Yep. That’s what we’re talking about. Tanking.
Informal– North American: verb: (in sports) to deliberately lose or fail to finish (a game).
The often swept under the rug strategy was recently brought to light again. Due to allegations made by former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores, a lawsuit has been brought against the NFL.
While the lawsuit mainly focused on obvious racial inequalities in the NFL. However, Flores also stated that Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross, attempted to bribe Flores into “tanking” games.
The lawsuit claims that Ross offered Flores an additional $100,000 per loss. Flores said he denied the offer, and that’s what started the rift between the two which eventually led to Flores’ termination.
It’s more common than it should be
Former Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson took to Twitter the days following these allegations and claimed he had once found himself in a similar position.
He claimed that owner Jimmy Haslam “was happy while we kept losing,” and was offering “a good number” to lose games.
The executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, Kimberly Diemert, backs this claim, tweeting “We have records that will help your case. DM me. @NFL and @nflcommish knew about this and covered it up.”
The intentional tanking of games would certainly tarnish the league’s already questionable integrity. However, there’s a key part about the Stephen Ross/Brian Flores situation that seems to be often forgotten. In 2019, Ross invested over $17 million into sports betting news site Action Network. This was the same year he was alleged to attempt bribing Flores.
This investment and tanking allegations shed light on a possibly very dangerous relationship between tanking teams and sports betting.
What happens to teams that tank?
Nothing. Well, at least in the NFL nothing happens.
Tanking isn’t just a problem in the NFL, but they’re the only major sports league seeming to ignore it completely. The MLB is currently in a lockout right now, with one of the major points of contention being anti-tanking regulations.
The NBA implemented the draft lottery so that even the worst team in the league does not have the #1 overall draft pick–it’s left to chance.
However, the NFL has done nothing to combat tanking, and the effects may be starting to show. This becomes especially dangerous when the owners that are accused of pushing tanking have ties to the sports betting world.
While Action Network does not take wagers, they are one step removed–they give picks, analysis, and offer promo codes to guests. But where there is smoke there is oftentimes fire, so this is not a good look for the NFL. It also doesn’t reflect well on the Miami Dolphins.
What can be done about tanking in the NFL?
Tanking should be addressed now more than ever before, especially with the growth of legalized sports betting. Having bettors placing wagers on a team that has already decided to throw the game could lead to a very sticky ethical, or even legal, situation.
If the NFL wants to tackle tanking head-on, they have a few options. They can implement a similar draft lottery system, like the NBA, or they can hire an outside organization to investigate teams that are alleged of tanking.
Maybe even require written explanations from coaches and/or coordinators who make moves that may seem suspicious.
But all this, like most things with the NFL, will eventually get swept under the rug and left to deal with later. All I know is, if the NFL doesn’t do something about this now, some big scandal will break out–it’s only a matter of time.