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Are NFL Players Allowed to Play Fantasy Football?

NFL players may engage in season-long fantasy football contests; however, they may not accept prizes in excess of $250.

Furthermore, they may not participate in any “daily” or similar short-duration fantasy football game that offers any prize (regardless of value). [1]

I’m Tracy, a former collegiate edge rusher and a student of the game for more than twenty years.

In addition, I’ve been playing fantasy football for years and placed first in the $1.2 million Super Bowl Showdown Contest on DraftKings.

In this post, I’ll address the NFL’s rationales for these limitations, why these limitations are fair, and how the players benefit from fantasy football.

Let’s get smarter!

Key Takeaways

  • NFL players may play season-long fantasy football contests but may not accept prizes valued at more than $250.
  • This restriction is to avoid any appearance of impropriety from participation in fantasy football games by individuals perceived to have an unfair advantage due to their preferential access to information.
  • Fantasy football increases revenue for the NFL, resulting in larger salaries for the players.

Why Does the NFL Policy on Fantasy Football Exist?

The NFL’s Policy on Gambling provides an explanation for these restrictions on fantasy football:

These prohibitions are intended to avoid any appearance of impropriety which may result from participation in fantasy football games by individuals perceived to have an unfair advantage due to their preferential access to information.” [2]

These limitations may seem silly to you.

However, to a seasoned fantasy football player, they are appropriate and necessary. 

Does the NFL Policy on Fantasy Football Make Sense?

As a long-time fantasy football player, I say yes.

Imagine you are an NFL player competing against casual football fans in a fantasy league for significant prizes.

Next, imagine you know your coach plans to heavily involve your rarely used fourth wideout in the passing game this week.

Naturally, you would ensure that this player is in all of your lineups, and he would likely enjoy a brilliant game.

Meanwhile, that fourth wideout would be virtually unowned for the rest of the fantasy players in your league who are not privy to such inside information.

You can see that NFL players are provided access to information that the general public is not.

And that this inside information confers a significant and unfair advantage upon the NFL player in any fantasy competition (I was referring to a daily fantasy contest above, but you can see the unfair advantage that would be presented in a season-long league as well).

Coaches, team employees, stadium workers, and athletic trainers may also be privy to inside information.

Isn’t that unfair?

Yes, it is.

As you will see in the next section, the NFL is one step ahead of you.

Is NFL Personnel Subject to Same Restrictions?

Fantastic Question!

I’m glad you asked.

The NFL’s fantasy football policy is not limited to only players.

It applies to all NFL personnel.

The NFL’s Policy on Gambling states, “This Policy applies to all full- and part-time Club and League personnel including League office employees, players, owners, coaches, athletic trainers, game officials, security personnel, consultants, Club employees, game-day stadium personnel and other staff.” [2]

How Prevalent is Fantasy Football Among NFL Players?

Each year, more and more players draft a fantasy football team. 

According to NFL Fantasy Football reporter Adam Caplan, about a quarter of the players he interviewed have admitted to playing fantasy football. 

However, that may be a gross underestimation, as fantasy football is taboo for players due to its association with gambling. [3]

That’s not to say that most football players engage in some form of fantasy football.

Fantasy football is a very time-consuming endeavor between the draft, waiver wire, and setting optimal rosters.

Many players say that if they are healthy and enduring the rigors of football season, they simply don’t have time to devote to fantasy football. [4]

Does the NFL Benefit From Fantasy Football?

Is grass green?

NFL players are prohibited from wagering significant amounts of money in fantasy football.

But don’t think for one second that the NFL and its players do not reap substantial revenue from fantasy football.

The impact of fantasy football on the NFL is significant. 

The league has seen a surge in popularity, with many fans becoming more invested in the game due to their fantasy teams. 

Fantasy football results in a greater interest in the NFL from casual fans who otherwise would not care less about the NFL. [5]

It brings a new value dimension to the game. Instead of rooting for your favorite team, you root for your favorite fantasy players. 

Fantasy football boosts the NFL’s revenue through advertisements, jersey sales, increased viewership, and other engagement. 

It renders Thursday Night Football relevant, regardless of which teams are playing.

The league knows that no matter how crappy the matchup, you will tune in to see your fantasy players score points in the actual game.  

Forcing you to care about every second of every game is the NFL’s top priority, and fantasy football does that most effectively. [6]

Closing Thoughts

NFL players face stringent restrictions concerning fantasy football.

However, there’s no need to shed any tears for them.

After all, fantasy football generates additional revenue for the players that enlarges their paychecks.

While we merely play fantasy football, they are living it.

Do you agree with my stance on fantasy football restrictions for NFL players, and if not, why?

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