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Archive for May 16, 2018

May 16, 2018 — How the 1919 Black Sox Scandal could rear its ugly head again

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the way for legalized sports betting all over the United States — in states large and small, in its six non-voting territories, in sovereign areas such as Native American reservations.

And it should scare you to death if you are a sports fan.

It’s not a coincidence that most of the largest sports properties and organizations in the United States got there by betting. Betting on the Super Bowl, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship, boxing and MMA bouts, and other major sports reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

And even a tiny fraction of this money is a temptation for either amateur athletes or professionals in leagues where salaries are held artificially low.

It’s a group of eight players from the Chicago White Sox baseball team of 1919 that helped a man named Arnold Rothstein guarantee a result for the Cincinnati Reds in that World Series.

Since then, one justification that has been made for the payment of ever-escalating salaries to major professional athletes in the U.S. is that a well-paid player is less likely to fall prey to betting syndicates.

In the last couple of days, a number of leagues stateside have had to respond. The National Women’s Soccer League, which has a great gulf between its highly-paid national-team players and its lowest-paid players, put out a statement which said this:

We’re aware of the Supreme Court’s ruling. It is premature to speculate on what it may mean for the NWSL, but the league will ensure the integrity of our games remains intact.

Problem: This is a league whose average salary is short of $30,000. It also does not have a commissioner, a collective bargaining agreement, and it also does not have top-level professional referees.

And yet, there are numerous betting lines on NWSL matches overseas.

This is trouble. And I think it will get infinitely worse.