MLB Players Shed Light on Harassment From Sports Bettors

One of the most troubling incidents from the report said an unnamed MLB general manager received death threats at his home and requested police protection.

Brad Senkiw - News Editorat
Brad Senkiw • News Editor
Jun 10, 2024 • 16:50 ET • 4 min read
Logan Webb San Francisco Giants MLB
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball players are illuminating a growing concern about harassment from sports bettors.

A recent USA TODAY story included several accounts from people in the league describing the issue as scary, “getting worse” and “out of hand.”

Some of the reported incidents include players getting unsettling direct messages on social media, having bettors request payment for lost bets, and even going through terrifying situations. 

“It shouldn’t be part of it, but it is part of professional sports now,” Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker told USA TODAY.

One of the most troubling incidents from the report said an unnamed MLB general manager received death threats at his home and requested police protection.

Arizona relief pitcher Logan Allen said he was in a frightening situation that could’ve turned into something worse when he played in Cleveland. 

“I had a really bad game, and this guy follows me home and starts cussing at me, telling me I cost him all of this money,” Allen said. “It’s scary.”

Ugly in real time

Since PASPA was overturned in 2018, sports betting is now legal in 38 U.S. states and adding a new dimension to player harassment.

Fans aren't just showing up to pull for their team anymore, and the verbal jabs extend beyond simple ragging, like calling them a “bum” or telling them they should be traded, the players said. 

“Now, you’re getting, ‘You just cost me money.’ They say some (messed) up (expletive),” San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Logan Webb said. “I get a lot of that with strikeouts. ‘Hey, I got money on you for strikeouts. Are you going to hit it?’

“I always look up and say, 'Probably not.’ There are times it gets pretty serious.” 

Walker said it’s not a situation where fans are betting and then coming to the game. They’re placing live wagers from inside the stadium and reacting in real-time. 

“You blow a save, you don’t come through, you get it all,” Arizona relief pitcher Paul Sewald said. “(Expletive) you. You suck. You cost me all of this money. (Expletive) you. (Expletive) your family. I’m going to kill you and then kill your family.’

“It gets ugly really quickly. It’s scary, and it’s sad.”

Payback requests

It might not be surprising athletes are facing harassment on social media. It’s something that NCAA president Charlie Baker brought to light in March when he called for regulators and lawmakers in legal sports betting states to prohibit player prop bets on college sports. 

MLB players are getting it, too. 

"You get some messed up stuff, a lot of nasty DMs," Webb said. "People are really passionate about teams, and now that you add money to it, it’s bigger than ever.”

Some disgruntled bettors are going even further and sending payment requests from the athletes on digital wallet apps. 

“I had to make my Venmo private because I’d blow a game or something,” Giants reliever Tyler Rogers said, “and people would find me on Venmo, and they’d send me requests. 'Hey, you cost me $1,500. You better pay me back.'

"It definitely gets people a lot more upset than it used to.”

Betting at the forefront

MLB teams are required under the collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association to prohibit “betting-related, abusive fan speech and behavior” that’s directed at players, family members, and team personnel. 

There’s a hotline in place for players and organization employees to report harassment. A 24-year-old man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation and six months of home confinement, USA TODAY noted in the report. 

Sports betting has been at the forefront of MLB since the 2024 season began. Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara recently pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges after he stole more than $16 million from Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani.

MLB suspended five players for violating the league’s sports betting policy last week. San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano was handed a lifetime ban from the sport for wagering on his own team when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

David Fletcher, a minor leaguer with the Atlanta Braves organization, is reportedly being investigated for allegedly placing bets with the same illegal bookmaker that Mizuhara used.  

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