It seems unbelievable, but Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams says he did not know about the NFL gambling policy that led to his six-game suspension.
With the ongoing growth of sports gambling, leagues have to get in front of any potential issues. It seems obvious that players (and any other team personnel) should obstain from gambling if they can, and certainly not bet on their own games or games in their own league.
Still, four Detroit Lions players were suspended back in April for violating the NFL's gambling policy. The headliner, and the only one left on the roster now, was wide receiver Jameson Williams. A parallel ESPN report added the Lions had fired multiple staffers for violating the gambling policy.
So as much as the NFL's gambling policy should have a certain "well duh" element to it, strictly spelled out or not, it immediately appeared the Lions failed to educate people on it. Williams only got off with a six-game suspension because he bet on non-NFL games, albeit somewhere on team property as an app presumably tracked his location. It's unclear when or where it happened, or how many times it may have happened. But those latter details weren't necessarily going to be disclosed.
Jameson Williams pleads ignorance on his gambling policy violation
Upon the news of his suspension, the expected statement with "regret" and "no intent" came on Williams' behalf via his agent. He had not released anything in his own words, or spoken publicly. Thursday at OTAs was his first clear opportunity to address the suspension.
To his credit, according to reporters on site at Allen Park, Williams did not shy away and answered every question he was asked about his situation. That said, his explanation for the suspension stretched credulity.
Via ESPN's Eric Woodyard, here's what Williams had to say about his suspension.
"It hit me out the blue,” Williams said Thursday“It hit a couple of other players around the league, on my team, out of the blue. I wasn’t aware of this situation. After it happened, I took it on the chin. I was ready to move forward as things moved on and I got the consequences. That’s been my plan, moving forward from things and just looking for better days.”"
Asked further if he gambles frequently, Williams said, via Kyle Meinke of MLive, "I'm not a gambler, I'm a football player." He also couldn't remember, or wouldn't reveal, any specifics in terms of when, where or what non-NFL event he bet on, only saying "I'm not sure. It was a while ago." And he insists he did not know about the gambling policy.
The education aspect on the gambling policy could go all the way up to the NFL league office level. That doesn't totally absolve the Lions from accountability if Williams indeed didn't know the rules, as the core of the gambling rules should be fairly common sense.
Let me take a run at what the basics are, or should be, from team to player(s).
1. Don't gamble at all on sporting events. (Ok, that's a little heavy-handed, but start there).
2, If you do bet, don't bet on NFL games--ours or any other team's.
3. A tentacle to No. 2. If you just have to bet (on non-NFL games/events of course), just to be safe, do it nowhere that can be considered team property--anywhere at the facility, including the parking lot, the team plane, the team hotel, etc.
4. Any questions? Refer to No. 1-3.
Yes, Williams is a 22-year old "kid". Who among us didn't do some dumb stuff when they were 22? But to plead ignorance to (seemingly) even knowing the NFL had any kind of policy that forbids gambling, borders on unbelievable. Actually it doesn't border on unbelieveable. It is unbelievable. We should not presume Williams is actually that naive', or that plain stupid.