CFLer Re-Suspended for Sports Betting While Awaiting Arbitration Hearing

Shawn Lemon’s sin was reportedly a parlay worth around $100, but the CFL’s stance suggests it is trying to send a strong message to players that no amount of wagering on its games is acceptable.

Geoff Zochodne - Senior News Analyst at
Geoff Zochodne • Senior News Analyst
Jul 4, 2024 • 17:19 ET • 2 min read
Shawn Lemon Montreal Alouettes CFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian Football League’s first foray into sports betting-related discipline has taken another twist. 

On Thursday, the CFL announced an independent arbitrator ruled Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman Shawn Lemon’s suspension for wagering on the league’s games — one of which he played in — was again in effect. 

Lemon was suspended indefinitely in April by the CFL but the veteran defender appealed the decision and started four games for the now 4-0 Alouettes

The three-time Grey Cup champion sought to adjourn an arbitration hearing on the matter scheduled for Thursday until Aug. 1, the CFL said. That prompted the league to request an immediate suspension until the new hearing date that the arbitrator decided was “justified and reasonable,” the league added.

“On August 1-2, the arbitrator will hear from the CFL, and Mr. Lemon and his representation before making a final decision on discipline for wagering on CFL games in 2021 while a member of the Calgary Stampeders,” a press release stated. 

Lemon’s sin was reportedly a parlay worth around $100, but the CFL’s stance suggests it is trying to send a strong message to players that no amount of wagering on its games is acceptable. CFL players are forbidden from betting on the league’s games, although they can wager on other sports.

The CFL’s efforts to discipline Lemon also come as the league, like others, has embraced the legalization and expansion of sports betting by striking business partnerships with bookmakers intended to boost fan interest. The league counts several sports betting companies as authorized gaming operators, including FanDuel, Neo.Bet, and provincial lottery and gaming corporations, such as Loto-Quebec. 

At the same time, the CFL, again, like other leagues, requires players to follow certain rules for gambling. Numerous athletes have run afoul of those rules, prompting the leagues to hand down a variety of punishments.

That's not necessary

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie was public with his support for decriminalizing single-game sports wagering in Canada in 2021. More recently, Ambrosie sent a letter to the Senate of Canada’s Standing Committee on Transport and Communications arguing that a national regulatory framework for sports betting advertising was unnecessary. 

The proposed framework is part of Bill S-269, legislation with a long way to go before it becomes law. Even so, the bill’s introduction has spurred debate about the appropriateness of how bookmakers promote themselves in Canada.

According to the CFL, the league is doing plenty already to manage sports betting advertisements, such as limiting the amount of marketing by its authorized gaming operators during games.

“The CFL has demonstrated its commitment to the integrity of our sport and to a safe sports wagering environment for those who choose to bet on our games,” Ambrosie told the committee. “We strongly believe that the measures we, and other sports leagues, have put in place support our contention that a national framework, as envisioned by Bill S-269, is not necessary.”

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