We poll 73 pros to get an inside peek at athletes’ thoughts on sports betting.
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Feb. 16 Gambling Issue. Subscribe today!
SPORTS STARS … they’re just like us! We polled 73* NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB players on everything from their betting beliefs to weirdest wagers. One MLBer says he’ll bet on Titans-Jags “just to make the game interesting.” An NFL tight end gripes, “It’s easy to [think games are fixed] when calls don’t go your way.” And there’s the NBA star who admits to gambling $30K in one day. (OK, maybe they’re not all like us.) Point is, nearly every athlete has a story. To uncover them, you might just say we went all-in.
Should sports betting be legal?
Yes: 63 percent
No: 37 percent
Would legal sports betting challenge the integrity of your sport?
Yes: 41 percent
No: 59 percent
Have you ever had a teammate you suspected of having a gambling problem?
Yes: 37 percent
No: 63 percent
Do you ever suspect that games in your sport are fixed?
Yes: 3 percent
No: 94 percent
Maybe: 3 percent
Are you aware of point spreads?
Yes: 42 percent
No: 58 percent
Have you ever heard of an athlete in your sport being approached for information about injuries?
Yes: 10 percent
No: 90 percent
Have you ever felt that being an underdog has motivated your team so much that it was an advantage?
Yes: 75 percent
No: 25 percent
I gamble money on other sports.
Yes: 34 percent
No: 66 percent
I gamble money on other things.
Yes: 58 percent
No: 42 percent
What’s the largest amount of money you have wagered in one day?
What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever bet on?
“We paid guys to eat skin shavings and toenail clippings.” — NFL player
“We had a snake race at my grandmother’s house. We put snakes in the grass and bet on who could make it across the yard first. You weren’t allowed to throw anything at them to make them move. It took awhile, but I ended up winning $50.” — NFL player
“We had a contest to see who could drink a gallon of milk the fastest.” — NHL player
“In college, my friends bet on who could eat 12 hard-boiled eggs.” — NBA player
“We’d put goldfish in a tank with lanes, blow a straw and watch them race. Each person picked a lane and bet on that fish.” — NFL player
“Rock-paper-scissors.” — multiple NHL players
“In college, we’d bet $20 on which bag would come out of baggage claim first.” — NBA player
“We got $76 in the minors to get our teammate to drink an entire case of pomegranate juice before batting practice. He drank 18 of the 24 bottles and threw up. We still gave him his money.” — MLB player
“I said, ‘Hey, do you want to bet if I can eat 10 hot dogs tonight?'” — NHL player
“If I could get a girl.” — Multiple NBA players
“$100 to take my shoes off and then run through a fountain in Toledo in April when there was still a sheet of ice.” — MLB player
*Not all athletes answered every question. Percentages are rounded.
Reporting By Patrick Cain, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Craig Custance, Matt Ehalt, Dan Friedell, Hallie Grossman, Doug McIntyre and Matthew Muench
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