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Can NFL players play fantasy football?

Every year, we see the NFL marketing the game that many fans spend the year waiting for, but are players themselves actually allowed to play fantasy football?

Oct 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) carries the ball past Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ross Cockrell (43) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eric HartlineUSA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that NFL players are forbidden from gambling and any other competition that involves direct payment as an outcome. However, there is still a degree of confusion on whether or not pro players are allowed to draft their teams in fantasy football.

Are players allowed to play fantasy?

The answer is yes, but they are not allowed to earn considerable sums of money. As long as they are not earning above the limit set in $250, they are permtted to play. However, this rule not only applies to players, but to all NFL personnel including the players, coaches, executives, and any other staff members of the NFL team.

“NFL Personnel may not accept prizes with a value in excess of Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250) in any fantasy football game. This prohibition is 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.”

Despite having established the difference by the NFL, many people seem to find it difficult to understand why gambling is banned and fantasy is allowed, if, in essence, they both include the possibility of making money.

The NFL’s policy says: “Fantasy football games and League or Club-sponsored skills competitions (e.g., racquetball tournaments, ‘Club Olympics’ events) for prizes generally are not considered to be gambling or a gambling-related activity, provided that there is no wagering on the outcome.”

How many players draft a team?

Each year, the number of players who get engaged in fantasy football rises. According to NFL Fantasy Football reporter Adam Caplan, about a quarter of the players he had interviewed have admitted to playing fantasy.

Meanwhile, the phenomenon game is still a taboo for players as it is very much socially associated with gambling, and many of them remain reluctant to being criticized or risking their jobs.  

"Rarely do I hear anyone say they participate in it," said Panthers CB Teddy Williams.

On the other hand, Dallas Cowboys Ken Bishop, who was asked by bleacher report to give an estimated number, guessed 50 percent of NFL players actively play fantasy football.  "I think people play but don't talk about it," he added.

However, in closed doors, the number of players who have drafted a team rises exponentially.

"I got addicted," RB Albert Young admitted in a statement.


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