Randy Ambrosie condemns ‘unforgivable sin’ of players gambling on own games, warns others they’ll be caught

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has doubled down on the indefinite suspension the league imposed on Montreal Alouettes’ defensive lineman Shawn Lemon for betting on a game in which he played.

“Our education programs are absolutely clear. The unforgivable sin is gambling within your own league, but the most unforgivable sin is gambling on a game that you played in. Our facts are very clear that what happened in this particular case is that athlete bet on a game that he played in. Simply, you cannot cross that line and if you do, you have to send a strong message that it’s not tolerated,” said Ambrosie.

“What this situation reveals is that if you do it, you’re gonna get caught. The surveillance systems are so good and this is what happens when you when you put some sunlight. Previously, prior to the legalizing of sports wagering, it was all done out of country in the shadows. That was much, much harder to surveil. Now, with the advent of the public systems, I’d say to a player today, ‘If you do it, trust me, you will be found out and caught and the punishment will be severe.’ I’m hoping that’s one of the messages that will land with this particular situation is, ‘Don’t do it, because if you do it, you’ll get caught and if you get caught, the resulting discipline will be somewhat unforgiving.'”

Lemon suddenly announced his retirement on April 10, presumably to avoid punishment for his gambling violation. Two weeks later, he was indefinitely suspended by the CFL with the Stampeders and Alouettes — the two teams for whom he’s since played — providing statements in support of the league’s disciplinary action. He has since returned to the field after filing an appeal and is expected to play against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday.

The 35-year-old pass rusher reportedly bet approximately $100 on a two-game parlay, including one in which he played as a member of the Calgary Stampeders in 2021. He has not commented publicly on the matter nor has he denied placing any wagers. It remains unclear why it took the league over two years to determine that a gambling violation took place.

In the meantime, it doesn’t appear as though an arbitrator will rule on Lemon’s appeal anytime soon.

“There’s a conversation happening literally right now about booking the arbitrator. That’s a process and there’s negotiations back and forth with the Players’ Association on booking that date, so that’s been underway now for several days. I am hoping to be able to announce the date for that arbitration very soon but, again, it is a process,” said Ambrosie.

“We have a list of arbitrators that are part of our collective agreement with the players … (but) getting time on their calendars (can be difficult) because they’re also very busy professionals. It’s a process that you have to go through. It’s certainly not happening as fast as we would like it to but I’m hoping to have some news on a date for that arbitration quite soon.”

The Montreal Alouettes (0-0) will visit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (0-0) at Princess Auto Stadium on Thursday, June 6 with kickoff slated for 8:30 p.m. EDT.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.