The NFL is looking into an arm wrestling contest at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas that reportedly featured more than 30 current and former players, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison and retired running back Marshawn Lynch.
Participating players could be in violation of the league’s gambling policy and may face fines. League personnel are prohibited from making promotional appearances at casinos or other gambling-related establishments.
“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, NFL vice president of communications, told USA Today Sports, which first reported the league’s concern over the event. “No one sought pre-approval.”
The contest, which took place April 5-9, is scheduled to be broadcast on CBS on May 27-28, with the championship round shown on June 3.
A portion of the prize purses for both individual and team competitions will be donated to charities of the player’s choice, according to the event’s website. ESPN has reached out to event organizers for comment.
In addition to Harrison and Lynch, Miami Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman and Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King were reportedly among the players who participated in the contest.
The arm wrestling contest is the latest test of the NFL’s gambling policy, which has been in the spotlight recently with the Raiders’ approved relocation to Las Vegas. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the Raiders’ relocation would not affect the league’s gambling policies.
The league has been consistent in regard to events held at Las Vegas casinos. In 2015, a fantasy football convention featuring NFL players, including now-retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, was scheduled to be held at a Las Vegas convention center connected to the Venetian. In that case, the NFL warned participants that they could be in violation of the league’s gambling policy and face potential fines. After the event was eventually canceled, organizers sued the NFL, but the case was later dismissed.
In the great words of Bob Ross, “there is no such thing as mistakes, just happy accidents”, and this little “mis-step” involving some of the more entertaining names in the NFL is like falling ass-backwards into a diamond mine. You mean to tell me that this arm wrestling tournament featured some of the biggest, most intimidating trash talkers of the NFL, maybe going up against each other, or even professional arm wrestlers for money? Make this shit a national event STAT. Sell tickets. Pay-per-view, live streams, whatever. I would pay good money for a main event featuring Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack going elbow to elbow 10 years from now. What better way for a newly retired or past their prime athlete to stay in the lime light than shattering a couple ulnae in Sin City? Win a couple of matches, create yourself an alter-ego and you have a gulf-stream right into the WWE. It’s a perfect transition.
Instead, we get just another example of the NFL getting involved with what seems like a pretty harmless way to have some fun in the off season. Tony Romo couldn’t have his fantasy draft sleep-over party, and now James Harrison can’t mutilate the upper extremity of jibroni wearing an affliction t-shirt. The No Fun League strikes again.
Compared to every other option you have as a rich pro athlete in Las Vegas, it’s just amazing that Goodell is going to breathe down their necks for what equivocates to a school yard activity that raises money for charity. Marshawn Lynch is inches from coming back to the NFL with the Raiders, and the league chooses to jam him up on an arm wrestling competition? That’s exactly how you shoe away one of the most electric running backs of the last decade from making a return for the last remaining years of the black hole.