Former NFL players face many challenges once their pro careers end. The transition to life outside of the league can be a tricky one. A new problem gambling awareness initiative is one of the programs now available to assist with that transition.
The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is partnering with EPIC Risk Management and the GVC Foundation to educate former NFL players on how to avoid those pitfalls. The objective is to curtail the problem among a high-risk population.
Details on the NFLPA’s problem gambling awareness program
EPIC Risk Management and the GVC Foundation will create the content for the new program. The subjects will include:
- Differentiating between legal and illegal gambling operations
- Mental health
- Responsible gambling
EPIC is a consultancy firm. It specializes in helping gambling companies minimize their impact on people with compulsive gambling issues. The GVC Foundation is a nonprofit arm of GVC Holdings, which dedicates itself to promoting responsible gaming.
The NFLPA will handle the distribution of the content. The GVC Foundation has a special tie to former NFL players, as Amani Toomer is one of the trustees.
“Professional athletes are highly susceptible to problematic gambling behavior. Educating these former players on how to gamble responsibly and act with integrity is a crucial step forward for all sports,” Toomer said in a media release.
Toomer will take part in live sessions across the country as well as virtual programs. He played most of his career for the New York Giants, and understands the transition to life outside the NFL.
Why former NFL players are at greater risk
A 2018 study lays out possible factors that make professional athletes at greater risk for compulsive gambling issues. The study also suggests that the athletes at greatest risk are men.
“Gambling and problem gambling, a condition associated with financial consequences and severe mental health complications (Ronzitti et al., 2018), may intuitively have an association with a typical competitive mind-set that is fostered and seen as a normal and desirable part of sports.”
In plainer language, playing professional sports conditions athletes to greatly value competition and winning. Gambling can be a natural replacement for the void that athletes experience when they finish their athletic careers.
“Also, the age span of elite-level athletes (i.e., the years they compete at national or international level) typically corresponds well to the age where problem gambling has been found to be the most pronounced (Allen & Hopkins, 2015; Abbott et al., 2014), and personality traits of competitiveness have been suggested to be a risk factor of problem gambling (Harris et al., 2015).”
When men like Toomer, who have run miles in the cleats of current and former NFL players themselves, take part in the program, that enhances its success. Awareness of the risk and how to mitigate it are the best tools for combating problem gambling.
That’s why these three organizations are working to make these athletes aware of the risks. Making the transition from playing sports to other careers is difficult enough on its own, and gambling issues only compound those challenges.