Richard Sherman made blunt statements about the NFL’s injury report policy this past Wednesday. He made the claim that the NFL’s policy on requiring injury reports is solely geared towards the gambling industry as these injury reports placate gambler betting risks on NFL games.
To understand Sherman’s claim, it’s important to get the gist of what injuries look like in the NFL. On the Seattle Seahawks team website there is an Injury Report listed under the Team Info column. This report provides updated statuses of Seahawks players coming in and out of practice during the week. The NFL requires this list be updated by every football team after each practice during the week and every player’s game status must be updated by 1 p.m. on the day before their weekly game.
As this report becomes updated throughout the week, opposing teams and fans will be able to assess who will be on the field come game time. For example, Tennessee Titans’ Erik Walden is a linebacker who has lingering groin issues and he had a limited practice on Thursday. If his condition doesn’t improve, Pete Carroll may try taking a shot down the middle when Walden is filling in for a play.
In general, having this recurring report makes sense. Fans want to know if their favorite player is playing so they can buy tickets, and the media would like to ask their hometown players how they’re feeling in general up until the game. The NFL states that they require these injury reports to hold teams accountable and not overwork their players. However, there’s little evidence to support this claim as they have never disciplined or fined a team for either overworking a player, leaving information out of an injury report, or failing to submit the report altogether.
It is likely that the NFL profits from these injury reports. When considering money and viewership, the NFL business model depends on fans watching and interacting with the game in some capacity. There are a plethora of ways of engaging with football, like watching games at bars or attending games live. By far the biggest avenues for fans are gambling and fantasy football.
This coming Sunday, gamblers and fantasy players will be glued until the very last minute to see how Richard Sherman’s hamstring or Jimmy Graham’s ankle is holding up. Their statuses can turn the entire tide of a game; these injury reports help calm the nerves of gamblers so that they can place their bets and encourage fantasy football players into trades before game-time. If gamblers and fantasy football leagues are satisfied with the data they have, they’re likely to continue to participate and engage with the NFL, boosting the NFL’s viability.
Per Sherman, the NFL is steeped in hypocrisy. The NFL has famously declared that while gambling isn’t good for the sport and the act should be averted. While the NFL doesn’t want to look like it supports gambling, they are huge supporters of fantasy football. Their website hosts weekly fantasy football advice pieces and even game previews, suggesting which teams have advantages heading into matchups.
Companies like Caesars Entertainment have much to gain from supporting the NFL, but the NFL also gains from Caesars access to gamblers. Both parties want people watching NFL games. While Caesars receives the direct benefit from the customer via gambling and food consumption, the NFL enjoys increased viewership, marketing exposure, and website traffic.
While it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Caesars Entertainment is supporting the NFL to get these reports, Sherman isn’t involved in such conspiracies. He’s telling us fans that the contents of the report should not matter. Simply, if a player is playing, then you have to deal with the fact that the player and team made the appropriate call for his health and well-being. However, we must consider why the NFL continues to supply these reports. The lack of these reports would take data away from gamblers, fantasy football players, making it harder or riskier to bet. The intention of gambling and fantasy football is to be fun, and the riskier it is to bet, games feel devoid of purpose. In this case, gamblers may take their money and viewership elsewhere.
Sherman will do everything he can to play against the Titans this coming Sunday, and Marcus Mariota will probably refrain from tossing a single football to the Seattle cornerback. After 1p.m. on Saturday, Pete Carroll and his coaching staff will start scouring the Titans’ injury report to see who was reported limping. Also, fantasy participants will be substituting their banged up players, and of course, every gambler will be looking at Jimmy Graham’s ankle status before placing bets.