As an Indianapolis Colts player awaits the completion of an NFL investigation into alleged sports betting violations, it may bring to mind painful memories of Art Schlichter’s brief stint with the franchise.
In the week Sports Handle broke the news that a Colts player wagered on sports from the team’s practice facility, NFL personnel continue to educate employees across the league on the intricacies of the league’s gambling policy. ESPN reported Monday that the player in question is defensive back Isaiah Rodgers Sr., something Rodgers appeared to confirm by an Instagram post hours later.
If the allegations are proven against Rodgers, he will likely become the first Colts player to be suspended by the league for betting on sports since Schlichter 40 years ago. Schlichter, the No. 4 pick in the 1982 NFL Draft, is often regarded as the poster child for compulsive gambling among athletes. Plagued by a crippling gambling addiction, Schlichter burned through a $350,000 rookie signing bonus in the months leading to a 13-month suspension. By 1985, had Schlichter played his last snap in the NFL.
Although Rodgers reportedly made hundreds of wagers, including bets on his own team, his transgressions appear to be far less egregious. ESPN reported that he placed approximately 100 wagers over an undisclosed period, with most bets ranging from $25 to $50. One bet, according to ESPN, hovered in the low four figures. The wagers were made on an account opened by an acquaintance, a source with firsthand knowledge of the matter told Sports Handle.
By coincidence, NFL representatives have been in the Colts’ facility throughout the week delivering annual presentations on league rules, head coach Shane Steichen said Wednesday. The presentation on gambling was scheduled prior to Monday’s report, he noted.
Steichen, who joined the franchise in February, offered little insight on allegations that could sideline Rodgers for as much as a year or more. When asked if he has spoken with Rodgers since the allegations became public, Steichen refused to elaborate on any possible conversation.
“It’s an ongoing investigation with the NFL,” Steichen told reporters Wednesday. “It’s an ongoing process educating our players, educating our coaches — beyond that, I will probably have no further comment going forward.”
Wednesday’s session marked Steichen’s first appearance in front of the media since the report surfaced Monday. According to a source who spoke to Sports Handle on condition of anonymity, the player made a considerable number of wagers from the Colts’ facility, some of which may have been on his team to win. Sports Handle has not been able to independently confirm whether the player bet on his own team.
Rodgers, a 2020 sixth-round pick from the University of Massachusetts, did not appear on the field at Wednesday’s voluntary workout. Shortly after the reports surfaced on Monday, Rodgers issued a statement on his Instagram account. While Rodgers did not admit to placing bets on the Colts or any other NFL games, he apologized to his teammates for the distraction.
“I know I have made mistakes and I am willing to do whatever it takes to repair the situation,” he wrote.
(Isaiah Rodgers on Instagram)
A Colts spokesman told Sports Handle that the team is aware of the investigation, but will not comment further. When asked on Wednesday if Rodgers had been suspended from team activities pending the completion of the investigation, the Colts declined comment.
Under NFL rules, players are prohibited from placing legal sports wagers while conducting league business. The rules prohibit players from betting while inside a team facility, as well as on a team bus or plane.
Since the Supreme Court’s PASPA decision in 2018, seven NFL players have been suspended for violating the league’s gambling policy. At least five — former Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw, Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley, former Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus, former Lions safety C.J. Moore, and Commanders defensive lineman Shaka Toney — have been suspended for betting on NFL games.
The Indianapolis allegations appear to be isolated to the one player, a source told Sports Handle.
A cautionary tale
Schlichter, a first-team All-American at Ohio State, reportedly owed illegal bookies a six-figure gambling debt from his wagering losses in college. By 1983, he went to the FBI with extensive information on an illegal gambling ring, leading to the arrest of four of its members.
The quarterback apparently sought help from federal authorities in fearing that he would be forced by the bookies to fix a series of games to settle his debt. Upon reinstatement, Schlichter appeared in nine games for the Colts in 1984, amassing a record of 1-8.
Schlichter claimed at the time that he never wagered on Colts games, but later admitted to placing sizable bets on 10 NFL games in his rookie season. After Schlichter completed only 44.3% of his attempts in 1984, the Colts released him five games into the following season amid rumors of a gambling relapse. Colts owner Jim Irsay, the son of then-owner Robert Irsay, served as the team’s general manger at the time.
In 1983: Baltimore Colts QB Art Schlichter was suspended for 1 year after his rookie szn as the 4th overall pick.
He was reinstated in 1984 & started 6 games in 2 yrs for the Colts before being cut.
In 1987 he plead guilty to an illegal gambling charge. He was never reinstated. pic.twitter.com/nchJkom8q1
— Jay Robins 🧾mark (@RobinsLucas) June 5, 2023
Schlichter resurfaced in the Arena Football League, winning the 1990 league MVP after leading the Detroit Drive to the ArenaBowl IV title. But two years later, he retired from football amid reports that he bet on the AFL as an active player.
From there, Schlichter’s story took a turn for the worse. In 1995, a Nevada federal judge sentenced him to two years in prison in connection with fraud charges that involved him passing $175,000 in bad checks at several Las Vegas casinos.
Released on probation in 1999, Schlichter orchestrated an Ohio State football ticketing scheme, where he ultimately swindled $500,000 from unsuspecting victims. Schlichter spent the early 2000s back in prison, including a stint in solitary confinement for betting while behind bars.
In a 2007 interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Schlichter admitted to stealing approximately $1.5 million from victims to fund his gambling habit. Five years later, Schlichter received an additional 10-year prison sentence for several convictions related to another failed ticketing scheme.
Over the last three days, Schlichter’s case has garnered renewed attention on social media and NFL message boards.
Crazy this is happening nearly four decades after Art Schlichter got caught gambling. https://t.co/ybjOgzV9jv
— Olafimihan Oshin (@olafimihanoshin) June 5, 2023
Different sports, different rules
Before PASPA was repealed, professional fighters were allowed to wager on themselves in Nevada. Floyd Mayweather famously tried to place $400,000 (-200) on his 2017 bout with Connor McGregor ending in under 9.5 rounds. The M Resort in Henderson balked at the proposition, prompting Mayweather to leave without making any wagers.
In 2019, another Vegas sportsbook told Sports Handle that it had a standing policy allowing Mayweather to wager on himself to win — with a caveat. Under the arrangement, the boxer could not place props where he had the ability to manipulate the outcome of the bet. The anecdote presents a contrast between oversight in a sport with no central governing body and the strict wagering environment of the NFL.
When reached by Sports Handle on Monday, an NFL spokesman declined to comment on the investigation.
The NFL, for its part, continues to broaden efforts to educate players on the potential pitfalls of gambling. On Thursday, Mike Klis of 9 News in Colorado reported that the NFL had enlisted Tom Brady to serve as the spokesman for an educational video on the NFL’s sports betting policy. In the video, which will be shown at every team facility across the league, Brady reportedly explains how players betting on games hurts the integrity of the league.
Neither the Colts nor the NFL have provided a timetable for the completion of the investigation. The Colts open their preseason on Aug. 12 at Buffalo.