The National Football League decided to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, a gambling paradise. The NFL accepts sponsorship money from DraftKings, a fantasy sports gambling website. Football is the bread and butter of illegal gambling all over America.
Yet NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may sanction a number of players, including Steelers James Harrison and Maurkice Pouncey, for participating in a charity arm-wrestling tournament in a Las Vegas casino. Their conduct evidently violated the NFL’s very malleable prohibition against associating with gambling interests. If Mr. Goodell sanctions the players without blushing from hypocrisy, he can boast of having the ultimate poker face.
The NFL should separate itself from gambling and require players to do so, too. However, as the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas and the DraftKings sponsorship show, the NFL repeatedly has sacrificed ethics for business reasons.
Now it’s in the untenable position of trying to hold players to a separate standard, and Mr. Goodell looks foolish for forcing an issue over something as innocent as charity work. He should consider this a shot across the bow.
The NFL has courted trouble by moving the Raiders to Las Vegas. The league and the Raiders will face additional ethical struggles as business people with gambling ties try to capitalize on the franchise’s presence. That could mean thorny decisions in the future about which sponsorships to accept and charity events to endorse, but there is also the issue of making sure young, wealthy players toe the line in a city that runs on some of America’s favorite vices. That is the bad hand the NFL has dealt itself.