NBC's Tony Dungy Criticizes NFL's Lucrative Embrace Of Sports Betting

    • ‘I don’t think we should encourage people who are watching the NFL to gamble,’ says Dungy.
    • The NFL poised to reap $270 million this season from seven sports book partnerships.

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There’s one respected NFL voice opposed to the league’s full-on embrace of sports betting: Tony Dungy of NBC Sports.

The Super Bowl-winning coach turned analyst for “Football Night in America” questioned the league’s decision to forge partnerships with seven sports betting operators during a media call Tuesday.

The NFL expects to generate $270 million from its new gambling partnerships this season, according to the Washington Post. That new revenue should help the league recover from the pandemic-plagued 2020 season, when annual revenue fell to $12 billion from $16 billion. 

For decades, the NFL was the fiercest opponent of sports betting, noted Dungy. So what happened?

“I don’t know why the NFL changed its stance. My objection is just personal. I don’t think we should encourage people who are watching the NFL to gamble. Especially young people,” Dungy said. 

“I’ve got boys. I want them to enjoy the game for what it is … It’s a great game. And I know people gamble. I know it’s legal. I just don’t want to see the NFL promoting it. That’s just my personal opinion. I know a lot of people don’t agree with that.” 

NBC’s Mike Tirico partially agreed with Dungy. But he noted gambling on pro football’s been going on for decades. 

“The fact that it’s now legalized may legitimize the process a little bit,” said Tirico. “But I do think it can have an influence on younger fans. We need to be wise to that in general.”

This week, the NFL announced deals making FOX Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet, and WynnBET “approved sportsbook operators” for the 2021 season. That means those companies can advertise during NFL games and other programming. But they can’t use the NFL shield trademark. 

In April, the league signed its first-ever sportsbook partnerships with DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars Entertainment. The three sportsbooks have exclusive rights to integrate NFL trademarks with the sports betting category.

Dungy previously led the Indianapolis Colts to victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, making him the first Black head coach to win a Super Bowl. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 following a 13-year coaching career that included stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Colts. 

Described by media outlets as the “conscience of the NFL” and “football’s high priest,” the 65-year Dungy has served as an analyst on “Football Night in America” since 2009. It’s been the most-watched NFL pregame show since its inception. NBC’s national “Sunday Night Football” game has reigned as the most-watched primetime show for a record 10 years in a row.

NBC is set to televise both the opening kickoff game between the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Sep. 9 and the season-ending Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13. The Peacock network is charging a record rate of $6 million per 30-second spot during the Big Game.