NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to amend his league’s yearlong position on daily fantasy sports (DFS) on Saturday during a fan forum in Minnesota with Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf.
When the inevitable subject arose, football’s most powerful man seemed to slightly distance his organization from DFS platforms such as DraftKings and FanDuel.
“Season-long fantasy, many people probably play here in this room, it’s for fun,” Goodell stated. “It’s social, it’s an opportunity to enjoy the game, and we encourage our kids to do it.”
“Daily fantasy’s taken a little different approach, and it’s one that we have not been as active in… We want to make sure we understand how it’s going to be done,” the commissioner said.
The NFL has long been opposed to sports gambling, however it’s done little to combat the growing DFS market.
Though the NFL itself doesn’t own a stake in any daily fantasy operator as does the NBA and MLB, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have invested in DraftKings and FanDuel.
Change of Opinion
Goodell’s remarks appear to suggest that the increased scrutiny in the media and overall public opinion of daily fantasy contests has persuaded the league to reconsider its stance.
Last month Goodell told reporters, “It’s hard to see the influence it (DFS) could have on the outcome of a game because individual players are picking different players from different teams… It’s not based on the outcome of a game, which is what our biggest concern is with sports betting.”
The DFS outrage ignited during week three of the NFL season when DraftKings employee managed to win $350,000 in rival FanDuel’s “$5 Million NFL Sunday Million” contest.
Haskell placed second, beating out 229,884 entries in what was later alleged to have been accomplished by using data on which players were most commonly chosen on his employer’s platform.
Though Haskell has been found of no wrongdoings, the win has brought DFS center stage.
Nevada has found DFS to be in violation of its online gaming laws, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued cease-and-desist letters to both networks, though DraftKings and FanDuel intend to fight the charges.
For Fun or Gain?
The NFL boss isn’t as concerned with DFS influencing the outcome of a game as he is with protecting fans.
“That’s my number one concern, and that’s why we’ve opposed legalized gambling,” Goodell said on Saturday. “But I also want to make sure our consumers, our fans, if you play something, I want to make sure there are proper consumer protections.”
Goodell appears to be wrestling with trying to determine if daily fantasy at its core is another worthy spin on season-long fantasy leagues, or if players participating in DFS are more after financial gain than the social and hobbyist elements credited to the more traditional format.
Any casual sports fan knows that the DraftKings and FanDuel commercials aren’t exactly stressing the camaraderie and communal aspects of playing DFS as much as they’re stressing the possibility of striking it rich.
With Goodell’s latest commentary, that might change as the NFL season approaches the playoffs.