Hypocrisy was on full display on Friday as the National Football League forced the cancellation of a fantasy sports convention and the National Hockey League’s boss revealed a hugely selective blind spot.
On Friday, word spread that the NFL had pulled the rug out from underneath a fantasy football convention that was scheduled to take place in July at a casino in Las Vegas. The National Fantasy Football Convention (NFFC), a three-day affair fronted by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo along with a number of other NFL players in attendance, was to be held at the Sands Expo, a convention space offshoot of Las Vegas Sands’ Venetian Resort Hotel Casino.
The NFCC released a statement saying they were “postponing” their inaugural event until July 2016 due to “sudden and unexpected opposition taken by the NFL concerning player participation and their perceived association with gambling for an event in Las Vegas.” The NFCC says its 2016 event will now take place in Los Angeles.
An NFL spokesman told Fox Sports that “players and NFL personnel may not participate in the promotional activities or other appearances or in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos.” For the record, Sands Expo contains no gambling facilities.
Romo told his Twitter followers that he was “sad for the fans and players” by the NFL’s stance. An unidentified “veteran league insider” told NBCSports’ Mike Florio that the NFL was more motivated by the fact that it hadn’t thought up the idea of hosting a fantasy football convention of their own.
Unlike many of its rival leagues, the NFL has yet to establish a league-wide tie-up with a daily fantasy sports (DFS) operator. While the NFL is the most vehemently anti-betting voice among the major North American pro sports bodies, many observers have concluded that the NFL’s lack of an exclusive DFS partner is because it’s planning to eventually launch its own product and thereby cut out the middleman.
CAN BETTMAN HEAR WHAT HE’S SAYING?
Unlike the NFL, the NHL has fully embraced fantasy sports, inking an exclusive deal with DFS operator DraftKings in November. Yet the NHL remains officially opposed to any expansion of legal sports betting, be it above or below the 49th parallel.
On Friday, NHL commish Gary Bettman gave an interview to Rogers Sportsnet, in which he claimed the league didn’t want its fans “rooting for anything other than the team that they love and the players that they think the world of to win. We don’t want there to be another agenda.”
Based on that comment, Bettman is either disingenuous or clueless, or both. Involvement in DFS means NHL fans are inevitably rooting for individual players to score against the very teams to whom these fans have supposedly sworn their allegiance. Like his NFL counterpart, Bettman apparently has yet to figure out a way for his league to directly profit from single-game sports betting, and until he does, will continue to pretend the DFS isn’t gambling.