Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman and running back Marshawn Lynch, who is contemplating a return to pro football, were among the 32 current and former NFL players scheduled to participate in the Pro Football Arm Wrestling Championship at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas over the weekend.
A portion of the prize money for the event, which will be broadcast on CBS over three days in May and June, will be donated to a charity of the winning players’ choice through the Giving Back Fund. The NFL could make some money, too, in the form of potential fines for players who participated without approval from the league.
“Had we been asked in advance if this was acceptable, we would have indicated that it was in direct violation of the gambling policy,” Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president for communications and public affairs, told USA Today. “No one sought pre-approval.”
Alan Brickman, the event’s organizer, told USA Today that he tried to include the NFL as a partner, but the league declined. Two years ago, the NFL forced the cancellation of a fantasy football event that was to be hosted by Tony Romo at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Organizers told the Associated Press that the cancellation was a “direct result of sudden and unexpected opposition taken by the NFL concerning player participation and their perceived association with gambling for an event in Las Vegas.”
The league’s gambling policy prohibits players from participating at promotional events at casinos.
The NFL approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas at the annual league meeting in Phoenix last month, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will not change its opposition to the legalized spread of sports gambling. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN on Sunday that the league will be looking into the event.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review's sports newsletter
Get the day's top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.