Can NFL Players Play Fantasy Football?

The Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association reckons that almost 60 million Americans and Canadians participate in fantasy football. The figure was during the 2019 “season” and is expected to rise as we move toward 2030. Everybody is seemingly getting into the action, but how about the actual players? Can NFL players play fantasy football?

NFL players can play fantasy football as long as the prize at the end of the season-long fantasy football game doesn’t exceed $250. NFL personnel aren’t allowed to participate in daily or short-duration fantasy football games or in a jurisdiction where participation is prohibited by applicable law.

Fantasy football is a billion-dollar industry and draws millions of players from across the globe, connecting the fans to the players like never before. NFL players are limited in how they can play fantasy football, but the limitations don’t stop them from playing. It’s estimated that 75% of football players play fantasy football.

Can NFL Players Play Fantasy Football?

NFL players and NFL personnel can play fantasy football. However, the NFL, being strongly committed to the integrity of the NFL as a whole (clubs, players, coaches, and all NFL personnel), has put measures in place to protect the organization against any possible threats from illegal and legal gambling.

The 2018 NFL Gambling Policy states the following regarding Fantasy Football and FNL Personnel:

  • i) “NFL Personnel may not accept prizes with a value in excess of Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250) in any season-long fantasy football game.”
  • ii) “NFL Personnel may not participate in any “daily” or other similar short duration fantasy football game that offers any prize (regardless of value.).”
  • iii) “NFL Personnel may not participate in any fantasy football game (including daily, season-long, or any other game format) in a jurisdiction where such participation is prohibited by applicable law or regulation.”

These prohibitions are designed to prevent any appearance of impropriety that may result from fantasy football game participation “by individuals perceived to have an unfair advantage due to their preferential access to information.”

Furthermore, as reported by Bleacher Report, the NFL stance on fantasy football games and League or Club-sponsored skills competitions, like “Club Olympics” or racquetball tournaments for prizes, are typically not considered a form of gambling as long as there’s no wager on the outcome.

Can NFL Players Bet On Football?

When you think about it, NFL players being allowed to bet on football games would destroy the integrity of the game and will fuel the debate of rigging in the NFL like an out-of-control forest fire.

The 2018 NFL Gambling Policy makes it very clear that NFL players can’t bet on football:

  • “All NFL Personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or indirectly through a third party, or any NFL game, practice, or other events. This includes betting on game outcome, statistics, score, the performance of any individual participant, or any other kind of “proposition bet” on which wagering is offered.”

Players Who Got Caught Placing Bets On Football

Over the years, a total of 10 players have been caught betting on football. They were suspended in some form or received a fine for their efforts. The reason why these players would wager their future on a football bet still baffles the fan base.

  • Alex Karras (Defensive Tackle Lions): Alex Karras was suspended in the 1963 season when he admitted to placing close to a dozen $50-$100 bets. The Hall of Famer returned in 1964, played in 7 more seasons, and became an actor after retiring.
  • Paul Hornung (1961 NFL MVP): Paul Hornung was also suspended in the 1963 season for placing $500 bets. He played 3 more seasons for the Packers before retiring due to a neck injury. In 2012 he told  that he knew of 10 other players who were also placing bets on football then.
  • Art Schlichter (Baltimore Colts): Art Schlichter had a reputation as a gambler, and in 1983 after losing a massive $389,000 in 3 months, he was suspended by then NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. Schlichter was nearly reinstated to the NFL in 1987, but an arrest for running an illegal multimillion-dollar sports betting operation put that dream to bed. Schlichter has subsequently spent most of his life struggling with his gambling addiction, often ending up in jail.
  • Josh Shaw (Cardinals defensive back): Josh Shaw was suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for placing bets on numerous sporting events during a trip to Las Vegas. Shaw misunderstood the 2018 Supreme Court ruling, which reversed a federal ban on betting on sports.
  • Calvin Ridley (Falcons receiver): Calvin Ridley was suspended indefinitely for the 2022 season after he was caught betting on football games. Ridley took some time away from the Falcons to deal with some mental issues, and during the time away, he placed bets, some involving the Falcons. He bet $1,500 in total.

The first players to be fined for placing bets on football games were 5 members of the Lions. Joe Schmidt, Gary Lowe, Sam Williams, Wayne Walker, and John Gordy were given a $2,000 fine each for placing a bet on the Packers in the 1962 championship game featuring the New York Giants. The Packers won 16-7.

Can NFL Players Bet On Other Sports?

You would be wrong if you were under the impression that NFL players were not allowed to place bets on other sporting events (excluding football matches). You aren’t the only one believing this, as even Mike Florio read the NFL Gambling Policy wrong before publishing a revised article on to set the record straight.

The 2018 NFL Gambling Policy states the following regarding betting on other sports:

  • “All NFL Personnel other than Players are further prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating bets on any other professional (e.g., NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, USTA, MLS), college (e.g., NCAA basketball), international (e.g., World Baseball Classic, World Cup), or Olympic sports competition, tournament or event.”

The policy states that all NFL Personnel “other than Players” are not allowed to bet on other sports, whereas NFL Players are free to place sporting bets. According to Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, casual betting by players on other sports has always been a right protected by the NFLPA.

McCarthy states that counseling is provided to players and personnel to help them avoid any associations with known gamblers or gambling syndicates. NFL personnel and players are also instructed to notify the NFL Security Department if gambling debt exceeding $10,000 is owed to any person or gambling-related enterprise.

NFL players and personnel are also obliged to report any violation of the gambling policy, including instances of solicitations or improper approaches by others.


NFL players can play fantasy football like the rest of us. The players can also bet on other sporting events, as long as it’s not football. Players earn millions of dollars annually, and there’s no need to take risks regarding how they play fantasy football. But it seems now and again; that a player throws logic out of the window to further inflict damage to the NFL’s reputation.


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