For years the NFL has worried about a federal gambling agency
As legalized sports betting spreads across the country, the NFL faces the very real risk of the eventual development of a government entity tasked with protecting the integrity of betting made by the American people. As it turns out, the NFL has had the ability to have a federal agency on its radar screen for decades.
A reader recently posted a link to the beginnings of First line. First aired by PBS on January 17, 1983, the episode explores the NFL’s connection to the game.
Jessica Savitch narrates the play, which includes an interview with Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who is accused repeatedly during the segment of looking the other way regarding the links between owners and players.
Consider this exchange between Savitch and Rozelle, which was preceded by comments pointing out that the commissioner is ultimately serving the goodwill of the owners.
“Have you ever had the impression that there is a conflict of interest? Savitch asks.
“Not while you have a long-term contract,” Rozelle replies, deflecting the question with a smirk.
Savitch continues, “Are you confident that the NFL is currently being built, you could investigate the owners in depth as it relates to the association with the players?”
“Do you have the power to tell an owner to dispose of questionable property the same way you would a player?” “
“I don’t have the power to force either, necessarily,” says Rozelle. “But in extreme circumstances, I could test this power. It would likely mean a court case.
“Do you think there might be a need at this time to get outside help with controlling the game and the games? “
“Oh, I think it would be very difficult, say, to have a federal agency, which I guess you are suggesting, to get involved in sport,” Rozelle says. “Because it wouldn’t just be the NFL, it would be basketball or hockey, baseball. And I think we just need to enforce these things ourselves. And I don’t think a government agency can really help.
Of course, that is what he would say, because a federal agency would not look away when evidence of potential problems and irregularities presents itself. the First line The investigation chronicles several issues the league has apparently not pursued or punished.
For example, Savitch interviews John Piazza, who claims to have helped fix four NFL games a year, in 1968, 1968, and 1970.
“We had the coach and we had the quarterback, who is the attacking captain,” says Piazza. “And we had the defensive captain. . . . With the quarterback, if he knew the scoring perimeters we wanted to hold, maybe he was close to scoring a touchdown, but a touchdown would have put him out of reach of where we wanted to go. So he was throwing a bad pass or throwing it out of bounds, and only shooting a basket. So he had control over where the points would fall.
Piazza, who was imprisoned at the time of the interview, talks about the importance of having the coach on board the project.
“The coach, if you have a quarterback that’s supposed to be a really good quarterback that has an extremely high percentage of completions and then all of a sudden today he throws them to the ground and throws them in the seats and throw them in a lot of different places, you don’t want the crowd shouting at the coach and the coach pulling the player out when we need him to protect our investment, ”said Piazza.
Piazza’s on-air remarks seem hard to believe, and the cheesy disguise he wears makes it harder to take his word at face value. But Savitch claims Piazza passed a polygraph test administered by PBS.
There’s a lot more to the Frontline episode, which focuses on whether the connections to gambling can lead to problematic perception.
“Our biggest problem is suspicion,” Rozelle says.
Here is a quick list of specific topics covered in the episode regarding the problem of suspicion.
1. The 1946 NFL Championship featured concerns that players were trying to bribe two Giants players. Giants players did not report the bribes. “Officially,” says Savitch, “this is the only attempt to fix a game the NFL admits.”
2. An NFL game was allegedly rigged in 1951, thanks to the involvement of a referee. “There are a lot of ways – you know, that – there’s a penalty. An offside penalty, ”explains Jimmy“ The Weasel ”Frattiano. “At that time, they didn’t have this TV rerun. You know, they could get away with a lot of things.
3. Alex Karras and Paul Hornung were suspended for gambling in the 1960s, but Savitch says Rozelle did nothing when Hornung was later seen with an illegal bookie.
4. In 1970, a Detroit grand jury explored the connections between four quarterbacks, two college coaches and bookmaker Dice Dawson. The NFL allowed the Colts to hire Frank Kush as their head coach in 1982, despite evidence from many past conversations between Kush and Dawson. Joe Namath, according to the PBS report, had been linked to the Detroit grand jury.
5. In 1978, police discovered two NFL players during a search of the home of bookmaker named Bernie Fuqua: Washington defenseman Jake Scott and Bills offensive lineman Craig Hertwig. Rozelle played down the situation by explaining that the players were at the end of their careers and had not played any other regular season games after Fuqua’s arrest.
6. The Raiders have told the NFL 15 times that quarterback Ken Stabler was seen with convicted bookie Nick Dudich. The NFL, according to the PBS report, did nothing. Stalber eventually sued NBC and the New York Times regarding their stories of Stabler’s connection to Dudich.
7. Former Colts and Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom had a long history of gambling. He invested in a Cuban casino in the late 1950s. He is said to have bet against the Colts while he was playing them. possessed. According to the PBS report, Rosenbloom has been accused of rigging games by leaving key Colts players at home. Rosenbloom allegedly used a sackman to haul his betting money into and out of Las Vegas. The man with the bag was found dead in the trunk of a car two months after Rosenbloom’s death. He drowned while swimming in the ocean. The PBS episode delves into whether anyone killed Rosenbloom, an avid swimmer. As the story unfolds in crowd circles (according to the PBS report), someone in a wetsuit grabbed Rosenbloom and held him underwater until his death. A French Canadian who tried to help Rosenbloom explains through an interpreter that he heard Rosenbloom calling for help and while moving to help Rosenbloom he saw a black object going in the direction opposite waves. Then two men appeared, retrieved Rosenbloom’s body, carried it to shore, dropped the body off, and left.
8. The legal battle between the NFL and the Raiders resulting from the move to LA has generated evidence about Al Davis’ business associations, who allegedly had ties to casino owner Alan Glick. FBI wiretaps showed Glick to be the leader of the Mafia. Glick has conducted several real estate transactions with Al Davis. (A partner in one of these deals, who believed he had been swindled and threatened to go to the FBI, ended up firing a .22 caliber silent pistol four times.) Pete Rozelle had criticized Davis and Glick’s connection. , but Davis did not sever ties with Glick, who at one point allegedly gave Davis a 25% stake in a $ 25 million mall for just $ 5,000. Davis testified in the lawsuit that 15 NFL players dealt with Glick, including John Hadl and wide receiver Lance Alworth. Davis claimed Don Shula had done business with Glick as well, before finding out about Glick’s gambling ties and severing the link. Davis also testified that several anonymous owners had formed limited partnerships with Glick.
9. Major League Baseball had rejected Edward DeBartolo, Sr. as the owner because of his gaming interests. Al Davis was awarded a $ 100,000 search commission for helping DeBartolo buy the 49ers.
10. The former owner of the Chargers, Eugene Klein, owned and was registered at a private 21-room hotel where gangster Meyer Lansky allegedly held a “Underworld Conference.”
11. Former Cowboys owner Clint Murchison had ties to several underworld figures, according to the PBS report, including the notorious New Orleans Mafia boss.
Thirty-eight years after the First line report, the NFL continues to lay the foundation for illegal (and increasingly legal) gambling in America. In recent years, it was easier for Congress to ignore the potential corruption of the game by gambling interests, as most people betting on football were technically breaking the law. As sports betting becomes legitimate, it will become more and more difficult for the NFL to look away whenever questionable associations arise.
It will also become increasingly difficult to spot questionable associations, given that much of the business between the NFL and the interests of the game will be conducted in an acceptable manner and in broad daylight. These are the things that are going on quietly and behind the scenes that will require extra attention and vigilance from the NFL. Otherwise, the federal agency that Pete Rozelle did not deem necessary in 1983 could become imperative.