunity and, at the last moment, our properly previously notified billion-dollar employer says “No.”
The NFL’s primary concern for stomping on Romo’s fantasy football weekend in Las Vegas is not gambling but getting its cut, which will never change. If the NFL wants a cut, then it has to officially be OK with gambling. If this is really about gambling, then cut any perceived ties with it.
Our favorite starting quarterback has made the rounds this week on the local and national talk shows to call out the NFL for shutting down the event that was scheduled for July. Romo had been promoting it for months, and the NFL knew about it and its location with the league’s favorite side piece — Las Vegas.
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No one should believe the tired line that Romo and his fellow NFL buddies, including Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray, were upset about losing the chance to interact with the fans. This is all about making extra cash.
The players knew that participating in an event scheduled adjacent to the swank Venetian Hotel (and casino) in Vegas was a violation of their contracts, meaning this thing should have been quashed months ago.
No one should believe the NFL when it comes to … well, anything, but especially when it comes to its “concerns” about an event where its players are roaming around a place with direct ties to legalized gambling. As Romo said in one interview, the Detroit Lions have a contract with the MGM Grand. He’s right: The Lions’ locker room is adjacent to the MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club.
On Wednesday at Valley Ranch after OTAs, Romo said he stands by everything he said this week. He also said he has not heard from the NFL. His event has been rescheduled with the NFL’s other favorite off-the-books city — Los Angeles.
What NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has to decide is what the league’s formal relationship is with gambling, and Las Vegas. Rog can’t stop the players from losing their money playing blackjack at Caesars Palace, hitting the Cosmo pool scene or doing other Vegas-type things in Sin City, but he can decide if the league is OK with betting on its games.
This continued charade of the NFL distancing itself from gambling no longer floats with the proliferation of fantasy football. One of the primary reasons the NFL is so popular is that a Cocker Spaniel is smart enough to figure out how to bet on the Hall of Fame game.
Just as there is big money in betting on Eagles v. Raiders, there is equally big cash in fantasy sports. The bookie has been replaced, or complemented with, the guy who runs your fantasy league.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in an op-ed piece for The New York Times last November that the United States government should draft legislation that permits legal betting on pro sports. Silver believes that governments, in a need to increase taxable income, will eventually legalize gambling outside of the few spots it currently is allowed — the most notable being Vegas.
I firmly believe he is right. It’s coming. The question is when.
Pro sports and gambling will forever have a dysfunctional relationship. It is vital to the success of sports that the fan (i.e., the consumer) believes the game is on the up. We all accept that, while everyone involved in pro sports is trying to make a (healthy) living, we should not have to watch in fear that a guy is tanking in the name of making an even better living.
NFL commissioners from Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue to Goodell all struggled to manage this awkward relationship.
If the NFL is going to continue to peripherally capitalize on the popularity of gambling on its game, and the stable growth of fantasy football, it should not shut down the event Romo was scheduled to attend. Now, it looks like bullying hypocrites. (Of course, that is part of the problem — the league is a bullying, corporate hypocrite and no one, or nothing, has tried to stop it.)
If the NFL truly wants to sever its relationship with gambling, offer no more extensive injury reports and kill its own fantasy football league. Force the Lions to end its relationship with the MGM Grand.
The NFL does not want that, and rather than shut down an event in Vegas featuring some of its players, the wiser decision is to figure out a way to get its cut.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697
Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog