Sidelined by the Stakes 

Sidelined by the Stakes 

Photo Credit: iStock

Exploring the history and the rise of gambling suspensions in the sports world

Lucas Carpignano, Sports Editor 

The excitement and energy of cheering on your favourite athletes and teams is something that cannot be matched. But beyond the roar of the crowd and the glory of victory lies a realm filled with temptation — the world of athletes and gambling. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen many different athletes across different sports receive lengthy suspensions for sports betting. The most notable was Italian soccer player Sandro Tonali, who received a ten-month suspension for betting on soccer matches, including his own. Although this is a big deal, throughout history we’ve seen even bigger scandals that involve athletes match-fixing, sports betting, or just spending way too much money at casinos. 

Over the last few years, sports gambling has been on a significant rise. Millions of people bet on sports daily, including some athletes. Most of the time, when these athletes get caught, they face suspension. I already mentioned Tonali’s suspension, but fellow Italian soccer player Nicolò Fagioli was sentenced to a seven-month suspension in October. Since 2022, the NFL has suspended eleven players for betting on league games, with suspensions ranging from six games to an indefinite amount. This past October, the NHL handed out its first gambling suspension in the modern era. Ottawa Senators’ Shane Pinto was suspended for 41 games, which is half the season, due to activities related to sports wagering. It’s hard to imagine how many athletes just haven’t been caught yet, but you can expect this lengthy list to continue to grow in the coming years. 

For the biggest match-fixing scandal in history, we need to go back to 1919. In the 1919 MLB World Series, eight Chicago White Sox players were bribed to lose the championship intentionally. The eight players were paid about $100,000 to lose the series. As a result, they all stood trial but were acquitted because of insufficient evidence. The key evidence, including some confessions, went “missing.” The MLB still went on to ban each player for life. One of the eight players involved was baseball the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson, whom many still consider one of the best players of all time. One wonders what his legacy could have been if he hadn’t taken a bribe and gone on to continue his career. 

While some athletes look to score big while playing, some look to score big while gambling. In no world should athletes be actively betting on their own games. It’s unfortunately only a matter of time until we see more suspensions. For athletes, the odds of not getting caught are like hitting 21 a dozen times in a row playing blackjack: very low.