Gambling

NFL Wages War On Arm Wrestling Because The NFL Is Ridiculous

As predictable as ever

Gambling
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Apr 10, 2017 at 2:37 PM ET

The NFL, which just approved the Raiders’ upcoming relocation to Las Vegas, is now angry at the more than 30 players who appeared at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino last weekend for the Pro Football Arm Wrestling Championship because the league prohibits promotional appearances at casinos—you know, because gambling is bad.

Never mind the fact that the league is all too happy to have one of its 32 franchises make its home in the same city limits as the country’s gambling capital and has long since required detailed injury reports with fines for failure to abide by that policy—ostensibly for gambling purposes—and the majority of teams have partnered with daily fantasy sites, which is effectively gambling by another name.

But, of course, the NFL has to get on its high horse about the arm wrestling, just as it did about Tony Romo intending to appear at a Vegas fantasy football convention two years ago, which subsequently got scuttled by league pressure.

“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 Sports about the Pro Football Arm Wrestling Championship. “No one sought pre-approval.”

Actually, in that same article, however, comes comment from Alan Brickman, co-owner of the organizing company, Encinal Entertainment, who said he spoke to two different NFL departments in hopes of having the league join as a partner. They didn’t and apparently are pretending that those conversations never happened. Brickman relayed to USA Today that the league had suggested in early discussions that no images of alcohol or gambling be broadcast, quipping, “With a team coming here, I’m sure they’re branding it as a family destination.” The NFL wants to sanitize everything.

Much like the old NFL Quarterback Challenges, such events as the arm wrestling tournament should only favorably lengthen the league’s schedule creep. There are only so many Sundays with games, but adding skills events—and the machísmo of hand-to-hand strength competitions are very much on brand—will only further enhance the league’s ability to dominate the full calendar year. These competitions are actually in-line with the league’s goals.

Also of intrigue is that this event will be aired in two installments (early rounds May 27-28, finals on June 3) by CBS, which is not only a major network but also one of the two biggest broadcast partners of the NFL. CBS did not produce the program itself, to be clear, but is only showing the footage as part of a time-buy arrangement. And surely the league can’t get too mad at a corporation coughing over billions of dollars for their product, but as of press time, an NFL spokesman had not yet replied to Vocativ’s request for comment.

The NFL knows that it’s treading carefully with a relocation to Vegas, with commissioner Roger Goodell saying at the owners meetings last month that this is “a major risk for us.” He added, “We have to make sure that we continue to stay focused on making sure that everyone has full confidence that what you see on the field is not influenced by any outside factors. That is our No. 1 concern. That goes to what I consider the integrity of the game. We will not relent on that.”

If that really was literally his No. 1 concern, the league probably shouldn’t have permitted one of its franchises to move so close to the Vegas strip because these sorts of cross-promotional opportunities and temptations will only intensify. Then again, the NFL’s real No. 1 concern is money, and guess what: $750 million in public dough just couldn’t be turned down.