Amani Toomer’s NFL career ended before the legal sports betting boom, some 13 years before online sports betting in New York launched.
But as a former professional athlete, Toomer certainly sympathizes with current players like Kyrie Irving and Landry Shamet telling losing bettors essentially, “I don’t care about your parlays.” “Come do my f—king job, then,” was how Irving recently put it during a video-game live stream.
Toomer, a former New York Giants wide receiver, heard similar sentiments from fans when it came to their fantasy teams after both great games and subpar performances.
“The game is hard enough as it is,” Toomer told PlayNY after appearing on an integrity panel at the Gaming Law, Compliance and Integrity Bootcamp at Seton Hall Law School in Newark. “The only thing athletes need to focus on is the game. Anything else is a distraction, and personally I just wasn’t able to do it.
“When I was an athlete, I’d get upset with people, because toward the end of my career, fantasy sports was just starting to get big. People would come up to me mad because I didn’t get them enough fantasy points, and I’d be like, ‘Yo, I’m not doing it on-purpose, it’s the game.’ Or they’d be super happy with me, saying, ‘Thank you. You’re on my fantasy team.’ And I’m like, ‘Ok …’ It’s gambling. You’re playing with my livelihood. I always took offense to it.”
Why sports betting integrity matters to Toomer
Toomer has been in the gambling space since 2019, when he joined Entain Foundation US as one of its trustees.
“Integrity is the backbone of sports,” Toomer said. “And if people start thinking it’s (scripted like) WWE, it’s a problem.”
The Super Bowl XLII winner is not a bettor himself. But he continues to spread awareness of the potential perils of gambling to both athletes and children.
“Now that I’m a little bit removed, you take a step back and understand that people just want to be closer to the game and want to have their own stake in it,” Toomer said. “You just have to accept it. It’s a new world. That’s the way it is. It’s not comfortable. And most athletes would be upset about it, I think.”
Toomer surprised at Ridley gambling scandal
Toomer was disappointed to see Atlanta Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley put himself in position to be suspended for one year by the NFL for betting on games during the 2021 season.
“That was massively surprising, because I met Calvin at the combine, and he was a great kid,” Toomer said. “He was making strides as a receiver in the NFL, but nobody is going to remember that. They’re only going to know Calvin the gambler.
“It cost him a little over $11 million. That’s a lot of money that you’re losing. Not to mention the reputation loss. … You do it to yourself, but I just wish he would’ve talked to somebody. I can’t understand why any athlete would want to gamble, being on the other side and knowing how random it is.
“I remember going into games thinking I was going to catch 15 balls, and then they’d change the defense and we’d change our offense and I’d catch three.”
Toomer said when he got to Michigan as a college player, the team received a strong lecture that scared him into avoiding any type of nefarious activity. But even if players today receive similar advice, it could easily go in one ear and out the other.
“I think the funny thing about it is, when you’re young you get so much advice that you kind of become numb to it,” Toomer said. “But that’s why there’s a bunch of former players that try to get this across to them.
“You have to find a way to get to them, because it’s easily avoidable. That’s why education is so important in this space — not just for athletes but for everybody. … I just want to bring awareness and do my part.”