Ever since sports have been around, there have been people willing to wager on it. And sure, while ancient bets may have looked a little different — perhaps something like cattle or potatoes were on the line — the proliferation of sports betting sites and fantasy sports have made it easier than ever to put a few bucks on your favorite team or player to do well.
For pro athletes, who tend to have at least hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars in disposable income, betting can be an exciting way to pass the time and potentially increase your earnings. And after the Supreme Court allowed states to legalize sports gambling in 2018, more than half of the U.S. states have made it official.
However, there are some rules that athletes must adhere to. They’re typically restricted from betting on the sport they play. And they’re especially not allowed to bet on their own team.
Yet Denver Broncos defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike is accused of doing just that — and he’s facing criminal charges in both Iowa and Colorado.
Uwazurike played at Iowa State through the 2021 season and is one of four current and former Cyclones charged by the Story County Attorney’s Office. The players are accused of tampering with records during an investigation into sports gambling from both Iowa and Iowa State athletes. Among the group: Iowa State’s quarterback, Hunter Dekkers, who started all 12 games last year. Prosecutors in Johnson County have also charged three athletes with the same crime, including a football player, a former baseball player, and a men’s basketball player.
The charges assert Uwazurike made about 32 bets involving events and players, including five games from the 2022 season. One of those games was the team’s Week 15 victory against the Arizona Cardinals — a game Uwazurike was on the field for. Prosecutors also say Uwazurike bet on four Iowa State games while in college, including the team’s rivalry game with Iowa and a win over Kansas.
Dekkers made plenty of bets, too — “approximately 297,” and 26 on Iowa State events, per prosecutors. Dekkers wagered at least $2,800 among the bets, including on a game against Oklahoma State in 2021 when he was the second-string quarterback.
Uwazurike is also looking at criminal charges from the district attorney in Colorado. It’s illegal to bet on a sport you play in, per Colorado state law. Dekkers could potentially be banned from the NCAA, too — the organization prohibits players from betting on or against their own school.
In the meantime, the NFL has suspended Uwazurike for at least this upcoming season. The league doesn’t allow players to bet on any NFL-related activities, and they’re not allowed to place bets if they’re at a team facility. It’s not the first time the NFL has suspended someone for betting, either.
Uwazurike is hardly a high-profile name. He’s a fourth-round draft pick who played in eight games last season. But his actions could uncover a wider ring of player gambling — or, at the very least, it will give the NFL plenty to think about as it embraces betting on its games.