The N.F.L. suspended Josh Shaw, an injured defensive back on the Arizona Cardinals, through at least the end of next season for betting on football games this year, the first such penalty in more than two decades.
The league said its investigators found no indication that Shaw used inside information or compromised any game, and his coaches and teammates were unaware that he was placing bets on N.F.L. games.
Still, the league took a hard line with Shaw, who cannot apply for reinstatement until after Feb. 15, 2021.
“The continued success of the N.F.L. depends directly on each of us doing everything necessary to safeguard the integrity of the game and the reputations of all who participate in the league,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “If you work in the N.F.L. in any capacity, you may not bet on N.F.L. football.”
Shaw can appeal the suspension but must do so within three days. The N.F.L. Players Association did not return a call for comment.
Shaw, 27, was drafted in the fourth round by the Bengals in 2015. He played three seasons in Cincinnati. Last year, he played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An unrestricted free agent, Shaw was signed by the Cardinals in the off-season and injured his shoulder in the first preseason game in August. He was put on the injured reserve list and left the team afterward.
It is not the first time Shaw has made headlines. In 2014, while he was playing for Southern California, he was suspended for fabricating a story about how he had injured his ankle. Though he claimed to have hurt himself in a rescue operation, he actually was injured after falling off a third-floor balcony.
Shaw’s gambling suspension comes as the league has begun to shed many of its longstanding prohibitions against associating with the gambling industry. In recent years, the league and its teams have accepted sponsorships from daily fantasy companies, casinos and state lotteries. In 2017, the league’s owners voted to allow the Oakland Raiders to move next season to Las Vegas, where gambling is legal.
But the league has not loosened its rules prohibiting players from gambling on football games, and discussions of gambling or the implications of game developments on gambling are largely absent from N.F.L. broadcasts, even though the United States Supreme Court in 2017 essentially gave states the green light to allow sports wagering.
While it is impossible to say definitively whether N.F.L. players secretly bet on their sport, before Shaw, the last player to be suspended for gambling was Jon Stark, a rookie quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens, who was suspended in 1996. In that case, an anonymous phone caller tipped off the league. Stark never played in an N.F.L. game.
One of the league’s most prominent gambling-related suspensions involved Art Schlichter, a heralded quarterback from Ohio State University who was drafted in the first round in 1982 by the Baltimore Colts. Schlichter gambled heavily in college, a habit that continued in the N.F.L. By the end of his first season, he had lost nearly $400,000 to four Baltimore-area bookmakers and $220,000 in other bets. Schlichter later went to the F.B.I. and cooperated with their efforts to arrest the bookmakers. Schlichter entered a psychiatric institution to treat his pathological gambling.
Schlichter, who feared the bookies would pressure him to throw games, was suspended for the entire 1983 season. He played sparingly for the Colts in the 1984 and 1985, his last season in the N.F.L. and has been in and out of trouble with the law through much of his adult life.
Schlichter’s suspension came 20 years after the N.F.L. suspended Alex Karras and Paul Hornung for betting on N.F.L. games. Karras, a defensive lineman on the Detroit Lions, and Hornung, a star running back on the Green Bay Packers, sat out the 1963 season.