Sports Betting Quotes That Speak to the Athlete Problem Gambling Crisis

Sound bites have long been used to succinctly tell a tale about sociopolitical issues in America. Quotes from politicians, activists, and even socially-conscious celebrities have offered journalists headlines that usher a wake-up call more than 1200+ word editorials on the same topics. Lately, individuals from within collegiate and professional sports organizations have weighed in on one conundrum that is running rampant in sports – problematic gambling behavior among elite athletes.

Ever since the federal government removed the ban on sports betting in 2018 and states jumped on board to grab tax revenue, athletes have been in the news for league and organization gambling policy violations. The wave of press conferences and locker room interviews to follow these incidents have provided verbal fodder to offer insight into the current state of affairs. Below is a short collection of recent sports betting quotes from team coaches and athletes themselves that should put stakeholders on high alert that better regulation and behavioral health intervention is required.

5 Locker Room Quotes About Sports Betting that Sound an Alarm About the Problematic Relationship Athletes Have with Gambling

Toronto Raptors’ Ochai Agbaji: “It’s just part of our sports now

We lead this article on sports betting quotes with a recent one from within the Toronto Raptors NBA organization. After an investigation was launched by the league concerning the possibility that Raptors centre Jontay Porter ​was shaving points to sway an OVER/UNDER prop bet, teammate Ochai Agbaji stated the following:

“It’s crazy. It’s just part of our sports now. It’s something that’s on a weird line right now. I feel like sports betting has always been around, but it hasn’t been as popular since … ever, so it’s becoming more popular and obviously you’re gonna have stuff like this. And it’s unfortunate, but stuff like this is gonna happen, especially when stuff is so close — like sports betting and gambling and the sport itself is being crossed. You see (it) everywhere.”

The Athletic

If this sort of thing is indeed a part of sports in America now, leagues and organizations need to invest more heavily not just into investigation and legal processes, but into problem gambling research and support platforms. It’s the only holistic way forward.

Iowa State’s Kevin Dresser: “It’s really hard to be a Division I athlete right now”

After the dust settled (somewhat) on one of the biggest sports betting scandals in America of 2023, Iowa State’s Kevin Dresser (2019 National Wrestling Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year) spoke openly about how a gambling policy violation investigation unfolded for athletes involved:

“But the way that the process went, they didn’t have any rights. And being a student-athlete right now, unfortunately, you’re proven guilty 99.9 percent of the time, and then you have to prove your innocence. It’s really hard to be a Division I athlete right now.

The Athletic

Stakeholders at all levels must remember that young student athletes are involved in such cases. While the country needn’t dismiss or minimize their (student athlete) poor decision making in matters of gambling policy violation, they must also be afforded better consideration of the mental health issues that they face on a daily basis. A more supportive system must integrated at a high-school (for prevention) and collegiate level.

Tennessee Titans’ Nicholas Petit-Frere: “I did not knowingly break the rules”

On the surface, “I did not knowingly break the rules” appears to be a formulaic response that an elite athlete provides, or is prompted by ‘handlers’ to provide, when caught for violating any sort of policy. However, in a number of cases of late, it may indeed hold true and speak to a problem regarding the communication and clarity (or lack thereof) of gambling policy.

For instance, Nicholas Petit-Frere of the Tennessee Titans was suspended six games in 2023 for betting on other sports (fully legal) while within team facilities (not legal) using an online sports betting app. If he simply stepped out on to Great Circle Road over to the adjacent Chic-fil-A or Taco Bell to place the bet, there would be no problem. It’s not hard to envision a breakdown in communication as the cause for the violation:

“I want to apologize to my family, coaches, teammates and the Titans fans. I have always strived in every stage of my life to follow the rules. I did not knowingly break the rules. Even after attending a league presentation, I was unaware about the specifics around placing bets from a team facility.”


Leagues and organizations should revisit their communication strategies regarding sports betting policy in addition to the aforementioned investment in problem gambling support for players and staff.

Iowa Hawkeyes’ Tom Brands: “Because it’s everywhere”

The Iowa Hawkeyes were embroiled with ISU (referenced above) in the same NCAA sports betting scandal that led to player suspensions in 2023. Iowa wrestling coach, Tom Brands, reacted to the NCAA’s ruling while wondering why Iowa and ISU may have been singled out, despite violations allegedly occurring throughout the NCAA:

“These guys knew what they were doing was wrong. Well, why did you do it then? Because it’s everywhere. Didn’t even think about it. I’m not absolving them of responsibility and accountability. I’m not doing that. But what I am saying is, you are asking the wrong questions to the wrong guy about sports wagering. Because Iowa State University and the University of Iowa were unfairly targeted.”

Essentially Sports

Conspiracy aside, “Because it’s everywhere” is the most telling snippet from the Brands’ press conference. Between peer pressure from fellow students and sports betting marketing being allowed on, or adjacent to, campuses, are student athletes adequately prepared to always make the right decision?

New England Patriots’ Jonathan Jones: “I can risk my life so that my team wins, but I can’t risk 1K”

Last year, after four Indianapolis Colts players were suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games, the New England Patriots’ Jonathan Jones took to Twitter to express his opinion:

“I understand rules are rules, But I can risk my life so that my team wins but I can’t risk 1k on my team winning.”

Twitter / X

It’s easy to see the lack of logic in Jones’ statement, given that betting on one’s own team raises clear questions about game integrity and potential for compromise. What his quote does show, however, is how athletes may rationalize gambling policy violations. For instance, it took decades for the league to come to terms with the fact that they dropped the ball on concussion protocol. Consequently, there may be reverberating impact on current player opinions about the league. Some may feel that have been taken advantage of. These individuals may conclude that if the league is OK with them risking their health for revenue, then why not break a few rules every now and then? This sort of rationalization can lead to poor decision making, and thus behavioral health intervention should be considered as a part of player support systems.

Again, in some cases, athletes break policy with sound mind and on their own volition without regard for the rules. In such cases investigative protocols and penalties as they are certainly have their place. However, it must also be recognized that athletes have unique vulnerabilities to problem gambling when compared to the general population. As such, a number of policy violations may be steeped in behavioral health issues that require intervention from professionals who specialize in gambling disorder treatment. Reach out via the contacts provided below to initiate change.

Concerned Athletes, Teams, Organizations, and Leagues

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


Email [email protected]