A fantasy football convention in Las Vegas will continue as planned in mid-July even though five current players were forced to withdraw because of NFL rules.
Fantasy Sports Combine founder Bo Brownstein told FOX Sports on Wednesday that New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Denver linebacker Von Miller, New York Giants running back Shane Vereen, Arizona wide receiver Michael Floyd and Pittsburgh running back DeAngelo Williams will no longer be participating. The decision came amid NFL threats of player fines because the event is being held on casino grounds (the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort).
"The league has every right to issue their rules and that’s something everyone has to respect," Brownstein said in a telephone interview. "Those guys were fabulous and great to deal with. They were consummate professionals. But at the same time, they know what their day-to-day job is. It’s something they accept and are moving on."
Brownstein said he spoke with the NFL following last Friday’s FOX Sports report that another July fantasy convention in Las Vegas spearheaded by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was forced to cancel amid league pressure. The NFL informed the NFL Players Association that players would be breaching league policy because the National Fantasy Football Convention was booked at the Sands Expo even though there is no gambling at the center itself.
"Players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances at or in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos," an NFL spokesman told FOX Sports.
The NFCC was set to feature more than 100 current players, including stars like New England tight end Rob Gronkowski and Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Fantasy Sports Combine wasn’t nearly as reliant on active players. That event features a more diversified lineup with two former head coaches (Mike Ditka and Mike Shanahan), ex-players and well-known media members.
Brownstein said the Fantasy Sports Combine will soon announce "high-profile" replacements for the current players who pulled out.
Romo and Bryant both reacted angrily to the NFL’s stance and involvement that helped lead to the postponement of their event until its scheduled July 2016 debut in Los Angeles. The NFL has come under further fire for barring players from making appearances at casinos while having rules that allow teams to strike deals with gaming conglomerates. For example, the Detroit Lions and MGM Detroit recently announced a partnership to sell a special seating area to fans for home games at Ford Field.
The league’s enforcement of its anti-casino policy before the Romo/NFFC event also seems spotty at best. For example, Gronkowski was long advertised as the co-headliner at a well-publicized pool in May at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. An NFL spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Gronkowski was fined for the appearance.
The American Gaming Association issued a statement Wednesday that was critical of the league.
"The NFL’s inconsistent policies against associations with casinos – a heavily regulated, Fortune 500 industry approved by 90 percent of Americans – reflects an outdated view of gaming," the statement read. "In fact, 27 NFL teams are located in markets with legal, regulated casinos. Many of the stadiums are within close proximity to the casinos themselves, creating a synergistic entertainment complex. It is only a matter of time before such thinking in organizations like the NFL evolves and acknowledges the reality that gaming, like professional sports, is a form of mainstream entertainment."
Brownstein, though, doesn’t have a problem with the NFL’s stance toward active players.
"All of the leagues have done a great job in embracing fantasy sports," Brownstein said. "The thing for us is there’s a clear delineation between gaming and fantasy spots. Fantasy sports are a game off skill rather than a game of chance.
"I am not into popular view that there is something that should be done … Each league has the opportunity to make their own decision about the very valuable assets they want to protect and fairness and that the games that they play are pure and there is no potential conflict on that front."
The NFLPA has not responded to multiple media requests from FOX Sports asking for comment on the matter.