Ex-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue Worries Legal Gambling Could Lead to Point Shaving

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJune 16, 2021

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 01: Pro Football Hall of Fame member Paul Tagliabue during the Hall of Fame Press conference during the NFL Honors on February 1, 2020 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, FL. (Photo by Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is concerned the league's association with legalized gambling could adversely impact the integrity of the game moving forward.

In an interview with Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Tagliabue expressed uneasiness regarding the possibility of point shaving in NFL games:

"I worry about that. It's interesting to me. The thing that always made me too hesitant to draw too many conclusions was that there were a lot of scandals [over the years], but they were always in basketball, where the idea is that if you get to one or two players, you can affect the outcome.

"Football, if you get the quarterback in football, presumably you can affect the outcome of the game. But if it's not the quarterback and you get one or two guys, it may not affect the outcome of the game, which is why people explain there's [been] point-shaving in basketball but not football."

After years of the NFL being staunchly against any association with gambling, the league made Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel its "official betting partners" in April.

The 80-year-old Tagliabue was NFL commissioner for 17 years from 1989-2006 until Roger Goodell took over.

Tagliabue explained to Bell that he did everything possible during his tenure to prevent any links between the NFL and gambling: "I was always opposed to it, the gambling stuff, and I didn't want to have a team in Las Vegas."

Under Goodell, the NFL has gone in a completely different direction. In addition to having an official working relationship with gambling sites, the league approved the move of the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas, and they began play in Vegas last season.

Tagliabue's wariness with point shaving partly relates to his own experience with it, as he said he played in a college basketball game for the Georgetown Hoyas that featured point shaving.

Tagliabue said Georgetown's 92-69 victory over NYU on March 2, 1961, saw multiple NYU players engage in point shaving.

Now, with half of the country's 50 states having legalized some form of sports betting and more likely to come, the NFL's association with gambling isn't going away any time soon.

Tagliabue acknowledged that he's been told point shaving is easier to spot now because of the technology available before adding: "I still worry about some young guy ... and someone says to him, 'Take the money.'"

Tagliabue helped the NFL reach new heights in popularity and revenue while staying true to his opposition to gambling, and he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class.